Winter Camp: Coaches Speak

play for blog

900+ Children and their Coaches form the word PLAY at our Winter Camp

Thoughts and Reflections from the Khelo Coaches on Jungle Crows Winter Rugby Camp 2015/16

On 2 January 2016 the Jungle Crows completed its mammoth Winter Camp in Kolkata and what an amazing experience it was: an average of 800+ children each day from 25 different communities across Kolkata. The Camp required a massive effort from many, but the absolute focus of activity were our Khelo Coaches. They had to train the volunteers – more than 80 of them, ensure all the children traveled safely to and from the camp, keep the energy levels up with fun and engaging activities, ensure every child got involved and felt a part of the camp, feed everyone – in a nutshell their job was to make the whole thing click and be excellent. And what a superb job they did. Here they share some of their thoughts and reflections.

Lovepreet Singh Gill

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“My best experience was getting great positive feedback from our guests, getting  the ‘Top Star’ certificate by Jungle Crows Foundation and when different groups of children asked me to coach their groups.”

I felt very proud with our well organised Winter Camp this year .This year we were thinking that about 500 children might come, but as we started the camp, attendance went to more than 800. That’s the great achievement for the coaches involved with Khelo Rugby .This was the first time we’ve managed to get that many children on our Crow Field. We split the children in age group of under 10 ,14 ,19 . I enjoyed a lot in this camp because in the very cold morning, I managed to keep the children busy with my moves and my jumping exercises. The idea was to make them warm and we did it every day before the classic bull dog – a very famous game of ours which we do in every winter camp.

I learned a lot from this winter camp. I got the responsibility to train the young leaders and help them be good coaches, so they can deliver their coaching skills to under 10 children. It was very tough to manage the small children. It was our hard work that we successfully managed the small children from beginning to end of camp. In the end, I asked my team what they had learned from this camp, they said how to make the children busy with different activities and how to manage the number of children! All the coaches booked the mini van for each location to take the children to the field. By these good arrangements of transport, we had seen many more girls coming to winter camp.

Our guests showed a great involvement in all the activities .They were participating in fun games, managing the children, distributing foods etc. One of them came to me and said “You guys were doing an excellent job. Well done guys, keep it up!”. Thanks to Mr. Shaun who personally arranged the foods for 11 days of winter camp and thanks to every guest who showed their commitment to wake up in the morning to come to the field to have fun with children…..

We did an excellent job by making PLAY word with the children. The idea is that we want make this year a Year of Play. This was the main motive this year to give every a chance of play. All the volunteers had done great job and shown their full effort to make the winter camp successful. My best experiences were getting great positive feedback from our guests, getting Top Star certificate by Jungle Crows Foundation for the Camp and when the different groups of children came to me and asked me to go to their group to coach them!

Biswanath Turi:

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My best moment was in Siliguri where we had to take the food in a big pan from one village to another by walking!”

This was my 2nd winter camp with Jungle Crows as a Coach but this time I was the main leader in my group to manage all the children from different communities which was very tough. On the first day of winter camp, I was quite nervous about how to bring all the children from different location and make them play together but me and my team of young leaders managed that easily.

I also went to Siliguri for my first winter camp there. It was very challenging  for me as we had to make all the arrangements in the cold. I have to say that doing coaching in Siliguri was very easy compared to coaching here in Kolkata, because the children there were very sincere but here children can be very naughty. So from here I learned to handle the naughty children..

My best moment was in Siliguri where we had to take the food in a big pan from one village to another by walking. And teaching theme based fun games to the children also made me happy because I am teaching something to them which is based on their lifestyle. One such theme was Safe Drinking Water and we managed to conduct many games on this theme.

This time the Kolkata’s winter camp impressed me a lot, especially seeing the involvement of the guests. I know it’s very hard to wake up in the morning and coming to the field but I guess enjoying with the children made it easy.

Kameliya Mondal

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“Before the camp, just about 100 odd children knew me and now, almost a thousand children got to know me!”

We conduct the Winter Camp every year but this year it was special because we had more children than the previous years. The number used to reach so much that sometimes it became tough to handle but we managed alright in the end. Personally for me, it was a tough experience to be put in charge of a large group of Under 10 children because I had to constantly think of new games to keep them engaged. I think the breakfast was great everyday and I think it made the overall experience good for all the children participating.  I think this was the reason that more and more children were participating each day! I heard it from the many of the children that they wished that the camp was of more days and that was very encouraging to hear. We can do better next year by involving more coaches and more children, Personally, I love the fact that before the camp, just about 100 odd children knew me and now, almost a thousand children got to know me!

Suraj Srivastava:

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For me, the best moment was when I finally learnt how to make the crying children smile! 

For me, the positive thing was we had so many more children from the community because we all worked hard towards reaching our target. I was very happy about my KPT colony where we managed to include about 180 children from all the communities in the locality. The children were very cheeky and naughty but they were listening to us all in the end. The important thing was that we planned everything well in advance and that is why, we succeeded.

The last Winter Camp was fun as well but in 2016 Winter Camp was very exciting, just to see us being crowded by children and coaches each morning. I was very content as I got to talk and interact with many people this year.  The most challenging thing for me was to manage the really naughty children and the crying children. For me, the best moment was when I finally learnt how to make the crying children smile. The children enjoyed a lot because we were having a lot of games together and when, we saw their smile in the end, we knew that they all enjoyed a lot.

We can do the camp even better by working harder and not wasting any time. We need better planning for our sessions so that the children can develop in their lives.

John Voniani:

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“The effort shown by the coaches dealing with more than 50-60 children in each groups, with some groups having a maximum number of 80 children, was super to see”

Winter Camp 2015-16 was a great success looking at the number of children that attended the 11 days camp compared to the previous ones. Personally I think the children enjoyed the 11 days they spent at the Maidan with those amazing young coaches who sacrificed their time in helping the children understand the game of rugby and having a fair idea of what rugby is all about. Waking up early in the cold mornings and making their way to the field either by truck, bus, cycle or by foot, the children loved each and every session they attended.

Coaching the U19s came with some challenges as well, with communication on top of the list. Some boys have difficulty in understanding English but with the help of the senior coaches in the group (Monu, Adash & Muna), who are able to help the boys understand using the local language. Also majority of the boys came from total football and cricket background having no idea what rugby is. Within the 11 days, they showed that they had learnt so many new things and enjoyed the tournament on the last day of the winter camp. Discipline was not a big issue since it was overcome by conducting fitness every time the boys misbehaved!

The coaches and the organizers also did well with looking into the health and safety of the children from leaving their homes in the morning, travelling and reaching the ground, and their way back home after the camp. The effort shown by the coaches dealing with more than 50-60 children in each groups, with some groups having a maximum number of 80 children, was super to see. Since its my first winter camp, I enjoyed every single day with the lovely children at the Maidan, travelling with the children in the truck every morning and then dealing with my group of boys and having a taste a what’s its like to be a coach.

Generally the 2015-16 winter camp was a huge success, credits to the coaches and the organizers for making it possible and hoping the coming winter camps to keep on getting bigger and bigger. Involving more young coaches and coming up with more and more fun games for children and also keeping each and every children busy within that 2-3 hours of camp so that the children don’t get bored can get even better. All in all there’s no low point in this Winter Camp.

Saima Taj: 

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I have been a part of the Jungle Crows Foundation for many years and I have learnt a lot by organizing and managing the children in each events. I started out as a small child participating and now, I am given the chance as the coach put in charge not just of teaching the game but also arranging for the children from my community each morning. This year, as a Young Leader, in charge of a community, one of the big positives was the transportation arrangements which ensured that all the children had a safe mode of transport to and fro from their homes. For me personally, it was a good experience to train the boys this time around and also to be featured, in a newspaper article. These are small steps and I hope that I can use the skills and the support to achieve bigger things in life.

Bikas Paswan:

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“It was a big shock for me to be given in charge of a large group of naughty Under-10 children..!”

This was my first camp with the Jungle Crows Foundation which I really enjoyed a lot. Personally it was a big shock for me to be given in charge of a large group of naughty Under-10 children which I had never done before! But in the end, it was a really good experience for me and I learnt a lot of things that are going to help me a lot in future. Now I am quite confident of dealing with a big group of children, and the special thing for me by this camp I got to know all the other coaches well. I would like to thank our team and Paul Uncle for giving me this splendid opportunity. To be involved with the Aripota community and engage the children from there for the first time was the best experience as I had to personally go and bring them each day.

Akash Balmiki:

akash b dec 2015  “Every morning as we warmed up the children through Bull Dog game, I could see that all the children were very excited to play and to see those hundreds of smiling faces was great”

Personally I enjoyed this Winter Camp much more than all the previous Winter Camp as the number of children was much more this time around. The transport plan was well organized this year. My best and nost challenging experience was to take all the community children by truck this year as I had to be very alert that all of them are safe. The best moment for me was to see all the coaches contribute to cleaning the Maidan before we started play one day after it had been made into a dumping ground in the political rally the previous day. Every morning as we warmed up the children through Bull Dog game, I could see that all the children were very excited to play and to see those hundreds of smiling faces was a great. This Winter Camp, all the children enjoyed a lot because there were so many of them and had a good time with coaches. Each and every volunteer did a very good job , I noticed that they did not behave as coaches but more like a loving brother and sister.

Ravi Misra:

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“Great that we saw so many girls participating this year, another record that we managed to set”

It was amazing to see the number of children who turned out at the Maidan for the Winter Camp, even better to see that the number kept increasing each day! It was the transport arrangements that was the best thing that we managed to do this Winter Camp. For me as the Co-ordinator of the Under-14, it was nice to see many young coaches do quite well despite the fact that they all were catering to more children than they were expecting. Great that we saw so many girls participating this year, another record that we managed to set. They were kept well engaged by the coaches in a variety of rugby skills and fun games and surely was a new experience for them. I think one skill that everybody managed to learn was how to manage situations so that they don’t go out of control. I would like to personally thank all the members of the Jungle Crows Foundation for making the Winter Camp very successful.

Sarfaraz Ahmed:

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..the display of PLAY on the playfield on the 1st of January was amazing as we managed to make the formation by organizing about 850 children on the field.

This year, the Winter Camp was fantastic especially because about 25 communities were involved in it. This involvement was much larger than all the previous years and I think all the children who participated had a great time. I saw that many of them managed to make many new friendships. For me, I was put in charge of the U-19 boys, and I think all the groups did a good job in giving sound rugby training to both the old and new boys. Personally there were two highlights of the camp that made the Winter Camp very memorable. First one was the display of PLAY on the playfield on the 1st of January which was amazing as we managed to make the formation by organizing about 850 children on the field. The second one was the U-19 tournament on the last day which was great as many of the boys teams played really well and made the coaches proud.

Ajay Balmiki:

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“It was great fun to climb the tree to take the picture of the PLAY formation”

This year, the Winter Camp was special not just because of good planning, the numbers, the breakfast, the transportation but also because all the Community Coaches got new challenges. This year, my job was to visit to oversee the work of all the junior coaches and help them out when they were finding it difficult to handle the situation. I enjoyed this role and also was good to see many young coaches perform well in their first time as coaches. Most of the children were very happy and enjoyed this camp a lot. It was also great fun to climb the tree to take the picture of the PLAY formation that we made on the field on the first of March!

 

Parvez Faizan:

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I was part of the organising team this Winter Camp from the very beginning and frankly, I did not expect the turn-out that we had. Every day I felt more and more proud of the Jungle Crows Foundation. I am a part of the Jungle Crows from 2008 where I joined as a small boy and to see the number of children participating this year, I really felt that the organization was grown. I felt good that all the children received good breakfast, kit and many gifts even though there were more children participating each day then we expected. Paul sir threw a success party for all of us a day after the Camp, which means that it was a very good success!

Pritam Singh:

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I have been involved with the Jungle Crows Foundation for more than 10 years and I can safely say that this was by far, the most amazing Camp organized. Infact, it was one of the best events that I was a part of. It was great to see how we all came together to make solid plans for the Winter Camp, and also work tirelessly to implement the plans. I witnessed some dedicated effort by everybody, starting from our internal team, our volunteer coaches, to supporters from outside. The transportation and breakfast arrangements were a highlight of the Camp for me, something that contributed immensely to the success of the camp. The children had a very good time and I think maximum care was taken to ensure that we all did something different this year and did it well. Perhaps some of the coaches could have done slightly better with their planning but all in all, it was a cherish worthy experience for me.

Big Jim on Rugby and Life

Talking Rugby Futures: as part of our series to bring out the stories of the young people impacted by the Jungle Crows Foundation today we talk to Jim about his journey and experiences.

Tell us a little about your background…

I am from Fiji and came to live in India to complete my higher education.

In Fiji, people are crazy about rugby, similar to the way Indians feel for cricket, so we start playing rugby from a very young age. Interestingly, if we don’t have a rugby ball to play with – we use bottles, coconuts, or random objects to enjoy the game…we just love the sport and can’t stop playing.JIM5

I got involved with competitive rugby at the age of 9. At first, I started playing in my village, and then went on to play at higher levels – high-school and state.  In the first year of my secondary school I got selected to represent the school in various rugby tournaments. I would normally play with the older boys, and was also the captain of the under-16 and under-17 team.  And, I played club rugby till I left for India.

I came to India through a scholarship program, where students from less-developed nations are selected to travel to different countries for higher education. I went to Pune to study. Over there I joined a local rugby team, and started training with them. Later a friend told me about rugby being played in Kolkata; that’s when I started travelling to Kolkata.

One aspect of the game you enjoy the most…

I really love this game! It’s a physical one and I’ve been playing it since I was a kid.

What I really appreciate about rugby is its awesome and unique ethos – we have enemies on the field who can be smashed or attacked, but off-field we are the best of mates.JIM4.JPG

What have you learnt in India?

Living in India has been quite an experience, and very different from the way I lived in Fiji. I’ve become more independent and I get to enjoy life over here.

In Fiji, rugby is played throughout the year. So, I would have to train daily. We had a really interesting schedule with various tournaments simultaneously on. Moreover, I was always busy with training, studies, work…

But when I was in Pune, my main focus was on studies; so all I would do was sleep-eat-study-exercise, and never had much activity initially. It’s when I got introduced to Jungle Crows that I learnt about giving back to the society – this is important; and there’s much more rugby training now!jim14

Comparing India to Fiji, India has very few ruggers and is not doing well in this sport (as compared to Fiji). What is your view on this matter? 

Fijians are passionate about rugby. Everyone out there will play and know about it. In fact, you don’t have to teach rugby to a child; it comes naturally to us.  It’s not the same in India.

Out here, cricket and football are far more popular, and we don’t see the same love and obsession for rugby…it’s there in Crows though and getting all the players into the community side works really well. Means we are not just rugby players but mini social workers also, gives a good feeling.

In Fiji we have prize money and a good player can make a living from the sport, there is nothing like this in India. Maybe, if there are more sponsors and funds to support the India players, then the situation will change.

How can this condition be improved?

Firstly and most importantly, the passion for rugby should be present. Once people are passionate, they will naturally go out and play the game.

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In the Media!

We should also start at the grass-root level. In Fiji, we have so many tournaments, right from under-9s to under-19s, village and state tournaments, and then there is regular coaching.

What Jungle Crows and Khelo Rugby are doing, more such projects should be implemented to encourage children. So, first the easier versions of rugby, like tag, should be taught and then gradually the physical game should be introduced.

Plus, India Rugby should also concentrate on better opportunities for players like playing abroad or bringing in Coaches. This way they can promote the sport and also ensure better opportunities to the young players.

Further, rugby should be promoted more and in a better fashion in India to attract more attention. I went to one tournament and the posters and signs showed American Gridiron Football players but this was for rugby, the sports have only an egg shaped ball in common. Was sad to see.

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Jim as Coach with Crows National U20s Champions

 Coming back to rugby, who has been your role model?

My father has always been my inspiration. He too played rugby and had represented the state.

What is your most cherished rugby moment?

There are several such moments. But, I will share the most recent one – winning the Centenary Cup in October (2015). The boys had been training and working very hard for it, also we had near misses in the last few tournaments. So, this victory means a lot to us.jim16

What about the embarrassing one?

It’s an incident from back home; there was a big rugby tournament between the high-schools. I went to a renowned rugby all-boys school, but for two straight years we lost in the Quarter finals, which was very disappointing.

After you return to Fiji will you stay connected with Jungle Crows and Khelo Rugby?

I definitely want to stay connected!

I have seen the work and have also been to the Khelo communities for coaching. I want to come back and help the club and children associated with it. The best way to do so is by raising funds, brining in new and more children and help in building the program, and finally, by coaching. The work with the kids is great, just building up for their brighter future is amazing and with our rugby what could be better.

What advice would you give to a new child who comes to you for coaching?

I would tell them a little about rugby, and how to pass, the rules, and the basic idea. But, there’s one thing I will tell them is what my coach would tell me, “Take the ball, run, and forget about your life.’’ This is why every kid should play to be able to have those times when all the pressure can be lifted. Growing up can be tough.

jim11

Lining Up with Jungle Crows Seniors: All India Mumbai 2015

Who do you think is the player-to-watch-out-for in Jungle Crows?

The present younger lot has many good players. Sukumar , Amit and Akash are great with the game. If you look at them, they are small or haven’t got the big build some think is required for rugby, but they have worked extremely hard to become sure and confident players.

Finally, if you could give a nasty tackle to anybody, who would it be?

It will be Ajay Singh, he is a great friend and won’t mind if I tackle him. Another person will be Shuvomoy. He is the laziest person in Crows, so this tackle is just to wake him up and make him focus on the task ahead.jim13

Power of Play

Reviewing the Winter Camp and looking forward to the Year of Play

By Shreyas Rao

The Jungle Crows Foundation has been conducting its annual Winter Camp at the foggy environs of the Kolkata Maidan for the last 11 years starting from the year 2004. It is normally an event that lasts about 10 -11 days and involves engaging hundreds of children from several disadvantaged communities for a couple of hours each morning. Rugby is the principal sport and the camp involves the participation of the children in several play based activities developed around the central sport of rugby. The legacy of the Winter Camp has been well established through several journeys over the years of youth being transformed from a life of meager future to successful players and individuals who are able to take control over their lives.charge

The Camp has been growing in size due to the growth of our Khelo Rugby project which is getting involved with more and more communities across Kolkata. The objectives of the Camp and the Khelo Rugby project revolve around the idea that play can be a huge positive, a belief that all children, irrespective of their socio-economic background, deserve to develop themselves through the medium of play and this supports them in fulfilling their potential. In a society rift with inequality and casteism, the programme aims to aid children break through the dogma of predestination by providing a support structure based around play, in an environment that is inclusive, non-threatening and aids in self-discovery. The 2015-16 Winter Camp engaged more than 800 children on an average each day from 22 different communities, who were attended to by a team of 75+ volunteer coaches. It turned out to be the biggest camp we’ve ever organised, the biggest anything we’ve organised actually!coaches

This Camp involved a lot of planning and turned out to be a huge logistical effort – one of the benefits to all of us this. We had to ensure all the 800 children had a safe transport facility to and from home, a fun-filled Camp session, some basic kit and a healthy breakfast each day. As we prepared ourselves to gain a momentum into the Camp, we felt that it was important to develop a higher objective, so as to create a sense of direction to all the effort and have an over-arching goal. Thus, was born the idea of “Year of Play” – the concept of utilizing the Camp to create a platform for the year ahead, to start our own movement towards the Power of Play.

It is quite easy to be cynical about an initiative like this as it is for a short period without guaranteeing any sustainable or measurable impact on the lives of all the children involved. Yet, it contains within it, an essence of an ideal world, a consistent effort for equality and a belief of a new social reality. It is this feature of the Camp, that I believe, makes children participate each day in consistent numbers and compels the volunteer coaches to forfeit their Christmas holidays for this noble cause. Waking up early on a cold smog filled winter morning at Kolkata can be quite a task but the noise and laughter of hundreds of children enriches the heart of any soul who wishes to lay oneself bare to the experience. It was in such an exhilarating atmosphere that we wanted to take the first small step towards initiating the idea of our Year of Play.happy

Within the Khelo Rugby project team, we have developed a set of fundamental principles that we keep in mind as we develop our programmes with children. It basically revolves around teaching children to value their own lives, teaching them something new each time, appreciating them, developing their self-belief, acknowledging their rights, providing them emotional support and working towards building non-threatening platforms for them to succeed in their lives. The medium of play helps us to break several cultural barriers along the way in realizing these principles. It provides an environment where the engagement can take place in a very spontaneous unpretentious way.

Taking forward from these fundamental principles we felt like we needed to develop the theme further and use the New Year’s Day to delve, discuss and initiate the activities of the coming year. Perhaps, we were looking for “resolution” of our own. We have become so used to objective singular New Year “resolutions” that the concept itself has become drenched in mindless euphoria. As an organization, we had to ensure that the “resolutions” involved the hopes of others with a spirit of equality and justice. We needed to provide space for the rights of the children of the world. In that sense, we felt that one of the ways to “resolve” for a better tomorrow was by working towards initiating a movement on the topic of PLAY. Not just in a superficial way by playing or teaching someone a game but by acknowledging that the Right to Play of children in the world is directly connected to the various movements of social justice and freedom. That war, violence, hatred and greed eventually effects the way or the amount a child gets to play, to learn, grow and fulfill human potential. That the Right to Play is under threat from the inequality and ecological destruction that is manifesting all around. While there was the theoretical challenge of having to articulate our vision to our children, our team and to the world outside, there was the other challenge of practically implementing it as a visual display of our thoughts.rugby

The idea came about of creating the word “PLAY” on our Maidan Crow Field, involving all the children and volunteers who participated in the camp. The preparations began a day earlier by marking out the field through outlines and cones. As the day started, the coaches were encouraged to hold open discussions or a “Charcha” over the topic of Play with the children, trying to make them understand what it meant to them in their lives. We then moved onto the Herculean task of arranging all the 900 odd children in the formation of the four letters, with all the coaches keeping a vigil and making sure everything was in order. It turned out to be a lot easier than expected and when the formation was finally done, our team was brimming with a sense of achievement. A few slogans were chanted on the theme of Play, a mass wishing of Happy New Year took place, great photographs taken through some daredevilry up trees, breakfast distributed and finally all returned home overwhelmed by the feat!tug

Having managed to accomplish the feat, our next challenge was to elaborate the idea into a framework of ideas that could be practically implemented in various forms. We felt that such an important and universal idea needs to be laid out on a canvas in a way that we can paint our future plans and goals. After open discussions, we managed to create a fundamental framework:

  • Providing opportunities to as many children as possible to have a safe play experience.
  • To promote the participation and support for girls and their participation in their own journey of self-discovery through play.
  • To bridge gaps and fight inequality by being inclusive in all our endeavors.
  • To aid in the development of the culture and market for sports so as to develop play as a worthy effort for participating children.
  • To establish platforms for advocacy that can minimize the hurdles for success through play.
  • To innovate and create new designs for play spaces and play grounds, such that it stimulates play based activity in all communities.
  • To acknowledge rights of children and launch a fight against child abuse by creating awareness among children themselves through the medium of play.
  • To acknowledge that the children are the future and the next year needs to provide the basis for better years to come, a better tomorrow full of hope and promise because our children deserve that.

So, we at the Jungle Crows Foundation, are going to try our best in our own small way to develop our program around these points. For all of us who have been a part of the Winter Camp, it has been very memorable as we soak in the positivity, delve on the negative points and look to better ourselves for the future. At the same time, we invite development organizations and governing bodies worldwide to join our endeavor, for what lies ahead of us is a huge task. Year after year is turning out to be more harmful for the lives of children as the threat of both man-made and natural disasters looms large. So the idea of play and its universal appeal has become more relevant than ever before. We need to believe in it, for sake of ourselves and the children.  It will involve debunking a lot of myths, reshaping our identities, re-learning our histories, re-assessing our self-worth, introspecting deeply on our delusions and liberating ourselves to a brighter future. However, and most importantly, it involves engaging ourselves in the simple safe, fun-filled, powerful activity of PLAY.

Let us all cheer for a Year full of PLAY!!play

Bangalore Delights in Winter Rugby

The Story of the Khelo Rugby Winter Camp in Bangalore

By Zaffar Khan

I think everyone involved felt really proud at the end of our first Bangalore Rugby Camp. We worked with a total of 216 different children, fifteen hundred bananas were smashed, eight hundred Oreo cream biscuits munched, seven hundred real fruit juices punched and god knows how many oranges pealed over the 6 days. This was the first time we managed to get so many children under one umbrella. The camp took place in Sarjapura, Bangalore.  Barely enough space for sixty children, the ground was packed at an average of one twenty children each day and this was a real challenge . Bangalore particularly has issues of public spaces especially for so many rugby mad children to run around and exhaust themselves.1915030_10153949656266004_6692642181960089017_n

The camp would start sharp at 7am and finish at 9am. Children came to the camp from as far as 15 km to be a part of it. The ratio of girls to boys is what we are looking to focus on, for our next year camp. We want to get more and more children involved in the sport but our focus is also on more girls playing. This year we had one girl to every five boys. We know the girls love playing rugby it is just a bit more complicated to get them out of their homes and to the field each day, but we’ll work on this. Khelo Rugby Bangalore runs its project in twelve schools, three communities and a 7am Sunday morning academy at Decathlon, Sarjapura for free as all our coaching sessions are.

We spoke to a few children in the camp and asked what they thought of the camp “I am very excited. I met so many new children but my favorite was Sitara didi (Sister).  She played for the Indian National Rugby Team. I thought only boys can play for India. If I get strong and fast like her, I will also play for the Indian Rugby team. I love running” Princy Age 11. Children like her get training twice a week as a part of our school and community imitative.10570446_10153949652301004_2945101594370654031_n

Throughout the camp we had volunteers who would come whenever they found the time to help. One such legend was the ex Indian Rugby International and Commonwealth Games player Puneeth Krishnamurthy.  “Having played rugby in Bangalore all these years I did not know that there were hundreds of children playing and enjoying the sport. Need to commend the fantastic work put in by the Khelo Rugby team for starting something so wonderful from scratch. I would like to thank them to give me an opportunity to spend some time with the children and give back something to the sport and community also reminding me why I love this sport”10400813_10153949649221004_6123110917122082303_n

We are always looking to reach more and more children. We want to grow our network of sport lovers who want to give back something to the community and volunteer. We have now partnered with more groups and organisations so that we can spread our wings to other parts of the city. Many people ask us  if they will have to give a lot of time to be a volunteer or take up a coaching session? Our Idea is to just give two hours a week and the difference one can make is huge. From our experience we have understood that children do not need fancy stuff. They just seek a bit of our attention and time.

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Another such volunteer was Anand. Who is genuinely a sport lover and had never played  Rugby…

1661380_10153949651271004_1898124754075900504_n“A beautiful morning at the “KheloRugby” – Sarjapur chapter. I had the opportunity to be part of a wonderful initiative – it was the final day of a weeklong training for the children. Honestly I did not expect it to be such a hit amongst the kids. The organisers were extremely professional in their approach and the kids loved every bit of the attention given. There were some lovely girls along with some macho boys taking some valuable tips on team work, hand & eye coordination, planning and general fitness from a Professional Coach. I saw some great learning imparted to the kids there – both boys and girls alike.

I came into help and immediately was given the task to write down the names of the students along with their age and then transfer the same to the certificates. Yes, after the entire week long course, they get certified too from Khelo Rugby and Jungle Crow Foundation.10379012_10153949656036004_6012848445027518622_n

The 2 hour energizing session with the kids ended with some breakfast and a special Gatorade drink for each of the participants. The last count I had was over 124 children (both boys and girls of all ages) and to manage this size is no small feat.

I could see enthusiasm, energy and high level of motivation in those precious eyes. I am glad that I could stand witness to the good efforts taken by the team at Jungle Crows and Khelo Rugby. This organisation is trying to make a difference in the lives of these children. Humbled by their efforts. Hope to be part of more such initiatives.” Anand Menon 10401233_10153949656096004_7005903149037488763_n

A great Winter Rugby Camp in Bangalore enjoyed by 100s of children and quite a few volunteers also. Thanks to all who supported the effort especially Cult The Workout Station and Nihil.

If you are interested to be a volunteer in Bangalore please get in touch with us on zaffar.khan@junglecrows.org

Something To Crow About…..

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. IMG_5514

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?IMG_5065

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. IMG_5298

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. IMG_4929

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!emma123

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……

Roni Flying High With Rugby and the Jungle Crows

Talking Rugby Futures: as part of our series to bring out the stories of the young people impacted by the Jungle Crows Foundation today we talk to Roni about his journey and experiences.

Roni

How did your tryst with rugby begin?

As a child, I was very fat and would fight a lot. Other boys from Bhavani Bhavan – Tudu, Abhishek, Ritu, and Masudul were playing rugby for Jungle Crows… they called me for a game just to prove my strength. So, this is how I, my friend Pritam and other boys started playing rugby. I was 11, when Paul and Christoph were the coaches, and they would train us separately, as the other boys from Don Bosco Ashalayam knew the sport well and played better than us.

On Saturday mornings, the kids have training, so Tudu and Masudul would force me to go and practice along with them.

Did you experience any difficulty in playing rugby?

I was very shy and wasn’t involved with much physical activities. When I joined rugby I got to meet a lot of new people from different backgrounds. Initially, I would only talk to Pritam and boys from Bhavani Bhavan. But, by playing I became friendly with others; Pankaj and Tarok from Ashalayam became my best friends.

As for the difficulties, I was plump, lazy and wasn’t involved with much physical activities, so that was an issue I had to deal with.

My parents weren’t supportive of me playing rugby – they believed it had no future and would do no good to me – especially after injuring my finger.  They made me promise that I wouldn’t play and stopped giving me bus fair. But, Tudu and Masudul would help me, they lent out their cycles, so that I could ride to practice, they also helped me with the game.

When my father had gifted me a cycle, I would lie at home saying I was going to school or going for football practices, instead I would go to the ground for rugby training. When they started getting hints, they would lock the cycle or try other tricks to not let me play.

They gradually accepted it and later supported me, because at that time, Tudu had just made it big and playing at the National Level, he went to UK, and his pictures would be there in the newspapers. My parents realised that rugby could be good for me as well. And, then I got selected to play for Jungle Crows in the All-India Under 20, so then they realized that I was playing well and they could see I was working hard for it.

Roni as part of the Crows U16s

Roni as part of the Crows U16s

What impact has rugby had in your life?

I can’t describe the impact it has had. It’s now a major part of my life. Like I drink water and eat every day, I need rugby to live. I am working in hotels now. So, whenever I meet any guest from UK or France, I speak with them about Rugby, Calcutta Cup, and tell them that even I play rugby in Calcutta. I proudly speak about Jungle Crows and Khelo Rugby with them.

When I moved to Mumbai for my work, I played for Maharashtra Police only for my passion. But, my schedule was very hectic, so I could hardly play at all. I missed playing rugby in Mumbai. When Jungle Crows lost the Calcutta cup to CCFC, I was very upset and wanted to come back to Calcutta.

I was passionate about rugby and still am. If I get a chance to play rugby now, I will grab that opportunity. Rugby is in my blood – I think everyone who has played rugby will say this.

We heard that you are travelling for work?

It’s more like training for me, ‘cause I have not finished my 2 years training in Mumbai. I am getting a very good opportunity to work in one of the best hotels in Dubai – J. W. Marriott Marquez. First 2 years I will work as a server, first 2 years I will be a trainee captain, so they will teach me about working in a team and developing it, the difficulties you face as a team leader, how to deal with the guests and clients, etc.

What inspired you to take up a career in hospitality?

One day, after a game of touch rugby, Paul handed me leaflets with ‘IIHM’ written on it. I didn’t know what it stood for then. He would ask me what I would like to do after my schooling, and I would tell him about my plan to pursue an Honours degree in either English or Bengali and play rugby and think about my career later. Paul would tell me to that I might be late in making my choices about my career and handed over the leaflets to me and asked me to go through it and read more about it.

As a kid I would cook a lot, and tell my mother that I will become a chef. But, the courses are very expensive and my parents wouldn’t spend that much on my education, ‘cause they how I am as a student. I did what Paul told me to and spoke to my friends about it. Everyone told me that IIHM is a reputed institution for Hotel Management. I am from a Bengali medium school, so I was under the impression that I won’t have to go to college and could do whatever I wanted to and would always hear “HM toh easy hai… sab pass kar jate hai.” (HM is easy, everyone passes in it).

That time I was doing well in rugby, but unfortunately, I didn’t have a passport and I got selected for Jungle Crows senior team and, could play alongside my heroes Zaffar, Tudu, and the other boys. This was a like a dream for me, and I guess, also for many other boys who have been a part of Maidan Hazards. I then thought that I could concentrate on playing for Jungle Crows as well as on my studies and got back to Paul, and told him that my father won’t spend that kind of money. So, he told me that the money aspect would be managed, and my father would just have to pay a small sum.

Funnily, when I went to apply in the college, the receptionist asked me to pay the money and I was clueless as to what money she was talking about. Then I told her to speak to Paul and Shaun (Chef Shaun Kenworthy) but, they were busy, so I messaged Paul. I was asked to wait outside until things were sorted, which was annoying. Paul came and gave me money to apply, and after he came, everyone was treating me like a celebrity.

How has your relationship with Paul Walsh been like?

Paul is like a father to me, and even the senior boys – Tudu, Ritu, Masudul, and all treat him like their father. Tudu would always tell me to bring something for Paul, whenever we would go outside, even if we go out to play; this would make him very happy, because he doesn’t have anyone in Kolkata and whatever he does is for us and not for his own self. He has left his work and continued to work with us. So, I really respect him for this, he’s doing so much for rugby, for us. Probably now, my relationship with Paul has become more friendly. Paul is like a father to me and, I obey him a lot. In fact, whenever he suggests something to me, I take it as an expert opinion.

After my graduation I got 3 job offers- 2 in Calcutta and 1 in Mumbai. I decided to go with the one in Calcutta, for the designation and pay, as well as it would be more convenient for me. But, Paul was insistent that I should go to Mumbai, as it will boost my career. He would ask me every day about it. So, would Tudu. It was very annoying… like both never wanted me to live in Calcutta. But, I later realized that going to Mumbai was indeed a very good decision.

What is your best moment in your Rugby career?

I still remember this: it was in Mumbai and we were playing for Under 20 rugby. Curtis Russell and I were playing together against Bombay Gymkhana. I scored my life’s first try, which was a good one… I had dodged few players and even tackled some in that game and, those days I used to weigh 90 kilos, so that try actually came as a surprise.

Another moment, which I distinctly remember is a match against Future Hope. Tudu passed the ball to me and I could see a few players running towards me. But, then Tudu called out to me and assured that he will tackle the boys harder. That moment I realized that these boys aren’t only my team mates – they are my brothers.

Scrum time....

Scrum time….

And, your worst or most embarrassing moment?

It would be, when I was playing for Maidan Hazards, Ajay was with me… it was the last minute of the game and it was a really close match against YRC (Young Rugby Club). YRC had many strong players then – Mesu and Noa were playing for that team – they were very big, whereas we at Maidan were small and everyone’s age would be around 16-17 years old. So, at the last minute we gave 2 good tackles and were about to win, just then Ajay missed an easy tackle, allowing them to win. I felt bad on losing and I fought with Ajay over the matter, told him things which were wrong and shouldn’t be said, and as a result we wouldn’t speak with each other.

What do you think about the future of Jungle Crows? How would you like to contribute for the future of Crows?

I tell Paul that my travelling for work is only for a better future of Jungle Crows. By travelling I can speak with people about Crows, broaden our networks, so that we get more support. If I stay in Calcutta, no one will be benefitting. While I was in Calcutta, I was playing, learning and even earning. I was leading the boys as well. I have gained from Crows and should move up from this position. By doing so, I am giving my other brothers in the team a chance to play and make some progress.

When I come back after few years, I can help Jungle Crows mentally, financially, or else all I can provide Crows with is man power.

Tudu is the biggest example, he always shares his experience with the boys and whenever he comes back from UK his bags were packed with jerseys, shoes and all the essentials for others to have a safe and good game. So, like him I want to help crows.

What is your advice to the young rugby players?

I am going to speak only about Crows; I cannot advice some other rugby player as I’m not good at it.

I have seen many boys in Crows who play for fancy shoes, jerseys, working in Crows, etc. instead of concentrating on the game and developing a career. People should think how they can get a job through rugby or Jungle Crows, which will eventually help everyone rather than settling down in Jungle Crows. for instance Masudul, he now works for the Kolkata Police, which he got through Crows.

Do you think sport is a good preparation for life?

Yes, it definitely is. People should play a sport.

I was very lazy and plump as a child. I would opt to be a wicket keeper in Cricket, as I would have to run less. I would not enjoy running. If I hadn’t got involved with professional and competitive sport, I would have been playing video games and Gully Cricket, which wouldn’t take me far.

But, after getting into rugby, and having this association with sports, I have developed a passion. After playing, I would go back home and think how I played earlier that day, areas I should focus on and how I should play in the future. Through sports, I have understood myself better and become mentally and physically fit.

What would be your biggest achievement?

When I was playing very well, I never got my passport and didn’t get a chance to play for the national side. But, I’m happy my brothers – Arun and Commando got a chance to play for the national side.

An achievement in rugby was when Paul named me the captain for the Under-20 All India squad.

But, another achievement for me would be when I got into college, I managed to do well, although I was from a Bengali medium background and the course was designed entirely in English. And, I even landed with good opportunities to work in the one of best hotels.

I’d be glad if someone walks in the same path and follows me from Crows. That would be an actual achievement.

It’s time for some controversial questions. We’ve heard that you are known to make up stories. How true is this?

Yes, that’s true. I love to cook up my own stories. And, to top it, I’m very talkative, so you can imagine the combination. Many people have told me this that I exaggerate to an unrealistic extent. Even, at home I hear this!

 If you could give a nasty tackle to anybody from Jungle Crows, who would it be?

I have already given one to Tiger; it was so bad that he couldn’t remember a thing. And, if I have to give a tackle now, it will be Tudu, because he is the one who has taught a lot of things in life, especially rugby, and he’ll be happy to see me excelling as a player.

roni touch