By Gorkem Sifael
Hollie Murphy is the founder of ‘Heroes of Hope’, a not-for-profit group developing sporting, social and interpersonal skills for people of determination in Dubai and across the UAE.
She started her journey in sports with athletics at the age of 6 and has "played for 12 different sports", at national and international levels throughout the course of her life. Coaches have always been influential to her. She tells us about one particularly "fantastic physical education teacher" she had in high school who really inspired her.
When she went on to study physical education at a university in her home country of Ireland, she got to work closely with people of determination. "I just fell in love with it, I just loved working with people of determination", she adds.
13 years ago, Hollie moved to Dubai to work as a physical education teacher and she quickly realised that she was not around many children with special needs. "During physical education time, they would be removed to go and focus more on the academics. But as a physical education teacher that loved working with them, it did not sit well with me" she explains. That is when she decided to do an after-school club. The club started off with 12 children and 4 years later, she had over 100 kids of determination attending it.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, everything was transferred to online teaching. That is when she realised that she had to make a decision. "I was so concerned about my athletes. Some behaviours of the children were changing, they were starting to regress, so I stepped away from my career as a teacher and started to focus more on building an organisation; and that is what brought Heroes of Hope together".
"I call them my heroes. Every one of them has their own unique power. It is my responsibility to help them find that and when we find it, we nurture that". The organisation is supported by various members of Dubai’s sport and fitness industry, including Sands Fitness, who donate venue time. The athletes train 7 days a week in a variety of sports including; strength and conditioning, athletics, boxing, swimming and more. To Hollie, "the Dubai community as a whole has been very generous" to them. Voluntary coaches come in and give their free time and dedication. Holly says that without them, they could not have run this programme. The organisation also accepts financial donations.
"Limitation is only a mindset and it is up to us as coaches to prepare our athletes, so that they can achieve absolutely anything”, she adds. Last year, Hollie’s heroes attended a long-distance adventure race in Hatta. They endured running, cycling and kayaking and completed the race successfully. This achievement was recognised by the Dubai Sports Council with an honorary medal.
Hollie explains that "for every child, it is crucial that they are given lots of exposure and experience. That's the only way they grow as an individual. It is the only way that they're going to understand what they're really passionate about". Heroes of Hope is expanding its range of activities by tapping into new areas such as art classes. Just like the sports, these classes are supported by the local community of artists and venues like Hotel Indigo.
Hollie is looking forward to the future with her heroes in her new home. She feels like she is still "at the beginning of a very unique and powerful journey". To her, being in Dubai is the right place to be able to move forward.