Connecting spirits through sport and social work

The one thing that keeps bringing David Yohan back to social work is basketball – once on the court, everyone is an equal.

7 Jul 2017

As a young immigrant who moved to Australia from Ethiopia with his mother, David’s first experience with basketball was asking local kids in broken English if he could join their game. From that point on, he played every day. If the other kids weren’t there he would shoot hoops with his soccer ball in the neighbour’s driveway all night.

Breaking down barriers

David Yohan combines sport and social work“I got in trouble in the classroom and everywhere else because I struggled,” he said.

“I didn’t learn to read and write until I was much older. But on the court, the sports field or the running track, it was different. It didn’t matter if I was poor, it didn’t matter if I could read or write, it was about the effort I put in. For me it was a great equaliser. It gave me something to do and it saved my life.”

After completing a Diploma of Sport and Recreation Management and following it up with a Diploma of Community Services, David began his career in social work by building the foundation of what would eventually become the youth work volunteer organisation PAWES (Providing Awareness With Education and Sport). Through PAWES he is able to offer the same lifeline to youth he sees going down the same path.

Paying it forward

PAWES combines social work and sport“I saw the courts I used to play on become dangerous. The next generation were falling into the same cracks that I had,” he said.

“I quit work and for a straight two years I went to this park and began to play basketball with these kids and they would listen because I was teaching them fun stuff.”

Through word of mouth the crowds swelled from 100 kids to almost 350. But if you ask the humble coach, his students are teaching him as much as he is teaching them.

“I’m not an expert, I just like to help people. It’s about doing the right thing and I’m learning that from them as I go,” he said.

“Some of the really young kids I’ve coached have since graduated, they are genuinely good people and they are going to be successful because of that. That’s what’s important. That’s why I do it.”

Find out more about social work organisation PAWES (Hoop Dreamz family) on Facebook.

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