With our sport-obsessed culture it sometimes frightens me when I see the value in dollars we give our professional athletes. If the value of sport can be summed up by the exorbitant amounts we give professional athletes then I fear we place more value on these stars than the sport itself. Is our obsession fuelling these ridiculous salary amounts? which can easily be equivalent to the national budget of a developing country. Not to digress into a rant on whether this is the best way to spend our well-earned monies when there are people in the world that could do with the financial resources, but just think about it, all things being equal are professional athletes worth all that money? I do love sports, I just question the value we put on the game and the players and what it means if that is a reflection of our society.
Sport has the power to change lives and its impact on bringing people together is immeasurable. The story of David Yohan coach and founder of PAWES (Providing Awareness With Education & Sport) is one of sports making a difference in young people's lives. He is an amazing young man using Basketball to change the lives of youths in his community.
David founded PAWES a non-profit voluntary association targeting at risk, marginalised and disadvantaged young people. They provide support and safe environments allowing young people to positively interact with the community. They also offer recreation and educational opportunities, teaching their young people where to seek support and how to deal with issues they may encounter.
He had a tough start with his father being brutally taken away from him before he could ever get to meet and know him. From Ethiopia to Sudan to Australia, his mother fought for a better life and opportunity for her only son. He spent many days with her on the streets of Sudan with no shelter and to him this would be a great testament that for every dark tunnel, there is a light at the end, you just have to go and switch it on sometimes.
He credits Basketball for saving his life. He first saw it played on the streets of Sudan and as a soccer player, he and his friends could not understand this game where the ball was not kicked. They laughed at this funny use of the ball. When he moved to Australia he saw his neighbours playing and this time he asked them to teach him how to play. It was a good way to make friends and join this new community he was trying to fit in and stay out of trouble.
David believes sports bring communities together, get people to understand others and bridge the gaps of prejudice and discrimination. For young people that are finding it hard to belong and find their own path in life, it's the perfect opportunity to grow, connect with others and have fun.
In 2010 David was awarded Queensland Young Citizen of the Year and in 2011 he was a Young Australian of the Year finalist. He doesn't talk too much about his awards because accolades are great but his work is not about fame but keeping young people off the streets and giving them the tools to build a fulfilling life for themselves.
He uses his experience to coach and spread the message not to let situations and backgrounds stop any young person from achieving their goals. The young people in his Basketball teams are taught to learn from their mistakes and keep taking chances.
His goals are simple, as a business owner and community leader he wants to encourage youths to be contributing members of our communities and stop any kind of discrimination, especially in sport.
Seeing how much sports are a big part of our lives and will continue to be high on our entertainment lists, it is great to see people like David who are not only inspiring young people but building the future generations of African Australian youths.