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Giving Rio's children sporting chance

Student Rebekah helps impoverished kids with hockey project in Brazil

By Chris McCullough

Published 12/08/2016

Rebekah Jones at the Olympic Park in Rio
Rebekah Jones at the Olympic Park in Rio
Rebekah Jones with her father Billy and some of the youngsters she has met during her stay in Brazil
Rebekah Jones with one of the youngsters she has met during her stay in Brazil

A young Ballymena woman has turned a dream trip to the Rio Olympics into a chance to help poverty-stricken Brazilian youths.

Rebekah Jones, a physiotherapy student and hockey player at Ulster University, travelled to Rio last week with her father Billy.

The 20-year-old's heart has always been in the country - she and her parents, who are both missionaries, lived there for nine years.

They moved there when Rebekah was just eight months old.

Father and daughter decided to fly back to the country where she grew up for the Olympics and while there have begun to help in a hockey project in Rio called Hockey Life - or Projeto Hoquei.

"I have never known the difference between poverty and total misery until I stepped foot there," said Rebekah.

"Growing up in Brazil I had the opportunity to learn the language.

"I fell in love with the country, culture and the people within.

"So when the opportunity arose to travel to the Olympics in Rio, I alongside my dad, did everything we could to ensure our seats were booked on the Road to Rio 2016.

"The Rio Olympics are an experience I will never forget.

"We will hopefully be going to a few more hockey matches, basketball and indoor athletics events."

One of the highlights of the trip has been participating in a project aimed at helping young kids to play hockey.

Rebekah said: "My dad and I had the chance to help in a hockey project in Rio called Hockey Life or Projeto Hoquei.

"This project was founded by our friend and Brazilian hockey player Bruno Mendoca who is competing in the Olympics.

"The project has a sporting, social and spiritual emphasis which hopefully will transform the lives of the children involved.

"The project is localised in an impoverished area of Rio called Jardim Gamacho, in which thousands of people live on a rubbish tip and make their living from discarded waste there.

"The aim of the project for the future is to spread to other impoverished areas of Rio and I will, God willing, return to Rio to help out in the future."

Due to university obligations Rebekha will have to return home before the closing ceremony, but will watch it at home in Ballymena.

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