The Story So Far of the Jungle Crows Winter Camp 2015/16
by Emma Richardson, Trustee and Supporter
Jungle Crows Winter Camp has been running for 11 years now and goodness has it grown! Just on Christmas Day alone the programme attracted 787 children, supported by 66 coaches, and the camp goes on for 11 mornings. Many children get up before 5am, to travel by chotahathi (small truck) to get to the Maidan. While this year the temperatures have been milder (I still remember 2012/13 winter when temperatures dropped to below 10 degrees!), it is damp and foggy when the children first arrive. They have travelled from as far away as Bhattanagar in Howarah and Brooklyn in Khidderpore.
So at 7am, the coaches full of energy, encourage children to play bulldog, dance and skip around for the first 20 mins, simply to get warm. The coaches then take their groups of circa 25-40 children, let me tell you just organising this is a feat, to begin the serious stuff – having fun! The coaches stick with the same groups, so they get to know the children, each coach is supported by less experienced coaches and volunteers, most have rugby experience, but a few are simply passionate about putting something back into the community.
Amit started coming to the camps 10 years ago, as a shy boy, today, I watch him coach a group of u10s, full of confidence as a young man, who takes great pride in the trust he has developed, watching the children grow, hoping they too might become Jungle Crows players and coaches in the next decade.
Nanda as a senior coach and has been involved in the Jungle Crows since 2007, and as both a senior player and coach, he takes a leading role in the preparation and coordination of the programme, months in the planning, working with Hari, Shreyas and Pritam. Nanda’s love of children, and seeing smiling faces clearly motivates him to keep coming back. He says their smiles, are the best reward, but with a special opportunity to teach rugby skills and maybe even find the next Tiger to join the Jungle Crows within the u14/19s groups?
This year is Sahil’s first winter camp, he was in Amit’s u10 team, and has been completely won over by playing rugby, citing his dream of becoming a rugby player when he is older. He has already ‘signed up’ to come next year!
The coaches work in the various communities throughout the year, Lovepreet has been involved over the last 4 years; by day 4 he has practically lost his voice, from shouting such passionate encouragement to his young u10 group. He is committed to the development and education of young children, saying that this programme teaches the children respect for themselves and each other, learning to work in a team and how to behave both on and off the rugby pitch. At the end of each day, the children are given a breakfast kindly donated by hotels and businesses in Kolkata, let me tell you, it takes a lot of work to distribute 800 bananas, eggs, cakes, and juices. Some mornings, toothpaste and tooth brushes, with the coaches reinforcing the need to brush teeth twice a day. These teaching moments, happen at the end of the frenetic morning, when the kids form a circle within their groups, sit in the warm sunshine and listen intently (well the majority do!) to the coach. There is a calmness by 9.15am, with everyone either tired from the morning’s fun activities or just wanting the chance to catch up with their newly made friends.
This programme does not happen by chance, the Jungle Crows, led by Paul Walsh MBE, requires mammoth planning both in advance and on the day: trucks to be booked and driven, registers to be taken, donations requested and gathered, T shirts to be bought and printed (we distributed over 850 on Christmas Day morning), with a few going without such is the success of the event).
Then by 9.30am, the children start gathering up their belongings, and head back to the trucks. Each thanking their coaches for a great start to the day, munching on their fruit as they start the journey home.
The coaches have a quick catch up, what worked well, what could be changed and then they find the energy to play a quick game of rugby, because it is this game that binds these young adults together. The Jungle Crows are an amazing extended family, who like any family work hard and play hard together. But they, unlike many families, need the support of their city – Kolkata, this 11 day programme costs 6+ Lakhs and the Jungle Crows rely solely on donations and goodwill of the community both here in Kolkata but also from further afield in the UK and elsewhere.
This year we have also run programmes in Siliguri and Bangalore, managed by coaches from the Jungle Crows, who have again gone into the local communities to seek out communities who need the Jungle Crows support.
Even as I am typing, I can hear the children chanting and singing – playground games, it is this happy chatter which keeps me coming back to Kolkata, the Jungle Crows make a difference and that surely is something to crow about?
Do you want to help? Can you donate your time or money? The Jungle Crows run programmes throughout the year and need more support! Donations for the Camp can be made on-line in a very easy way, in India through Ketto: https://www.ketto.org/wintercamp or around the world through JustGiving: https://www.justgiving.com/wintercamp2015/
Happy New Year everyone!
Ed’s Note: Emma is also an ace photographer, all images here are hers and she’ll go to any length to grab the best shot!