Spirit of Rugby Live In Kolkata

On 10 December we brought together ten NGOs to play rugby in Calcutta as part of our mission to spread the game and share the “Spirit of Rugby” with more and more children. We played a lot of rugby but also took some small steps on a bigger mission, that of equality and justice.

by Nidhi Gelani

“If you want the ball, don’t stand and wait for them to give it to you…..go and get it!” These words kept ringing in my mind long after I heard coach Turi motivate a young girl who was standing on the side line, disheartened that the boys in her team weren’t passing the ball to her. Well, it’s one thing talking about equality, gender inclusion and to create a gender fair environment but it can be a different thing in the field.

At Khelo Rugby we work directly with underprivileged communities in and around the city, we also collaborate with various other non-profit organisations. We decided to use the banner of “Spirit of Rugby” to introduce a whole new community to rugby. And as part of this took the step to coach 100s more children across the city. By using tag-rugby we aimed to make a more level playing environment between those few organisations that already played and those comparatively new to rugby. Each team was also required to have at least three girls on the field at all times.

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10th December was also the International Human Rights Day which just added an extra value to the tournament. We had loads of girls and boys out playing together reinforcing the beliefs that Khelo Rugby stands up for – the equal dignity and worth of every person.

“Gender inclusion to combat gender inequality.” We had mixed teams to instill the value of equality among the children. While seeing this I was vividly reminded of this quote from Eleanor Roosevelt which is at the heart of 7o years of the Decalration of Human Rights: “Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. […] Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.” Every word of this is filled with meaning and is a call to action for all of us.

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“Change” is not just a word with 6 letters, but a word which has caused war and is also the reason behind reconciliation. Well, it’s also a word we use so commonly that the depth of it has been lost. Here, in Khelo Rugby we believe in motivating the children we work with by planting seeds of change which are nurtured by their own will to excel and grow. We start small, close to home in the environment the children are most comfortable in. Weaving concepts like gender equality and human rights within our tournaments and daily sessions.

“Passion” is another big part of Khelo Rugby. Being a part of the team for almost 6 months now I am a strong believer in this.  On the morning of the tournament, at 6:30am our team of coaches and young leaders reached the field to carry out the necessary arrangements before the tournament. They were welcomed by heavy rainfall and cold winds making the whole event questionable. Till about 7:30 we were all hesitant whether to carry on with the planned event or not as the rain decided to keep pouring. That is when we saw the children who had arrived on the field warming up and eagerly waiting for the games to begin completely ignoring the rain and cold winds. That is when I realised that the zeal to play beats the challenging weather as well. Once the children had changed into their playing jersey, warmed up and were ready to play there was no looking back.

At 8am we began the tournament and to my surprise it went just as planned. The tournament was organised and executed by our group of extremely talented and motivated young leaders. At one point where we were thinking of calling off the event the enthusiasm and sports spirit displayed by the children on the field was a complete treat to watch. 10 charities from across the city participated with a total of 120 children playing enthusiastically on the field. The breakfast for all the children was generously sponsored by local restaurant Hakuna Matata. A team from the restaurant joined our children on the field which was great to see. The onlookers were all so surprised and amazed to watch young children running about the ground playing some excellent rugby completely oblivious of the shivering weather.

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We were also host to 26 students from Auckland Grammar School visiting India from New Zealand. Both sets of youngsters were eager to shake hands and be involved in the games. The AGS students were each given a team to look after, a few volunteered to referee as well. The children were thrilled to have visitors as they helped the teams warm up, play and also spent time playing games while waiting for their matches to begin.

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The children from the participating NGOs were trained and chosen by our group of coaches and hence each coach had an almost nail-biting experience when their teams played. All in all, the passion for rugby, the enthusiasm of children, the support and help from our visitors, determination and planning of our young leaders not only made this tournament a success but also helped overcome the challenge of bad weather it was a great and fulfilling experience.

The team from Don Bosco Ashalyam lifted the winning trophy followed by the Future Hope team who were the runners-up of the tournament. The Decathlon Foundation team were the Plate winners and Loreto Rainbow the Bowl winners.

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A dodgy beginning to the tournament ended with a happy bang! The day ended with the senior coaches encouraging the children and complimenting their remarkable efforts. A brief prize distribution ceremony was conducted where a few prizes were given away to the children by our visitors.

And finally, what comes to our mind when we talk about Rugby and New Zealand… yes definitely Haka! But our Khelo children are not far behind… we too have our own Haka!  The boys from the Grammar school showcased some extraordinary Haka on popular demand followed by our very own Khelo children winning over hearts with their very own Khelo Haka.

A life changing impact is created when a lot of small efforts add up. These tournaments are the small steps Khelo Rugby takes to ensure we give our children the right guidance, making them responsible citizens. Engaging our children in such tournaments is the Khelo way to take small steps in acting for equality, justice and human dignity!

 

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Auckland Grammar Show The Way In Kolkata

Through Trial to Triumph

by Paul Walsh

We were lucky to have the chance to host 22 boys from Auckland Grammar School in Kolkata last week and what marvellous Ambassador’s they have proven to be for their school and New Zealand. While they may have been knocked a little sideways by our city we were delighted to be knocked out by their attitude. It’s not often you get to meet 22 young men who are ready to take on and try pretty much anything, even when it leaves them throwing up in a gutter!

On Saturday we packed into cars and headed to Brooklyn a rarely visited spot in the heart of Kolkata’s sprawling dock area. The Brooklyn community has long been abandoned by any mainstream support and is left to get on with life with virtually no resources, including a lack of electricity and running water. I suppose this is why we like it so much, we know that what we do with the children of Brooklyn makes them smile, gives them some encouragement and can make a little difference to their lives.

The boys of Auckland Grammar took on Brooklyn in cricket and we’re delighted to say lost both matches, but as usual when young people meet through a common activity everyone was a winner and lots of new friends were made. Will and Tim agreed to write about their experience with Brooklyn and their blogs are below.

Will Allen writes…..

ags-willWe had an amazing time out at Brooklyn today with the Jungle Crows taking us out to visit the people with which they work with and teach rugby to twice a week. With such a warm welcome by everyone there and after a few good games of cricket, both of which we lost even with the help of some of the Crows, we were then shown around some of the homes and the community hall. It really blew us all away how positive and lively all these people were, the smiles they had on their faces and how welcoming they were to us. Khelo Rugby has definitely made such a huge impact on this community, through their constant involvement each week teaching the kids how to play rugby and helping out wherever they can around the area. I’m sure I’m speaking for all the boys when I say how thankful we are for the Jungle Crows spending the past few days with us and showing us their city, and showing how much of an impact a simple game like rugby can have on people’s lifestyles and attitude.

Tim Burns writes…..

ags-timToday we had an awesome experience visiting Brooklyn. Some of us managed to excel on the cricket pitch and meet some cool new people; I even managed to pick up my first ever international golden duck. Although we ended up losing by a mere 3 runs, the elated spirit was enjoyed by all throughout the match. We were guided by the Jungle Crows who ended up being the stand out players in our team and the best possible people to have around. Visiting Brooklyn twice a week providing a channel for energy through organised sports through Khelo Rugby, their inherent experience with their locals was apparent with their clear communication and leadership especially through men such as Zaffir. It was a pleasure and a privilege to spend the afternoon again with the Jungle Crows with whom we have formed a solid bond, obviously along with the people of Brooklyn who were the most friendly and enthusiastic people you will ever meet. Awesome stuff Khelo Rugby – a Kolkata experience not to be forgotten.

All the boys are blogging every step of the way across India over the next 4 weeks and you can follow their exploits here.

We hope Kolkata through the eyes of the Jungle Crows was worthwhile to the boys. I’d especially like to thank Ben, Rachel and Shane for all their tremendous support in making the experience possible for all of us.

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