Reflections on what Khelo Rugby is all about….
by Zaffar Khan
I have been reflecting a little this week on how far Khelo Rugby has progressed since we had this small idea three or so years ago. We’ve just now added Netball to the Khelo mix and this seems a good time to think about how we have done and what we have achieved and as 2014 approaches how we need to do more.
For me it has been a really special journey. Khelo really was a small germ of an idea that I had no thought would grow into something that really is working to be a positive influence in children’s lives. There are so many things that affect a child as they grow up and many of them are way beyond ours or their control. Our ambition with Khelo has always been to encourage and work to support a child so they can have some control over how they grow up. We want them to see positive role models, people who they can connect with and learn with. We want them to have the confidence and knowledge to be able to make good decisions – whether this is about using soap or staying in school.
Our Community Coaches are all committed to the children they Coach and committed to their own self development which is vitally important. We’ve been lucky enough in this to be supported by some really tremendous people around the world. Currently we have Coach Tiger (many of you will know him and his pace from Jungle Crows) in the UK courtesy of the Russell family and their local rugby club Bream RFC. He’ll learn so much in the UK and get the chance to meet lots of interesting people which will all make him a better Khelo Coach and even more of a role model.
It is inspiring how hard our senior boys and girls work and the effort they will put into something for very little if any personal gain. For example young Parvez who really pushed himself to break through his quiet nature and work with the Netball Development Trust girls was a revelation. When I think how shy he was when he first came along to play rugby and now, he is an incredibly good player and a young man committed to his sport. And between all this he still makes time to work as a daily labourer carrying and fetching in the huge Kolkata vegetable market, and we’re proud of this and proud of his rugby and know he will just keep growing as a person. Our job at Khelo is to encourage more youngsters to reach to their potential and make positive contributions to their communities.
Just now we have the Winter Camp. In it’s 9th year the camp has grown into the most manic and enjoyable event you could imagine. On the first morning we had over 210 children at the camp, on the 2nd morning 243. And each day more than 40 senior players, boys and girls turned up to make the camp happen. That is an amazing thing, more than 40 boys and girls got up to be on the Maidan by 6.30am to coach and play with their brothers and sisters.
But often it is just the small things that make change. I know that small steps is what it often takes to crack big problems – just one person not dropping rubbish adds up, and if we can get 200 children at the camp to think about this we are starting a change. Like if we can get one member of the family using soap to keep clean, and one more family member picks up this habit from them, and one more from them, suddenly we have a whole community living more hygienically and safely. And if it was at a rugby practice that they understood the importance of using soap, then even better.
My good friend Tudu always says that he wants to see every child growing up with a rugby ball. Well so do I and so does the Jungle Crows Foundation. And this is what Khelo Rugby does. And at the same time it works to ensure children get something good from their rugby. “Growing up with Rugby” then suddenly seems an incredible purpose.
OK we now have to add netball and who knows soon enough we might be adding other sports to this, but the benefits and outcomes will surely be the same. Sport for development is really buzzing at the moment and we’re really excited to be involved in this family and other initiatives like the Global Rugby Collaborative.
Disadvantaged children in India need all the support they can get and with a rugby ball under one arm Khelo Rugby is making rugby work for 1000s of children across India today.
Looking forward to 2014!