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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Khelo Khelo…..We Love Netball!

by Zaffar KhanFun Fun Fun

Our Jungle Crows Foundation (JCF) and its new love “Netball” have just finished the first week of very intense coaching and held a super eight team tournament in the ‘City of Joy’ Kolkata. We had more than two hundred kids taking part as players and spectators.

OneMonica and Daxa from Netball Development Trust were in town for the week and worked non-stop to train up ten JCF Khelo Netball Coaches and support the delivery of a new and very fun game. Netball fits perfectly with the values and ideas of JCF which is equal opportunity for both boys and girls to play and participate on one level field and importantly to enjoy a normal childhood which includes sport and games. As an organisation we believe that every child should have a healthy childhood, both physically and mentally, and we think sport is one of the best ways to promote this.

TwoI sat down with one of our community coaches who is trained in coaching Tag Rugby and now had the opportunity to be trained in Netball. Netball is very different form the game of rugby and I asked him what he thought about the sport and if it has an opportunity to grow in the future…

Parweez tell us something about your first week of learning and coaching Netball?

Yes it was a great week, Netball is a good game for both boys and girls. I do not think we found it difficult to understand. We had 8 teams participating in the tournament which was held at St Joseph’s school ground. It was great to see so many children playing the sport with only 4 days practice. During tournament day they played like they had been playing the sport for years.Three

So what next now ?

We are now in Siliguri and we will be working on the same model there. We are sure we will find more enthusiastic kids. We already have Amirul and Sanu living in Siliguri who run the Khelo Rugby programme so they will now be able to add Netball to their coaching.

So what is Khelo Netball?

OK…People know about Khelo Rugby and the use of Tag Rugby to get the children playing, kids who do not have much and don’t really get the chance in sport. I think that to get kids involved in India it’s important to get the parents involved and parents usually do not like contact sport, specially for the girls. Hence Khelo Netball comes in, it is a non contact sport, can be easily played by girls only but can also be played in a mixed group. We do this in Khelo Rugby also but it might be easier to get this happening with Netball.  And why not have a sport just for the girls, that would be nice.

And why are you volunteering your time?

I like what our Jungle Crows does…I do not earn much and life can be difficult but I understand that it is important to give time and your energy to the community. Hence I am willing to give up my few days of daily wages for a better cause. On the other hand it’s great fun to be with my friends…there is always some silly jokes around the corner to make me laugh and we do have some really good jokers in the team.

Thanks Parweez!

We’re now looking to collaborate with more schools, organisations and communities to develop Netball at a grassroots level. We are always open to ideas and conversation. If you have a community and you think it deserves a smile give us a call and we can do something together!

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Khelo NETBALL!!

by Zaffar Khan, currently in Kolkata

With Khelo Rugby bringing such great results bringing so many communities together and uplifting them we thought we would like to do something new, something fresh, something for the girls especially. We always believe in stretching ourselves and challenging our limits and capabilities and so we thought of taking up a game which was a bit out of our skill range but of course for a better cause and goal. So we have taken up the Netball challenge!

ImageThis definitely meant we needed some professional help and that’s where The Netball Development Trust (NDT) come in. Their team led by founder Monica landed landed in Kolkata on Friday and got to work on Saturday with a first Coach the Coach session with a group of 20 Jungle Crows boys and girls. We are very excited that they are supporting the Jungle Crows Foundation in introducing the sport of netball to the kids we work with and also to some new schools in Kolkata and our new hunting ground, Siliguri.

We’re starting out with mixed netball but we’ll look longer term to provide opportunities to play and compete just for girls. We now have a two week coaching programme to come and it will be divided between Kolkata and Siliguri. We already have four schools and two communities signed up in Kolkata and four schools in Siliguri.

Our very own Mitra one of our coaches participating in the coaching session who is also a very handy rugby player said, “I like the sport, I have just spent an hour trying to learn it and looks good. We sometimes play rugby-netball so we know some of the basics but there are quite a few rules to learn. It’s great we have an all girls sport now“.

Khelo Netball is looking forward to encouraging take up of the sport and seeing how we can use netball within our community programmes. Netball like our tag rugby is a very safe and generally non-contact sport and hence to gives us the bridge to take it forward with boys and girls playing together and delivering it in areas without good facilities and grounds.

We are very excited to get netball started and we’re sure that we’ll find some twinkling new Netball stars in the future.

Rumble in the Jungle

Khelo Rugby in the City gets together with Khelo Rugby in the Countryside

by Zeeshan Ali, Khelo Rugby Community Coach

To mark our India Independence Day we thought it would be a great idea to introduce two of our Khelo Rugby communities – the city children of Kolkata to their country brothers and sisters in Saraswatipur. We brought together 8 Kolkata children, 2 from Salt Lake Dhapa, 2 from Bijoy Basu, 2 from Bhawani Bhawan and 2 from Nawab Ali Park and set of late on 13 August night on the Darjeeling Express from Sealdah Station.  Myself, Owen (a UK volunteer), Sanu and Amirul were responsible for making all the arrangements and though it was a late night train, the excitement meant none of us really slept properly.

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Starting out from Kolkata by train – excitement building

After a long 10 hours train journey, we reached Siliguri.  From there Father Mathew George of Salesian College drove us through the forest to Saraswatipur. During the ride through the jungle all the children were astounded by how beautiful it was, extra green and lush because of the monsoon rains.  It was a completely different level of experience for the children who had all been born and brought up amidst the huge buildings and busy streets of Kolkata. After the one hour drive we reached the village, which is surrounded by tea plantations on all sides – so now the Kolkata kids found out where tea came from!  We were warmly welcomed by everyone in the village, especially Amirul who everyone in the village knows very well after he lived there while setting up the Khelo programme. After a quick wash and freshen up the Kolkata kids were keen to get out and practice and see where they would be playing.

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Looking smart!

The children were astounded seeing the size and conditions of the field. These kids hardly get to play on such a lush green field in the city. We started training. Soon there were children coming from all over Saraswatipur and the surrounding villages to watch the new children playing. And before we knew it, we had 6 teams playing with all the children mixed up.  It’s always amazing how quickly kids break down any barriers and get playing together especially when they have a great sport like rugby in common.

Personally it was a second time for me to Saraswatipur, and I could see that the children’s rugby skills had continued to improve. I could clearly see that rugby had really captured the Saraswatipur children and the city boys were amazed and knew they’d have some tough games the next day.  The day ended with the Kolkata kids having made 100s of new friends and was followed by a good dinner and a good nights sleep.

Amirul takes the whistle!

Great play and Amirul on the whistle

Independence Day dawned and we observed a traditional flag hoisting by Father George. Then a few races were organised for the very small school children who weren’t taking part in the upcoming rugby tournament. Once all the races were over we kicked off with the first match of the tournament. There were 8 teams in the junior league including the team from Kolkata, and there were 4 teams in the senior league. The field was a bit muddy and water logged in some places but it didn’t affect the spirit of Khelo amongst the kids. The day was filled with great games of rugby and a high level of skill from every player in every team.

Owen ready to referee

Owen ready to referee

Although the Kolkata team had much more experience than the Saraswatipur players all the games they played were close.  I don’t think we expected them to be pushed quite as much as they were and it took all their experience to win through the tournament.  The Khelo spirit was in abundance and the day was a real festival of rugby for the children.  In the end the Kolkata Crows lifted the cup, but only after a tough final match.

Fast and Furious Action

Fast and Furious Action

In the senior league Saraswatipur Cyclone won the cup by defeating Nirpinia Thunder. After the prizes were given out, lunch was organised for all the children – thanks to the Jungle Crows Foundation for this

After spending amazing days in the village it was time for us to leave and head back to Kolkata. Just time to catch a movie and do some shopping in Siliguri. All the children were very sad they had enjoyed their time together so much and made loads of new friends. But then it left a smile on the Saraswatipur children’s faces when they got to know that Amirul and Sanu were going to stay back in Siliguri and train them regularly.  The Crows Foundation is sponsoring Sanu and Amirul to pursue their further studies in Siliguri, so they’ll study and also carry out Khelo Rugby sessions. After saying bye to everyone we left, eyes were filled with tears and faces illuminated with big smiles at the same time. The Kolkata children were really touched by the warmth they had encountered from the villagers. They want to go back again and play with them, the sooner the better.

Thanks to everyone who made the trip possible and especially thanks to my co-organisers Owen, Sanu and Amirul.

Kolkata Crows

Kolkata Crows

Khelo Khelo Girls……..

Abhishek Singh, Manager of the Khelo Rugby Programme on our latest initiative.

Although girls make up about 20-25% of our regular Khelo Rugby participants we’ve long wanted to increase this percentage and give them more of a chance in playing. Funny our parent Jungle Crows Women’s team is in a lot of ways more successful than the Men’s team, having won a couple of national tournaments, so we know the great potential for girls in our sport.

My first dedicated training in a girls school was this morning at Shri Shikshayatan School in central Kolkata.  At the same time I was excited and nervous to be taking this training. I’m not really used to dealing with sophisticated school girls!

At 8.00am there was only one girl there, not a very good start! But very soon a good group of girls turned up and we kicked off on our training session.  Starting with fun games and activities to keep everyone interested we then moved into a quick game.  Not bad 15 minutes after seeing a rugby ball something like a game was going on. We worked a bit on passing after that and even had a cheerleading song in between – they’re a talented bunch at Shri Shikshayatan.  Good session with plenty of fun and learning, helped out by one of our volunteers from UK Curt who did a great job.Image

This is the second girls school we’ve taken Khelo to. Our plan is to introduce Khelo Rugby in at least 12 schools across the city in the coming two months. We also aim to educate the teachers of the school about rugby.  We have planned workshops for them to help them understand the game and the Khelo programme.  Once we get all the schools playing we’ll host a rugby festival to bring them all together and include some of our other communities.

We hope with these efforts to encourage more girls into rugby and sport, develop a  mainstream element within Khelo Rugby and increase the Khelo community across Kolkata even further.  Exciting times for us!

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