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.

IMG_20160407_082902

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.

IMG_20160406_143602278

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!

IMG_20160406_151321723

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.

shreyas1

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

Khelo Rugby: Looking Back Moving Forward

Busy Busy Times for the Crows and Khelo Rugby

by Shreyas Rao

The last three months have been incredibly busy with the Jungle Crows Foundation and we have just now found time to tell you all about what we have been up to here on our Khelo Khelo Blog!

We have the most amazing team working on all our projects, which are really having a huge impact on the children we work with everyday. So it is a very big thank you to the team, but no time to rest as the next three months are going to be even more exciting.

Here goes for a mad dash through June, July, August and even a bit of September………

Khelo Rugby:

  • Has now expanded in Kolkata to 21 locations with more than 600 children regularly taking part in the programme.
  • Sessions got a little chaotic as pressure from the rugby season built up, but now that is over we are getting back to normal and making sure Coaches are keeping up with their coaching timetables.
  • The Khelo curriculum is undergoing a re-write as we learn more from our different experiences in all the locations where we work. This is a job that we can see never really ends. We are always learning, each Coach and Community brings a different dynamic, there is no one fits all solution.Oct1

Global Peace Games:Oct2

  • Conducted over three days in September (18, 19 & 20) beginning with a mini-leadership program led by Lovepreet and Akash for 20 Khelo Leaders from our Kolkata communities.
  • Day two was a Tag Rugby Festival with the participation of 200 children from 16 different locations. A record participation of sorts! Each Senior Coach was asked to bring 3 teams minimum and they all met the targets. A fun day for all involved and good job by the Khelo Leaders in leading and organizing the event and putting some of the learning from the day before into practice. Our new communities also participated in a festival for the first time.
  • Day three was a Cycle Ride organized by Pritam in association with Discover on Wheels for all the children who had received bicycles earlier in the year from Pink Bike.Oct3

Junior Rugby: 

Lots of ‘proper’ tackle rugby tournaments organised by the Crows, Future Hope and Bengal Rugby saw participation from most of our Academy players. We kicked off with a slightly mediocre performance in the Future Hope Monsoon Cup on a splendid looking #CrowField mind you! But then really picked it up with a top-notch performance in Bengal Rugby’s Under-14 tournament at CCFC where the Jungle Crows emerged Champions beating larger teams like Armenian College, KISS and Future Hope. The girls where not to be left out coming Runner’s Up in both the Women’s 10’s and Touch Rugby tournamentsPAUL PICS

Rugby is Great:

One of the highlights of the last three months was the Rugby is Great event which we organized with the British High Commission and KISS in Orissa. Ravi was sent on a one – week assignment to coach the teams and prepare for the tournament – great job by him. We also selected an Under-13 team from Kolkata after conducting our own Tag Rugby ‘qualifier’ tournament.

A 12 member team comprising children from 10 different Kolkata locations set off with coaches Kameliya and Lovepreet in charge. The event was hugely successful with the British High Commissioner Scott giving away the prizes and loads of newspaper coverage. Home team KISS emerged well deserved champions while the Khelo Rugby team were runners-up. The final was pulsating and an excellent display of rugby pre the Rugby World Cup!PAUL PICS1

Power of Display:

Oct12Our event to mark UN Youth Day saw our Khelo coaches taking on a theme and engaging with the children from their communities to come up with posters, art work or displays on those themes. Themes included Environment – Ravi, Child Rights – Kameliya, Khelo/Play – Tiger, School – Akash, Hygiene – Deep and Equal Rights – Lovepreet. Before going into the communities each Coach had to make a presentation on their theme to myself and Paul so we were sure they understood and had researched their topic.

Plenty of guests turned up on the day and the children guided by their Coaches came up with some really interesting and diverse work ensuring the event was a good one.

Jungle Crows Cupcakes from Mrs Magpie were a bonus for the super effort all round!

Oct11

In Partnership with the American Center:

In August we were invited by the  American Center in Kolkata for a film screening about girls participation in sport. This was a good chance to involve many of our girls in a different activity and let them see how other girls around the world enjoy sport just as much as they do. Oct13

A total of 8 of our Khelo Leaders have been selected for a Leadership Programme at the American Center. They will go through a 3 month training at the Center on a one class per week format. Post this they get a chance to meet US diplomats, take an internship at the American Center besides other opportunities.

What Have I learnt? 

All the coaches were given the task of preparing presentations about their last one year with JCF and all the coaches responded in a very positive way, making presentations and surprising many with their improving grasp of the English language!Oct14

Khelo Sporting League:

KSL (Khelo Sporting League) is really doing very well, giving those youngsters who have graduated from Khelo Rugby a new and interesting focus. We moved away from the location teams format we had originally started with and we now play in mixed community teams. Though the players were initially reluctant, the idea has caught on and all the youngsters are responding in a positive way. KSL now has an average turn-out of 100 to 120 youth every month and we ensure that they all have the chance to learn something new every time!PAUL PICS2Media:

Khelo Rugby and Jungle Crows has received plenty of media attention over the last one year – founder Paul being featured in Amazing Indians show of Times Now, we were on BBC World TV, on the Award Winning Scrumqueens site, and articles published at Sportskeeda

And there is more, much more that has made lots of people smile and will keep them smiling into the future. We have only just begun……

Try For Peace with Khelo Rugby

#TryForPeace – What’s Peace All About?

by Paul Walsh

In 2013 we took part in our first ever Global Peace Games, we really enjoyed the experience. It was great that the children from Khelo Rugby in Calcutta were able to share an experience – virtually at least – with children in Pakistan and Afghanistan. You can read about this on the blog we published then: Scoring A Try For Peace.

For this years event we wanted to make the experience more relevant for the children. While the UN Manifesto for Peace is spot on in terms of what it says we thought we needed to try to bring it down to a level the children could better relate to. This is the Manifesto of Peace:

RESPECT ALL LIFE
REJECT ALL VIOLENCE
SHARE WITH OTHERS
LISTEN TO UNDERSTAND
PRESERVE THE PLANET
CONTRIBUTE TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF COMMUNITY

As I said it is all good stuff, but we were keen to make our message of Peace a bit more understandable for the children we work with. One cute little resource we found on the web was this poster:

Peace 2014

We were able to build our work around the messages in this and really relate it to the children’s own experiences and importantly the experiences of the Coaches also – since it was the Coaches who were going to have to discuss Peace with their children.

One of the things that came out of this were some touching stories from the Coaches about how the message of peace was interpreted and made much more relevant for the children. Here are a couple of the stories:

Coach Ajay: “This was the first tournament the children of Chingrighatta had played in, they are a new Khelo Rugby community a little away from most of the others. On the day of the tournament the children all pleaded with me that they be allowed to play as their own team. We’d agreed in the run-up to the tournament that we would mix all the children up on the day so they got the chance to play with and make new friends. I think the Chingrighata children were a bit nervous about this and really didn’t like the idea at all. Reluctantly they split up and all joined a different team. And how they enjoyed it! At the end they all came running over to me and said what a great time they’d had, how they had made new friends, how they had played better than they had ever played before and when was the next tournament! I was so happy with this and explained that this was what peace was all about, we needed to spend time with other people, share experiences with them like playing together so we weren’t afraid of others and could all be good friends. This made me very happy.”

Coach Ajay

Coach Ajay

Coach Lovepreet: “One of the children from my Behala Khelo community, he was in the team that won the Bowl trophy on the day. Since all the children were mixed up we knew some children would be sad not to be able to take the trophies home. And this boy, who is a good player and has played in tournaments before was determined to hold onto the trophy and to take it home. One small girl from the Kolkata Port Trust Colony, I could see she was looking at the trophy and really wanted to hold it. It was the first time she had ever played, so it was extra special that she had been on a winning team. I asked the Behala boy, ‘How many tournaments have you played?’, ‘How good is it to have the trophy?’ He looked a bit shy and then I said, ‘Imagine you were playing in your first tournament and you were able to take a trophy home to your family?’ and pointed out the girl standing nearby. Quick as a flash he got my idea and walked over to the girl and handed her the trophy, telling her to take it back to show her family. Both of them were smiling from ear to ear and I thought, yes this is real peace when we show each other respect, share and can make a small sacrifice to support and encourage another.”

Coach Lovepreet

Coach Lovepreet

It would be great to hear from others with experience of working with children through sports and addressing ‘Big Ticket’ issues like Peace. I think we have really learnt a lot from our efforts this year and now better understand how important it is to make issues connect to the children we are working with. We know we engage with our children really well through our great sport of rugby, so we have their attention, just we also need to make our social messages as connecting and engaging.

We now await our next Khelo Rugby event in Pakistan in the Fort Abbas community with the Desert Camel’s very own Wazeeri in charge. One day soon we hope our Khelo children will not only get to look at their friends in other countries through a screen but be able to play together and learn a whole lot more.

All the photos of the day’s action – the children had a great time – can be seen on our Khelo Rugby Facebook Page and please do give it a ‘LIKE’ so you always know what is happening.

#TryForPeace

#TryForPeace

Special thanks to:

P1170451

#TryForPeace – Action from the Final

Scoring a Try for Peace

by Paul Walsh

Manifesto of Peace 

RESPECT ALL LIFE
REJECT ALL VIOLENCE
SHARE WITH OTHERS
LISTEN TO UNDERSTAND
PRESERVE THE PLANET
CONTRIBUTE TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF COMMUNITY

Earlier this year we decided that Khelo Rugby would attempt to unite our small Khelo communities in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan with a shared sporting experience as part of the United Nations Global Peace Games.  Though separated by borders and 1000s of miles apart we hoped that seeing other children playing and coming together for the same cause would help foster the spirit contained in the Manifesto of Peace for our Khelo Rugby children.Peace Games

The United Nations International Day of Peace falls on 21 September and in order to support this initiative the UN has for several years promoted the idea of organisations holding Peace Games.  These Peace Games are intended to enable children and young people to come together and learn a little more about what Peace means and share a fun and sporting experience that declares their support for the ‘Manifesto of Peace’.  In advance of the Games organisers are encouraged to discuss with children what they feel the term peace means to them.

Though the title Global Peace Games may sound rather grand and the idea of being part of a Global event a little intimidating, the event itself needs to be low cost (self funded) and held at a grass roots level so it can relate to all the youngsters that participate (and be affordable to folks like Khelo Rugby!)  The Peace Games are more normally associated with football and were in fact founded in 2001 by the NGO Play Soccer (http://www.playsoccer-nonprofit.org).

Once registered we received a message of support from Wilfiried Lemke who is the UN Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace and a message from the President of Fifa. We did tweet the CEO of the International Rugby Board to see if he would also like to send a message but he was obviously a little busy that day or more likely thought we were a bit mad.  Saying this it would be nice to see the global rugby community come together with some shared campaign in this way and perhaps in 2014 the IRB might be persuaded to be involved, it only takes a short letter which acts as the message of support – #TryForPeace.

Peace Games Kolkata

Peace Games Nawab Ali Park, Kolkata

So with our registration in place and clutching our messages Khelo Rugby set out to share and promote our own Peace Games.  First out of the blocks was Kolkata with a 12 team tournament held in Kidderpore at Nawab Ali Park on Sunday 22 September.  And very exciting for us that Amirul was able to bring a team all the way from Saraswatipur to play in the tournament.  This was the first time most of the Saraswatipur children had ever been away from their village and great that they were able to do this with a visit to their Khelo brothers and sisters in Kolkata.  12 teams, 120 odd children, biryani, bananas and more than 100 signatures on the Manifesto of Peace – all the ingredients for a great day of sport and fun. And though it’s not about the winning we did have some winners with the Cup going to the super quick children of Salt Lake Dhapa, winning out over the other super quick children of Saraswatipur.

Wazeeri and his 'Try for Peace' message - superb!

Wazeeri and his ‘Try for Peace’ message – superb!

Just two days later and it was the turn of Fort Abbas in Pakistan to fly the flag for Peace. And what an incredible effort! While sticking to the remit of a grass roots tournament Wazeeri and his team of young volunteers did a super job in delivering the message of “try for peace” to 100s of children.  20 Schools from across the local area took part in a mega-sized day of rugby action. To support them Wazeeri had organised 20 team managers, 10 coaches, 8 touch judges, 4 referees and 15 tournament marshals. 

Sunsets at Fort Abbas

Sun sets at Fort Abbas

 

And as the sun set on the desert location the Pashtoon Fighters had the skill and stamina to win out over Government Primary School 270 in a very close 5-0 match. Government Middle School 263 placed third. As children and volunteers made their way home all involved were able to reflect on an incredible effort to promote the message of peace and come together through rugby.

Khelo Khelo Pakistan!

Peace Games Fort Abbas, Pakistan

The Afghanistan leg of our Peace Games will happen a little later this month with our own Zaffar in charge of organising. We are very much looking forward to seeing the event Zaffar puts on and I know many of our children and the Khelo Coaches in India and Pakistan are excited to see the Afghan children in action.  Zaffar will be writing about his Peace Games as soon as they are completed!

It was a tremendous effort to make the Peace Games in Kolkata and Fort Abbas such a success. Special thanks go to Hari in Kolkata and Wazeeri in Fort Abbas who really led by example and who I know are both really committed to the children and the message that the games attempted to deliver.  HUGE thanks to to all the volunteers who took part and made the days events to remember.

For me it was great to see how powerful sport can be and how it can bring together young people under a common message.  This isn’t in itself life changing stuff, but by each of us taking a small step, in what is surely the right direction, we can make a difference.

JAI HO FOR PEACE