Kichad Rugby

How playing rugby in the mud (kichad) can teach children important life lessons

By Peter Fernandes

We started 2016 with a plan to build our Khelo Rugby project around the Power of Play. Sport can be such a powerful tool, on our playing field there is unity, social inclusion and gender equality. Khelo Rugby has come a long way in serving the community and we want to keep doing more for the young children who play with us. Khelo wants to be able to make a lasting impact on the lives of thousands of children, giving them strength, courage, knowledge and essential social skills required to build a good future.

At Khelo Rugby, we train our community coaches to provide high quality coaching to children that would not normally get such a chance. We encourage a very informal and friendly approach that builds trust with the children. The coaches are ably assisted in most communities by ‘Young Khelo Leaders’, who are young rugby players, normally graduates of Khelo Rugby who have displayed consistent skills in leadership and commitment to the programme. These Young Leaders are essential in enabling us to conduct more than 40 training sessions per week across 24 communities in Kolkata.


Khelo Rugby’s Milindo leads a Charcha in Saraswatipur

Each month we work on a theme based around a socio-development issue and selected by the children and coaches themselves. The objective is to impart important knowledge to the children and give them a chance to learn away from preconceived notions & stereotypes. These knowledge sessions we call “charchas”, they are usually conducted at the end of each training session. Apart from the standard charcha sessions, we also organise workshops and rallies for our young leaders and community coaches to impart more in-depth knowledge about social issues.

The results have been really fantastic and have also been a test of the leadership qualities of the young leaders who have delivered beyond our expectations. We have realised along the way that true leadership skills come to light when the young leaders are given important responsibilities and are held accountable for certain duties.


Khelo Young Leaders getting their work done!

Our Khelo Rugby centre in the village of Saraswatipur near Siliguri has been one of the most inspiring stories of the impact of the Power of Play. Within a span of 4 years, with the dedicated efforts of our coaches, the children have excelled to become outstanding rugby players and strong individuals who have gone on to represent the India National Women’s rugby team at international competitions and the West Bengal state rugby team. The girls have superb athletic abilities and are now looked upon as role models for the younger generation of girls from Saraswatipur. The story of the empowerment of the rugby playing girls of Saraswatipur has been a special feather in the cap of Khelo Rugby.

Our August theme was Indigenous Peoples to coincide with 9 August the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. Like many tea estate communities Saraswatipur has a large proportion of indigenous people, mainly from the Munda and Oraon Adivasi communities. In order to celebrate their Adivasi culture we planned an educational camp concluding with a one-day rugby tournament – giving the children a few days of learning, competition and fun. The organising of the entire camp and tournament was entrusted to a few young leaders, from both Kolkata and Saraswatipur.


Kichad Rugby

Through the camp children were able to learn about other indigenous peoples around the world and why there is a day to mark indigenous peoples. The children were also able to share interesting things about their own culture and life and feel proud of their Adivasi culture.

New Khelo Rugby manager Milindo on his first visit to Saraswatipur led a team of 6 young leaders from Kolkata and supported all stages of the project. His own expertise and experience was invaluable in enabling the children to talk and discuss openly and in a positive way. Interesting that the symbol of the international day was designed by a youngster from Milindo’s own indigenous community Rebang Dewan a Chakma boy.

indigenous-logoMajor highlights:

  • 12 teams with 180 children playing mixed tag rugby participated in a total of 32 passion filled matches, delighting the spectators.
  • Felicitation ceremony was held for 8 West Bengal players and 2 India National team players, Swapna Oraon and Chanda Oraon from Saraswatipur. Attended by the Sarpanch and members of the Panchayat of Saraswatipur village, Priest from the local church and the manager of the Saraswatipur tea estate.
  • A friendly tag Rugby match was played between Kolkata young leaders and Saraswatipur young leaders with a display of great strength, technique and stamina giving a boost and vision to the young ruggers of the village to continue working hard in the sport.
  • 20+ Young Leaders of Khelo Rugby organised the whole event with tremendous professionalism. The young leaders from Kolkata were treated like family and their hosts took them sightseeing, bathing in the river and to their homes for lunch and dinner. The experience was a humbling one for the young leaders who brought back some vivid memories.
  • For the first time, the people of Saraswatipur village celebrated the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples and they promised that they would celebrate this day every year.
  • Celebration of indigenous culture with a program of Adivasi songs and dance which gave a broad perspective of the deep-rooted culture and uniqueness of Adivasi people.
  • 300 plates of chicken curry were cooked, served and eaten – nobody went home hungry.


This was a true community event with everyone participating either actively or as part of a supportive audience. The elders of the villages were touched that their children had brought such an incredible event to life and that to with an acknowledgement of their own culture and identity. The energy and vibe were mesmerizing. Every try, every good effort on the field was keenly responded with huge cheers and much clapping. The audience and community were a big motivational factor and contributed in large part to the success of the event.


Playing Together from Kolkata to Karachi

Our Sport is GREAT Children’s Forum brought together sport for development children in Kolkata and Karachi

by Shreyas Rao

The International Day of Sport for Development and Peace – IDSDP (6th of April) always provides good opportunities within Sport for Development organisations like the Jungle Crows Foundation to try new initiatives and bring refreshing ideas into our projects.

Sport for Development events across the world provide a focus to the day and help in building new ways to engage young persons in different ideas and initiatives through sport.  With this in mind, we had the ‘madcap’ idea of seeing if we could get children from our communities in Kolkata to interact with children in Karachi through a video conference on 6 April.


Sport is GREAT Children’s Forum – Kolkata meets Karachi

Britain is GREAT, an initiative of the British High Commission has given us the opportunity to create and deliver several events under the Sport is GREAT banner. Using our Khelo Rugby programme we have held events in Kolkata and Bhubaneswar. Our Sport is GREAT work kicked off with a  Rugby World Cup themed children’s tournament in Bhubaneswar and most recently saw a rugby tournament in Kolkata just for girls. For this we had more than 160 girls from across our Khelo locations in Kolkata and Siliguri come together to play and listen to an inspiring talk from Shubha Kenworthy.

Our thinking was that we wanted to do something a little different to mark IDSDP in 2016 and the video conference was something we felt could be very special for all the children involved. We were fortunate that the Kolkata offices of the British Council and Deputy High Commission shared our enthusiasm. Kolkata partners for what we called our Children’s Forum were identified by including Future Hope and Durbaar who both participate in the Football for Development project Dosti. And though we would have liked to link up with our own Khelo Rugby children in Lahore logistics meant it was better to connect with Dosti children in Karachi.

On the day of the event, 30 children arrived very excited at the Deputy High Commission in Kolkata dressed to represent their respective organisations. After a brief ice breaker session, the children all seated themselves anxiously at the conference room eagerly waiting to meet new children in Karachi.  After a few redials the children were all soon immersed in free-wheeling, fun-filled banter about various aspects of their life, opening their hearts and their minds listening and talking about each other’s lives and engaging in an engrossing exchange.


Children representing Future Hope, Durbaar and Jungle Crows meet in advance of their Kolkata – Karachi link-up

I was delighted to be the moderator and followed a plan along the following lines, while encouraging the children to set the pace and be in control of their own conversations:

  • Introduction – from each side: their names and what sport they played.
  • A brief chat about their city and community.
  • Language and culture – sharing each others different and same languages.
  • A discussion about their own sporting experiences and favorite players.
  • Challenges the children have faced while growing up and how sport has helped in these.
  • Exchange on passions and hobbies.
  • Fun chat over the hypothetical question – if I was in India for a day…. or If I was in Pakistan for a day…
  • A round of Anthakshari between the children based on their common love of Bollywood songs

To make things simple, it was agreed at the start that the interaction would take place in Hindi. While it was the girls who dominated the discussion in Karachi, the participation was relatively equal from both boys and girls in Kolkata. Sport helped ease the tension even through a video conference – we started with a debate about whether Ronaldo or Messi was the better player. Of course Messi won, with the discussion going to a vote in both Karachi and Kolkata! Other highlights for me included the children teaching each other their respective languages – Bengali and Pashto, laughter and agreement on their love of Biryani and telling each other about their famed city landmarks.It was also great to see how the children could think criticaly even at such a young age, always surprising us with their maturity about issues and their enthusiasm about learning about each others culture. They were also sensitive enough to be politically correct – with a girl from Pakistan saying that she would love to play “Holi” if she ever visited India. The sports kits of girls was also a topic for discussion with the girls from India quite curious about what girls wore when they played outside in Karachi. At which, a little girl in Karachi nonchalantly stood up and turned around to show everyone her name printed on the back of her full sleeved track, implying that they were all indeed present in the room with their sports kit on. Several of the Kolkata children were pleasantly surprised that the girls even got a chance at sport. Towards the end, there was a lot of light banter about Bollywood and varying and similar tastes in music, fittingly ending in a fun game of Anthakshari between the two teams!


Karachi Dosti On the Air

This experience turned out to be  incredibly memorable for everyone involved; children and adults alike. With such an event it is quite hard to comprehend its significance. But it was noteworthy that all the children participating came from disadvantaged communities and generally lacked any regular access to technological resources. Yet, the children showed much maturity in the discussion, steering clear from populist prejudices and preconceived notions. The exchange of thoughts seemed to have enabled the children to refresh their minds from any narrow vision of the “other”, the “enemy” or other such identities that can be indoctrinated from a young age.  It was clear that at the most basic level, children know no hatred, their curiosity is genuine, and the bonds they form are pure. It was incredibly heartening to see, in the end, a couple of them came near the screen and intently waved at each other.  Alas, their hands could never meet but a peculiar yet innocent friendship took form.

One thing was clear, it was only the medium of sport that made something like this even possible to imagine. Sport creates unique channels of interaction; it provides an opportunity for opening new passages for dialogue. At a time when debate about nationalism is becoming ever more loathsome and petty, such events help elevate the plane of debate. Sport with its broad visions of equality can open up so many new doors everyday and guide us towards a renewed global movement.  It is indeed a rare privilege for sport for development organizations around the world that they can facilitate such unique initiatives, that they can dream beyond borders and provide experiences beyond boundaries!

It is worth concluding by noting that the views here are expressed on my experience as a moderator. I will also be compiling more thoughts from the children themselves, and I am sure that is bound to spring many surprises.


Author Shreyas captures a selfie with the children in Kolkata and Karachi!

Who Wants to Change the World?

by Paul Walsh


(Article first published in The Telegraph, Calcutta and reproduced here with permission)

“Want to change the world? Invest in an adolescent girl.” – the United Nations Foundation.

Over the winter our Jungle Crows Foundation ran winter rugby camps for children in Calcutta, Saraswatipur and Bangalore. In Calcutta this was the 11th year of the camp. Combined more than 1800 children took part, on the biggest day in Calcutta we had more than 900 children out playing on the Maidan. Looked after by more than 80 volunteer Coaches and fed each day of the 11 mornings a hearty breakfast by one of 14 local hotels and restaurants who stepped forward to support the initiative. Get along to and you can watch a short film about it.

Over the course of the camp we too realised that girls are pretty damn important in facilitating change. I mean it wasn’t the sudden dawning of something pretty obvious, but a sense that involving more girls in our work really did make a difference to the experience for everyone. We tried hard to get more girls to this year’s camp, organising safe transport, reassuring parents. And it worked partly, 35% of the children playing each morning were girls, this was certainly an increase on previous years and you could sense it changed the atmosphere of the camp.


This year in the Jungle Crows we are driving forward with an initiative we are calling the Year of Play. The same film referenced above tells you more about that, but the first objective of this programme is to involve more and more adolescent girls in our work. The UN says girls are the key to, “eliminating poverty, achieving social justice, stabilizing the population, and preventing foreseeable humanitarian crises.” That’s quite a lot of responsibility, but having been brought up by a young Mum on her own I can also report how it’s not an unrealistic expectation. We all know girls in our society face many more hurdles in growing up than boys, whether it is marriage at too young an age, isolation due to community customs, denial of education or the threat of trafficking. Most of us will be able to recount experiences where we have at least heard of young girls denied their full chance in life. And this denial of rights is bad for all of us, for all of society. Girls are real change makers in our world, they are the catalyst around which a better world can be created. Today there are more than 600 million girls aged 10-19 growing up in developing countries, just imagine the change they could create if given the right chances.


We reckon PLAY and sport can be pretty powerful in encouraging and supporting this change. This is what our Khelo Rugby Community programme is all about. Working with children directly in the communities they live in. Community support is essential to any change and if we want to get more girls playing we need to have the support of their families, elders and schools. One way we can change attitudes is by involving girls in high profile visible events of which they are the centre of attention. This was why when we had the chance to partner with the British High Commission for a Sport is GREAT event we chose to do girls rugby. It really was an incredible day with 160 under 14 girls all playing tag-rugby to a very high standard. The final was particularly close and featured a mixed Calcutta team versus a team from Saraswatipur – the tea garden village we work in near Siliguri. The girls from Saraswatipur won, which was a super achievement for them and really showed how they have bloomed with Khelo Rugby.

VIV_0285After the girls rugby myself and the Deputy High Commissioner Scott Fursendonn-Wood raced over to the British Council where we were part of a panel discussion on how sport can play a central role in social development. The debate was high quality and really showcased some of the great social development work going on in Calcutta with sport at its centre; from engaging with school drop outs through Kolkata Goalz to the huge impact of Special Olympics Bharat with so many positive stories in between.

The benefits of play and sport are well known to most parents and in so many ways it is even more important that we work to extend these benefits to include all girls. I think we all know how play and physical activity is a key to a healthier life now and as children grow up. Research has also shown that active children learn better, develop keener memories and have better concentration. Play boosts self-confidence, lessens stress, helps us make new friends, develops team work, is good for goal setting, and I can go on!

And so this is why in the Jungle Crows we’ve adopted the hashtag #PowerOfPlay for 2016, please do use it if you think PLAY can be a positive in children’s lives. And for all the girls in your life please encourage them to get out and play, and then you too can be a part of supporting 600 million girls who are going to transform our world.


Winter Camp: Coaches Speak

play for blog

900+ Children and their Coaches form the word PLAY at our Winter Camp

Thoughts and Reflections from the Khelo Coaches on Jungle Crows Winter Rugby Camp 2015/16

On 2 January 2016 the Jungle Crows completed its mammoth Winter Camp in Kolkata and what an amazing experience it was: an average of 800+ children each day from 25 different communities across Kolkata. The Camp required a massive effort from many, but the absolute focus of activity were our Khelo Coaches. They had to train the volunteers – more than 80 of them, ensure all the children traveled safely to and from the camp, keep the energy levels up with fun and engaging activities, ensure every child got involved and felt a part of the camp, feed everyone – in a nutshell their job was to make the whole thing click and be excellent. And what a superb job they did. Here they share some of their thoughts and reflections.

Lovepreet Singh Gill


“My best experience was getting great positive feedback from our guests, getting  the ‘Top Star’ certificate by Jungle Crows Foundation and when different groups of children asked me to coach their groups.”

I felt very proud with our well organised Winter Camp this year .This year we were thinking that about 500 children might come, but as we started the camp, attendance went to more than 800. That’s the great achievement for the coaches involved with Khelo Rugby .This was the first time we’ve managed to get that many children on our Crow Field. We split the children in age group of under 10 ,14 ,19 . I enjoyed a lot in this camp because in the very cold morning, I managed to keep the children busy with my moves and my jumping exercises. The idea was to make them warm and we did it every day before the classic bull dog – a very famous game of ours which we do in every winter camp.

I learned a lot from this winter camp. I got the responsibility to train the young leaders and help them be good coaches, so they can deliver their coaching skills to under 10 children. It was very tough to manage the small children. It was our hard work that we successfully managed the small children from beginning to end of camp. In the end, I asked my team what they had learned from this camp, they said how to make the children busy with different activities and how to manage the number of children! All the coaches booked the mini van for each location to take the children to the field. By these good arrangements of transport, we had seen many more girls coming to winter camp.

Our guests showed a great involvement in all the activities .They were participating in fun games, managing the children, distributing foods etc. One of them came to me and said “You guys were doing an excellent job. Well done guys, keep it up!”. Thanks to Mr. Shaun who personally arranged the foods for 11 days of winter camp and thanks to every guest who showed their commitment to wake up in the morning to come to the field to have fun with children…..

We did an excellent job by making PLAY word with the children. The idea is that we want make this year a Year of Play. This was the main motive this year to give every a chance of play. All the volunteers had done great job and shown their full effort to make the winter camp successful. My best experiences were getting great positive feedback from our guests, getting Top Star certificate by Jungle Crows Foundation for the Camp and when the different groups of children came to me and asked me to go to their group to coach them!

Biswanath Turi:

biswanathturi dec 2015

My best moment was in Siliguri where we had to take the food in a big pan from one village to another by walking!”

This was my 2nd winter camp with Jungle Crows as a Coach but this time I was the main leader in my group to manage all the children from different communities which was very tough. On the first day of winter camp, I was quite nervous about how to bring all the children from different location and make them play together but me and my team of young leaders managed that easily.

I also went to Siliguri for my first winter camp there. It was very challenging  for me as we had to make all the arrangements in the cold. I have to say that doing coaching in Siliguri was very easy compared to coaching here in Kolkata, because the children there were very sincere but here children can be very naughty. So from here I learned to handle the naughty children..

My best moment was in Siliguri where we had to take the food in a big pan from one village to another by walking. And teaching theme based fun games to the children also made me happy because I am teaching something to them which is based on their lifestyle. One such theme was Safe Drinking Water and we managed to conduct many games on this theme.

This time the Kolkata’s winter camp impressed me a lot, especially seeing the involvement of the guests. I know it’s very hard to wake up in the morning and coming to the field but I guess enjoying with the children made it easy.

Kameliya Mondal

kameliya dec 2015

“Before the camp, just about 100 odd children knew me and now, almost a thousand children got to know me!”

We conduct the Winter Camp every year but this year it was special because we had more children than the previous years. The number used to reach so much that sometimes it became tough to handle but we managed alright in the end. Personally for me, it was a tough experience to be put in charge of a large group of Under 10 children because I had to constantly think of new games to keep them engaged. I think the breakfast was great everyday and I think it made the overall experience good for all the children participating.  I think this was the reason that more and more children were participating each day! I heard it from the many of the children that they wished that the camp was of more days and that was very encouraging to hear. We can do better next year by involving more coaches and more children, Personally, I love the fact that before the camp, just about 100 odd children knew me and now, almost a thousand children got to know me!

Suraj Srivastava:


For me, the best moment was when I finally learnt how to make the crying children smile! 

For me, the positive thing was we had so many more children from the community because we all worked hard towards reaching our target. I was very happy about my KPT colony where we managed to include about 180 children from all the communities in the locality. The children were very cheeky and naughty but they were listening to us all in the end. The important thing was that we planned everything well in advance and that is why, we succeeded.

The last Winter Camp was fun as well but in 2016 Winter Camp was very exciting, just to see us being crowded by children and coaches each morning. I was very content as I got to talk and interact with many people this year.  The most challenging thing for me was to manage the really naughty children and the crying children. For me, the best moment was when I finally learnt how to make the crying children smile. The children enjoyed a lot because we were having a lot of games together and when, we saw their smile in the end, we knew that they all enjoyed a lot.

We can do the camp even better by working harder and not wasting any time. We need better planning for our sessions so that the children can develop in their lives.

John Voniani:

john dec 2015

“The effort shown by the coaches dealing with more than 50-60 children in each groups, with some groups having a maximum number of 80 children, was super to see”

Winter Camp 2015-16 was a great success looking at the number of children that attended the 11 days camp compared to the previous ones. Personally I think the children enjoyed the 11 days they spent at the Maidan with those amazing young coaches who sacrificed their time in helping the children understand the game of rugby and having a fair idea of what rugby is all about. Waking up early in the cold mornings and making their way to the field either by truck, bus, cycle or by foot, the children loved each and every session they attended.

Coaching the U19s came with some challenges as well, with communication on top of the list. Some boys have difficulty in understanding English but with the help of the senior coaches in the group (Monu, Adash & Muna), who are able to help the boys understand using the local language. Also majority of the boys came from total football and cricket background having no idea what rugby is. Within the 11 days, they showed that they had learnt so many new things and enjoyed the tournament on the last day of the winter camp. Discipline was not a big issue since it was overcome by conducting fitness every time the boys misbehaved!

The coaches and the organizers also did well with looking into the health and safety of the children from leaving their homes in the morning, travelling and reaching the ground, and their way back home after the camp. The effort shown by the coaches dealing with more than 50-60 children in each groups, with some groups having a maximum number of 80 children, was super to see. Since its my first winter camp, I enjoyed every single day with the lovely children at the Maidan, travelling with the children in the truck every morning and then dealing with my group of boys and having a taste a what’s its like to be a coach.

Generally the 2015-16 winter camp was a huge success, credits to the coaches and the organizers for making it possible and hoping the coming winter camps to keep on getting bigger and bigger. Involving more young coaches and coming up with more and more fun games for children and also keeping each and every children busy within that 2-3 hours of camp so that the children don’t get bored can get even better. All in all there’s no low point in this Winter Camp.

Saima Taj: 

saima dec 2015

I have been a part of the Jungle Crows Foundation for many years and I have learnt a lot by organizing and managing the children in each events. I started out as a small child participating and now, I am given the chance as the coach put in charge not just of teaching the game but also arranging for the children from my community each morning. This year, as a Young Leader, in charge of a community, one of the big positives was the transportation arrangements which ensured that all the children had a safe mode of transport to and fro from their homes. For me personally, it was a good experience to train the boys this time around and also to be featured, in a newspaper article. These are small steps and I hope that I can use the skills and the support to achieve bigger things in life.

Bikas Paswan:

bikash dec 2015

“It was a big shock for me to be given in charge of a large group of naughty Under-10 children..!”

This was my first camp with the Jungle Crows Foundation which I really enjoyed a lot. Personally it was a big shock for me to be given in charge of a large group of naughty Under-10 children which I had never done before! But in the end, it was a really good experience for me and I learnt a lot of things that are going to help me a lot in future. Now I am quite confident of dealing with a big group of children, and the special thing for me by this camp I got to know all the other coaches well. I would like to thank our team and Paul Uncle for giving me this splendid opportunity. To be involved with the Aripota community and engage the children from there for the first time was the best experience as I had to personally go and bring them each day.

Akash Balmiki:

akash b dec 2015  “Every morning as we warmed up the children through Bull Dog game, I could see that all the children were very excited to play and to see those hundreds of smiling faces was great”

Personally I enjoyed this Winter Camp much more than all the previous Winter Camp as the number of children was much more this time around. The transport plan was well organized this year. My best and nost challenging experience was to take all the community children by truck this year as I had to be very alert that all of them are safe. The best moment for me was to see all the coaches contribute to cleaning the Maidan before we started play one day after it had been made into a dumping ground in the political rally the previous day. Every morning as we warmed up the children through Bull Dog game, I could see that all the children were very excited to play and to see those hundreds of smiling faces was a great. This Winter Camp, all the children enjoyed a lot because there were so many of them and had a good time with coaches. Each and every volunteer did a very good job , I noticed that they did not behave as coaches but more like a loving brother and sister.

Ravi Misra:

ravi dec 2015

“Great that we saw so many girls participating this year, another record that we managed to set”

It was amazing to see the number of children who turned out at the Maidan for the Winter Camp, even better to see that the number kept increasing each day! It was the transport arrangements that was the best thing that we managed to do this Winter Camp. For me as the Co-ordinator of the Under-14, it was nice to see many young coaches do quite well despite the fact that they all were catering to more children than they were expecting. Great that we saw so many girls participating this year, another record that we managed to set. They were kept well engaged by the coaches in a variety of rugby skills and fun games and surely was a new experience for them. I think one skill that everybody managed to learn was how to manage situations so that they don’t go out of control. I would like to personally thank all the members of the Jungle Crows Foundation for making the Winter Camp very successful.

Sarfaraz Ahmed:

tiger dec 2015

..the display of PLAY on the playfield on the 1st of January was amazing as we managed to make the formation by organizing about 850 children on the field.

This year, the Winter Camp was fantastic especially because about 25 communities were involved in it. This involvement was much larger than all the previous years and I think all the children who participated had a great time. I saw that many of them managed to make many new friendships. For me, I was put in charge of the U-19 boys, and I think all the groups did a good job in giving sound rugby training to both the old and new boys. Personally there were two highlights of the camp that made the Winter Camp very memorable. First one was the display of PLAY on the playfield on the 1st of January which was amazing as we managed to make the formation by organizing about 850 children on the field. The second one was the U-19 tournament on the last day which was great as many of the boys teams played really well and made the coaches proud.

Ajay Balmiki:

ajay b dec 2015

“It was great fun to climb the tree to take the picture of the PLAY formation”

This year, the Winter Camp was special not just because of good planning, the numbers, the breakfast, the transportation but also because all the Community Coaches got new challenges. This year, my job was to visit to oversee the work of all the junior coaches and help them out when they were finding it difficult to handle the situation. I enjoyed this role and also was good to see many young coaches perform well in their first time as coaches. Most of the children were very happy and enjoyed this camp a lot. It was also great fun to climb the tree to take the picture of the PLAY formation that we made on the field on the first of March!


Parvez Faizan:

parvez dec 2015

I was part of the organising team this Winter Camp from the very beginning and frankly, I did not expect the turn-out that we had. Every day I felt more and more proud of the Jungle Crows Foundation. I am a part of the Jungle Crows from 2008 where I joined as a small boy and to see the number of children participating this year, I really felt that the organization was grown. I felt good that all the children received good breakfast, kit and many gifts even though there were more children participating each day then we expected. Paul sir threw a success party for all of us a day after the Camp, which means that it was a very good success!

Pritam Singh:

pritam dec 2015

I have been involved with the Jungle Crows Foundation for more than 10 years and I can safely say that this was by far, the most amazing Camp organized. Infact, it was one of the best events that I was a part of. It was great to see how we all came together to make solid plans for the Winter Camp, and also work tirelessly to implement the plans. I witnessed some dedicated effort by everybody, starting from our internal team, our volunteer coaches, to supporters from outside. The transportation and breakfast arrangements were a highlight of the Camp for me, something that contributed immensely to the success of the camp. The children had a very good time and I think maximum care was taken to ensure that we all did something different this year and did it well. Perhaps some of the coaches could have done slightly better with their planning but all in all, it was a cherish worthy experience for me.

Big Jim on Rugby and Life

Talking Rugby Futures: as part of our series to bring out the stories of the young people impacted by the Jungle Crows Foundation today we talk to Jim about his journey and experiences.

Tell us a little about your background…

I am from Fiji and came to live in India to complete my higher education.

In Fiji, people are crazy about rugby, similar to the way Indians feel for cricket, so we start playing rugby from a very young age. Interestingly, if we don’t have a rugby ball to play with – we use bottles, coconuts, or random objects to enjoy the game…we just love the sport and can’t stop playing.JIM5

I got involved with competitive rugby at the age of 9. At first, I started playing in my village, and then went on to play at higher levels – high-school and state.  In the first year of my secondary school I got selected to represent the school in various rugby tournaments. I would normally play with the older boys, and was also the captain of the under-16 and under-17 team.  And, I played club rugby till I left for India.

I came to India through a scholarship program, where students from less-developed nations are selected to travel to different countries for higher education. I went to Pune to study. Over there I joined a local rugby team, and started training with them. Later a friend told me about rugby being played in Kolkata; that’s when I started travelling to Kolkata.

One aspect of the game you enjoy the most…

I really love this game! It’s a physical one and I’ve been playing it since I was a kid.

What I really appreciate about rugby is its awesome and unique ethos – we have enemies on the field who can be smashed or attacked, but off-field we are the best of mates.JIM4.JPG

What have you learnt in India?

Living in India has been quite an experience, and very different from the way I lived in Fiji. I’ve become more independent and I get to enjoy life over here.

In Fiji, rugby is played throughout the year. So, I would have to train daily. We had a really interesting schedule with various tournaments simultaneously on. Moreover, I was always busy with training, studies, work…

But when I was in Pune, my main focus was on studies; so all I would do was sleep-eat-study-exercise, and never had much activity initially. It’s when I got introduced to Jungle Crows that I learnt about giving back to the society – this is important; and there’s much more rugby training now!jim14

Comparing India to Fiji, India has very few ruggers and is not doing well in this sport (as compared to Fiji). What is your view on this matter? 

Fijians are passionate about rugby. Everyone out there will play and know about it. In fact, you don’t have to teach rugby to a child; it comes naturally to us.  It’s not the same in India.

Out here, cricket and football are far more popular, and we don’t see the same love and obsession for rugby…it’s there in Crows though and getting all the players into the community side works really well. Means we are not just rugby players but mini social workers also, gives a good feeling.

In Fiji we have prize money and a good player can make a living from the sport, there is nothing like this in India. Maybe, if there are more sponsors and funds to support the India players, then the situation will change.

How can this condition be improved?

Firstly and most importantly, the passion for rugby should be present. Once people are passionate, they will naturally go out and play the game.

jim n nanda

In the Media!

We should also start at the grass-root level. In Fiji, we have so many tournaments, right from under-9s to under-19s, village and state tournaments, and then there is regular coaching.

What Jungle Crows and Khelo Rugby are doing, more such projects should be implemented to encourage children. So, first the easier versions of rugby, like tag, should be taught and then gradually the physical game should be introduced.

Plus, India Rugby should also concentrate on better opportunities for players like playing abroad or bringing in Coaches. This way they can promote the sport and also ensure better opportunities to the young players.

Further, rugby should be promoted more and in a better fashion in India to attract more attention. I went to one tournament and the posters and signs showed American Gridiron Football players but this was for rugby, the sports have only an egg shaped ball in common. Was sad to see.


Jim as Coach with Crows National U20s Champions

 Coming back to rugby, who has been your role model?

My father has always been my inspiration. He too played rugby and had represented the state.

What is your most cherished rugby moment?

There are several such moments. But, I will share the most recent one – winning the Centenary Cup in October (2015). The boys had been training and working very hard for it, also we had near misses in the last few tournaments. So, this victory means a lot to us.jim16

What about the embarrassing one?

It’s an incident from back home; there was a big rugby tournament between the high-schools. I went to a renowned rugby all-boys school, but for two straight years we lost in the Quarter finals, which was very disappointing.

After you return to Fiji will you stay connected with Jungle Crows and Khelo Rugby?

I definitely want to stay connected!

I have seen the work and have also been to the Khelo communities for coaching. I want to come back and help the club and children associated with it. The best way to do so is by raising funds, brining in new and more children and help in building the program, and finally, by coaching. The work with the kids is great, just building up for their brighter future is amazing and with our rugby what could be better.

What advice would you give to a new child who comes to you for coaching?

I would tell them a little about rugby, and how to pass, the rules, and the basic idea. But, there’s one thing I will tell them is what my coach would tell me, “Take the ball, run, and forget about your life.’’ This is why every kid should play to be able to have those times when all the pressure can be lifted. Growing up can be tough.


Lining Up with Jungle Crows Seniors: All India Mumbai 2015

Who do you think is the player-to-watch-out-for in Jungle Crows?

The present younger lot has many good players. Sukumar , Amit and Akash are great with the game. If you look at them, they are small or haven’t got the big build some think is required for rugby, but they have worked extremely hard to become sure and confident players.

Finally, if you could give a nasty tackle to anybody, who would it be?

It will be Ajay Singh, he is a great friend and won’t mind if I tackle him. Another person will be Shuvomoy. He is the laziest person in Crows, so this tackle is just to wake him up and make him focus on the task ahead.jim13

Power of Play

Reviewing the Winter Camp and looking forward to the Year of Play

By Shreyas Rao

The Jungle Crows Foundation has been conducting its annual Winter Camp at the foggy environs of the Kolkata Maidan for the last 11 years starting from the year 2004. It is normally an event that lasts about 10 -11 days and involves engaging hundreds of children from several disadvantaged communities for a couple of hours each morning. Rugby is the principal sport and the camp involves the participation of the children in several play based activities developed around the central sport of rugby. The legacy of the Winter Camp has been well established through several journeys over the years of youth being transformed from a life of meager future to successful players and individuals who are able to take control over their lives.charge

The Camp has been growing in size due to the growth of our Khelo Rugby project which is getting involved with more and more communities across Kolkata. The objectives of the Camp and the Khelo Rugby project revolve around the idea that play can be a huge positive, a belief that all children, irrespective of their socio-economic background, deserve to develop themselves through the medium of play and this supports them in fulfilling their potential. In a society rift with inequality and casteism, the programme aims to aid children break through the dogma of predestination by providing a support structure based around play, in an environment that is inclusive, non-threatening and aids in self-discovery. The 2015-16 Winter Camp engaged more than 800 children on an average each day from 22 different communities, who were attended to by a team of 75+ volunteer coaches. It turned out to be the biggest camp we’ve ever organised, the biggest anything we’ve organised actually!coaches

This Camp involved a lot of planning and turned out to be a huge logistical effort – one of the benefits to all of us this. We had to ensure all the 800 children had a safe transport facility to and from home, a fun-filled Camp session, some basic kit and a healthy breakfast each day. As we prepared ourselves to gain a momentum into the Camp, we felt that it was important to develop a higher objective, so as to create a sense of direction to all the effort and have an over-arching goal. Thus, was born the idea of “Year of Play” – the concept of utilizing the Camp to create a platform for the year ahead, to start our own movement towards the Power of Play.

It is quite easy to be cynical about an initiative like this as it is for a short period without guaranteeing any sustainable or measurable impact on the lives of all the children involved. Yet, it contains within it, an essence of an ideal world, a consistent effort for equality and a belief of a new social reality. It is this feature of the Camp, that I believe, makes children participate each day in consistent numbers and compels the volunteer coaches to forfeit their Christmas holidays for this noble cause. Waking up early on a cold smog filled winter morning at Kolkata can be quite a task but the noise and laughter of hundreds of children enriches the heart of any soul who wishes to lay oneself bare to the experience. It was in such an exhilarating atmosphere that we wanted to take the first small step towards initiating the idea of our Year of Play.happy

Within the Khelo Rugby project team, we have developed a set of fundamental principles that we keep in mind as we develop our programmes with children. It basically revolves around teaching children to value their own lives, teaching them something new each time, appreciating them, developing their self-belief, acknowledging their rights, providing them emotional support and working towards building non-threatening platforms for them to succeed in their lives. The medium of play helps us to break several cultural barriers along the way in realizing these principles. It provides an environment where the engagement can take place in a very spontaneous unpretentious way.

Taking forward from these fundamental principles we felt like we needed to develop the theme further and use the New Year’s Day to delve, discuss and initiate the activities of the coming year. Perhaps, we were looking for “resolution” of our own. We have become so used to objective singular New Year “resolutions” that the concept itself has become drenched in mindless euphoria. As an organization, we had to ensure that the “resolutions” involved the hopes of others with a spirit of equality and justice. We needed to provide space for the rights of the children of the world. In that sense, we felt that one of the ways to “resolve” for a better tomorrow was by working towards initiating a movement on the topic of PLAY. Not just in a superficial way by playing or teaching someone a game but by acknowledging that the Right to Play of children in the world is directly connected to the various movements of social justice and freedom. That war, violence, hatred and greed eventually effects the way or the amount a child gets to play, to learn, grow and fulfill human potential. That the Right to Play is under threat from the inequality and ecological destruction that is manifesting all around. While there was the theoretical challenge of having to articulate our vision to our children, our team and to the world outside, there was the other challenge of practically implementing it as a visual display of our

The idea came about of creating the word “PLAY” on our Maidan Crow Field, involving all the children and volunteers who participated in the camp. The preparations began a day earlier by marking out the field through outlines and cones. As the day started, the coaches were encouraged to hold open discussions or a “Charcha” over the topic of Play with the children, trying to make them understand what it meant to them in their lives. We then moved onto the Herculean task of arranging all the 900 odd children in the formation of the four letters, with all the coaches keeping a vigil and making sure everything was in order. It turned out to be a lot easier than expected and when the formation was finally done, our team was brimming with a sense of achievement. A few slogans were chanted on the theme of Play, a mass wishing of Happy New Year took place, great photographs taken through some daredevilry up trees, breakfast distributed and finally all returned home overwhelmed by the feat!tug

Having managed to accomplish the feat, our next challenge was to elaborate the idea into a framework of ideas that could be practically implemented in various forms. We felt that such an important and universal idea needs to be laid out on a canvas in a way that we can paint our future plans and goals. After open discussions, we managed to create a fundamental framework:

  • Providing opportunities to as many children as possible to have a safe play experience.
  • To promote the participation and support for girls and their participation in their own journey of self-discovery through play.
  • To bridge gaps and fight inequality by being inclusive in all our endeavors.
  • To aid in the development of the culture and market for sports so as to develop play as a worthy effort for participating children.
  • To establish platforms for advocacy that can minimize the hurdles for success through play.
  • To innovate and create new designs for play spaces and play grounds, such that it stimulates play based activity in all communities.
  • To acknowledge rights of children and launch a fight against child abuse by creating awareness among children themselves through the medium of play.
  • To acknowledge that the children are the future and the next year needs to provide the basis for better years to come, a better tomorrow full of hope and promise because our children deserve that.

So, we at the Jungle Crows Foundation, are going to try our best in our own small way to develop our program around these points. For all of us who have been a part of the Winter Camp, it has been very memorable as we soak in the positivity, delve on the negative points and look to better ourselves for the future. At the same time, we invite development organizations and governing bodies worldwide to join our endeavor, for what lies ahead of us is a huge task. Year after year is turning out to be more harmful for the lives of children as the threat of both man-made and natural disasters looms large. So the idea of play and its universal appeal has become more relevant than ever before. We need to believe in it, for sake of ourselves and the children.  It will involve debunking a lot of myths, reshaping our identities, re-learning our histories, re-assessing our self-worth, introspecting deeply on our delusions and liberating ourselves to a brighter future. However, and most importantly, it involves engaging ourselves in the simple safe, fun-filled, powerful activity of PLAY.

Let us all cheer for a Year full of PLAY!!play

Bangalore Delights in Winter Rugby

The Story of the Khelo Rugby Winter Camp in Bangalore

By Zaffar Khan

I think everyone involved felt really proud at the end of our first Bangalore Rugby Camp. We worked with a total of 216 different children, fifteen hundred bananas were smashed, eight hundred Oreo cream biscuits munched, seven hundred real fruit juices punched and god knows how many oranges pealed over the 6 days. This was the first time we managed to get so many children under one umbrella. The camp took place in Sarjapura, Bangalore.  Barely enough space for sixty children, the ground was packed at an average of one twenty children each day and this was a real challenge . Bangalore particularly has issues of public spaces especially for so many rugby mad children to run around and exhaust themselves.1915030_10153949656266004_6692642181960089017_n

The camp would start sharp at 7am and finish at 9am. Children came to the camp from as far as 15 km to be a part of it. The ratio of girls to boys is what we are looking to focus on, for our next year camp. We want to get more and more children involved in the sport but our focus is also on more girls playing. This year we had one girl to every five boys. We know the girls love playing rugby it is just a bit more complicated to get them out of their homes and to the field each day, but we’ll work on this. Khelo Rugby Bangalore runs its project in twelve schools, three communities and a 7am Sunday morning academy at Decathlon, Sarjapura for free as all our coaching sessions are.

We spoke to a few children in the camp and asked what they thought of the camp “I am very excited. I met so many new children but my favorite was Sitara didi (Sister).  She played for the Indian National Rugby Team. I thought only boys can play for India. If I get strong and fast like her, I will also play for the Indian Rugby team. I love running” Princy Age 11. Children like her get training twice a week as a part of our school and community imitative.10570446_10153949652301004_2945101594370654031_n

Throughout the camp we had volunteers who would come whenever they found the time to help. One such legend was the ex Indian Rugby International and Commonwealth Games player Puneeth Krishnamurthy.  “Having played rugby in Bangalore all these years I did not know that there were hundreds of children playing and enjoying the sport. Need to commend the fantastic work put in by the Khelo Rugby team for starting something so wonderful from scratch. I would like to thank them to give me an opportunity to spend some time with the children and give back something to the sport and community also reminding me why I love this sport”10400813_10153949649221004_6123110917122082303_n

We are always looking to reach more and more children. We want to grow our network of sport lovers who want to give back something to the community and volunteer. We have now partnered with more groups and organisations so that we can spread our wings to other parts of the city. Many people ask us  if they will have to give a lot of time to be a volunteer or take up a coaching session? Our Idea is to just give two hours a week and the difference one can make is huge. From our experience we have understood that children do not need fancy stuff. They just seek a bit of our attention and time.


Another such volunteer was Anand. Who is genuinely a sport lover and had never played  Rugby…

1661380_10153949651271004_1898124754075900504_n“A beautiful morning at the “KheloRugby” – Sarjapur chapter. I had the opportunity to be part of a wonderful initiative – it was the final day of a weeklong training for the children. Honestly I did not expect it to be such a hit amongst the kids. The organisers were extremely professional in their approach and the kids loved every bit of the attention given. There were some lovely girls along with some macho boys taking some valuable tips on team work, hand & eye coordination, planning and general fitness from a Professional Coach. I saw some great learning imparted to the kids there – both boys and girls alike.

I came into help and immediately was given the task to write down the names of the students along with their age and then transfer the same to the certificates. Yes, after the entire week long course, they get certified too from Khelo Rugby and Jungle Crow Foundation.10379012_10153949656036004_6012848445027518622_n

The 2 hour energizing session with the kids ended with some breakfast and a special Gatorade drink for each of the participants. The last count I had was over 124 children (both boys and girls of all ages) and to manage this size is no small feat.

I could see enthusiasm, energy and high level of motivation in those precious eyes. I am glad that I could stand witness to the good efforts taken by the team at Jungle Crows and Khelo Rugby. This organisation is trying to make a difference in the lives of these children. Humbled by their efforts. Hope to be part of more such initiatives.” Anand Menon 10401233_10153949656096004_7005903149037488763_n

A great Winter Rugby Camp in Bangalore enjoyed by 100s of children and quite a few volunteers also. Thanks to all who supported the effort especially Cult The Workout Station and Nihil.

If you are interested to be a volunteer in Bangalore please get in touch with us on