The Vilka Chess Club

by | Oct 30, 2020 | Heartivist Of The Week

Sohibjamol Rakamova is an unlikely chess champion.

In her native Tajikistan, chess is a game of status and nobility. Many children are enrolled in chess training at the same time they go to nursery school, but this wasn’t the case for Sohibjamol. She grew up in the remote Pamir Mountains, where her father gave her chess lessons at home.

As she entered competitions, she was often teased and discounted for not having a formal chess pedigree. Yet she won and continued to win, becoming an international champion.

During one competition, she looked up to witness a boy in a wheelchair being forced out of the venue. After the match was over, she found the boy and learned he was made to leave only because he was disabled.

From this experience, the Vilka Chess Club was born.

“Vilka is a Russian term for a special powerful move in chess when a knight, which is weaker than the King and Queen, can unexpectedly turn an entire game around,” says Sohibjamol. “For us, a knight symbolizes a person with disabilities that, if empowered and put in the right position, can be a game changer.”

Seed funding from The Pollination Project was the first support that the Vilka Chess Club received. Sohibjamol used it to buy chess boards, including some with braille, as well as books and special clocks to train children with hearing and speech impairments. With the support of dozens of volunteers, the Vilka Chess Club grew from 15 children to over 200 today, many of whom have a range of disabilities such as vision impairment, autism, cerebal palsy, and others.

One of those students is a 14 year old boy named Shoghoz, who is partially sighted. Shoghoz recently won first place in the final regional tournament organized by Vilka Chess Club, and is currently competing for the Presidential Cup in the republic of Tajikistan. Yet the real prize is the confidence and pride each child has as they see themselves succeed at a game they have long been told they cannot play.

“Chess is a game of the mind. But it can also be a tool for inclusion,” says Sohibjamol. “Every child is special and unique, and should be accepted just the way they are.”


🌟 Empowering Through Play! 🌟

Nature Trust (Tamilnadu, India) launched the project, "Enhance the Skills of Children with Disabilities through Play," supported by one of our seed grants 🎉✨ Timed with World Autism Awareness Day 2024, this initiative resonates with the theme of "Empowering the Autistic Voices."

In particular, the grant allowed Nature Trust to provide specially curated play materials to 20 remarkable children with diverse disabilities. These tools were thoughtfully selected to ignite their development and unlock their potential. 🧩🎨

At the distribution event held on March 31st, the atmosphere was filled with joy as children and parents expressed gratitude for the newfound importance of play in their lives. 💖👦👧 The presence of local leaders underscored the significance of inclusive initiatives like this one.

Beyond distribution, Nature Trust volunteers engaged with the children, creating lasting connections and memories. 🤝 

Through the power of play, Nature Trust is fostering a more inclusive world where every child has the opportunity to thrive and reach their full potential. 🌈 

Let's continue spreading joy and empowerment through play! 

#EmpowerThroughPlay #InclusiveCommunities 🌟 
#childrenwithdisabilities #autism #supportchildren #kindness #heartivism #India
It's Volunteer Month! 🌟 🌟 🌟 Today we celebrate our grant advisors working on Economic Development focus area.

By meticulously selecting projects for our seed grants, they're not just funding ideas—they're empowering communities and sparking transformative change. 

Join us in celebrating their invaluable efforts and the positive impact they're creating together!

🔸 Eric Anorrey (Ghana)
🔸 Mariam Nakiryowa (Uganda)
🔸 Jean-Marie Zihalirwa (DRC)
🔸 Emily Logiron Asekon (Kenya)
🔸 Georgia Bernbaum (USA) 
🔸 Herve Tsoala Kuete (Cameroon)
🔸 Jackson Bizimungu (Rwanda)
🔸 Okumu Dickson (Uganda)
🔸 Samuel Litunya (Kenya)


#volunteermonth #volunteer #heartivism #economicdevelopment #change #empoweringcommunities
The Green Earth Initiative (#Cameroon) is a project dedicated to educating and empowering students about climate change, sustainable development, and environmental challenges, that has received a seed grant from The Pollination Project in 2023. With a focus on fostering environmental protection and conservation, the initiative establishes Eco-clubs and Environment Clubs in schools, providing students with the tools to learn, engage, and take action in their communities.

Since receiving the grant from TPP, the Green Earth Initiative has expanded its reach, now encompassing 9 additional schools across two regions/cities, surpassing its initial goal of 5. 
This expansion was made possible by the overwhelming interest from school authorities and the growing number of volunteers and team members.

Through the support of TPP and other partners, the project's environmental education programs, awareness campaigns, and initiatives have impacted over 8000 students in two cities of Cameroon. Additionally, the initiative has planted over 600 trees, launched 5 Environment/Eco Clubs, and distributed over 150 adapted waste bins produced from recycled plastics, contributing to proper waste management practices.

The seed grant from The Pollination Project has been instrumental in catalyzing the growth and success of the Green Earth Initiative, enabling it to make a tangible difference in the lives of students and communities, while fostering a culture of environmental stewardship and sustainability. 

#environmentprotection #seedgrant #heartivism #environmentaleducation