Now that the ski season is over in the northern hemisphere, many athletes are taking a moment to relax and go on vacation. Olympic aerialist Emily Cook is doing just that, but her trip is of a different nature. Instead spa days and beach time—or perhaps a movie marathon or two—Emily will joining a delegation of athletes in flying to Rwanda to represent Kids Play International this month.
Kids Play International is a non-profit organization founded by Cook’s friend and former teammate, Tracy Evans. Evans was inspired to start a year-round sports education program for kids in developing countries after a volunteer trip she took to Africa. As an elite athlete, she strongly believes in the empowerment and life lessons that are gained through playing sports. And they’re fun!
On May 6, Cook will head to rural Rwanda with Jamie Komer, Olympic silver medalist in Water Polo; Cameron Myler, four-time Olympian in Luge; Anne Poulin, pro soccer player; and founder Tracy Evans, three-time aerials Olympian. They will spend two weeks in the rural town of Gataraga with kids involved in the local “LET’S PLAY!” community sports education program. The program is designed to provide a safe place for kids to go after school and encourage physical fitness, gender equality, respect, teamwork, education, and self esteem.
Off the field, the Kids Dream Big scholarship fund offers money to kids without the means to afford school. The fund is especially focused on educating girls. According to the Kids Play International website, 25% of adults in the developing world are illiterate, and two out of three of those adults are women.
“We’re all very proud to be a part of the upcoming trip, as well as the Kids Play program,” said Cook. “ I can’t wait to be involved in LET’S PLAY! In Rwanda and to work with the kids and coaches there.”
To help Cook raise money by making a donation, click here. The money raised will help sponsor children’s education as well as improve facilities and hire and train coaches.
For information on becoming a volunteer and taking your own trip to Rwanda, go to Kids Play International’s website.