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