We are….Spirit of Rugby

Sharing the news that Khelo Rugby has been selected as a Spirit of Rugby partner by the global governing body of rugby World Rugby

by Paul Walsh

We were delighted when Khelo Rugby was named by World Rugby as one of five global “Spirit of Rugby” partners on 6 April. This was a brilliant announcement to be able to share with all our children, colleagues and friends.

6 April is also the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace (IDSDP) so we were able to incorporate our good news into the existing small event we had planned on the Maidan in Kolkata. About 100 Khelo Rugby children were joined by Jungle Crows trustees Dr Hassan Iqbal and Chef Shaun Kenworthy and guests French Consul General Damien Syed and British Deputy High Commissioner Bruce Bucknell. After our games we displayed the #WhiteCard which symbolises support for the worldwide peace through sport movement.Spirit of Rugby 6 April 2017

The other four organisations named Spirit of Rugby partners were:

World Rugby acknowledged the work of all five awardees, “The work of the Spirit of Rugby partners is closely aligned to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by using rugby to tackle key issues such as health and well-being, quality education, gender equality, sustainable cities and communities, climate action and partnerships for the attainment of the SDGs amongst others.”

The Spirit of Rugby partnership is all about working within the framework of the global rugby values. Rugby is pretty unique in setting down values by which the sport is played and managed. The values identified by World Rugby and within which we work are: Integrity, Respect, Solidarity, Passion and Discipline.

When we started Khelo Rugby we didn’t expect anything like this, but we did sit down with the values, thinking about them and how they could be a good guide for us. Now getting this recognition from World Rugby really means a lot and has given everyone involved in the project a real boost.

Khelo Rugby started when one of our Jungle Crows players – Zaffar – wanted to do something to help a local community. We knew our game was something special and we knew that sharing it we could do some good. Throwing that rugby ball about gives us all a big buzz, seeing the children’s faces light up is a huge motivation. It hasn’t been a straight road to this point and we’ve still a lot to do, but it is nice to get this recognition.

Within our coaching group we’ve been talking about the Spirit of Rugby this week. Thinking about how it relates to the children we work with. How it relates to our own idea of Growing up with Rugby. We’re talking to the Khelo Rugby children to help them understand what Spirit of Rugby means and sharing with them that they are now part of a global network that includes children in Brasil, Madagascar and Scotland – how exciting is that!

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Akash’s Rugby Journey

Community Coach Akash Balmiki tells the story of his journey growing up with a rugby ball by his side.

By Akash Balmiki

My name is Akash Balmiki. I am 21 years old and live in Kolkata, West Bengal. I have been raised in a simple and humble family consisting of 5 members. I have two elder brothers, mother and father. My father works as a sweeper and my mother is a home maker. I am currently a community coach for Khelo Rugby and a player for the Jungle Crows Rugby Club. From a young age my parents have taught me the importance of living happily with very basic amenities and minimal facilities. Right from the time I began to walk and run, I had a good liking towards sports, especially outdoor sports. I attended Government school in Kolkata but I could not afford continuing my education because of financial difficulties at home. The sport of rugby has made a big impact in my personal life.

I got introduced to the sport of rugby in the 2008 Jungle Crows winter camp. One of my neighbours told me about a fun-filled event that takes place at the Kolkata Maidan during the winter holidays. I did not know anything about rugby and had never seen a rugby ball in my life. The Jungle Crows winter camp was a life changing experience for me. Before the camp, I was very shy and hardly had any friends. After the camp, I had 20-30 friends and I thoroughly enjoyed their company. The winter camp assisted me to open up a bit, have fun and learn a new sport. Each day of the camp, we got yummy breakfast. The coaches were very caring and ensured that everyone had a lot of fun, ate a proper breakfast and drank lots of juice. Since the 2008 Winter Camp, I have continued to be addicted to the sport of rugby. I would attend every Jungle Crows Academy session which was initially held near the Calcutta Rangers Club. It was even more fun during the monsoons because we would all be covered in thick muck and my mother’s scolding would not hamper my enthusiasm.  After all these years, my mother has also understood the role that rugby played in my upbringing.

From 2008-09 I never missed the Crows Academy which helped me to develop the core skills and techniques required to play the game of rugby. My first coach was Akhtar Sir who always emphasized on fitness, discipline, hard work, respect and being punctual for every session. The values I learnt back in 2008 have imbibed in me till this very day. All the coaches of the Jungle Crows were amazing and always pushed me to achieve my best on and off the field. In 2010, Khelo Rugby started to organize training sessions at a field barely a few metres from my house. I attended Khelo sessions from 2010-11. At the Crows academy I continued to work very hard to improve my game and physical fitness. I also realized that the food I eat played an important role in my health. I stayed away from junk food, oily food and consumed very little sugar. Till today I avoid tea or coffee. Looking at my game improvement, Paul sir gave me an opportunity to play for the Maidan Hazards, the development team of the Jungle Crows. I played for the Hazards for 2 seasons, 2012 and 2013. We had a great group of players who did exceedingly well and we even managed to defeat some seasoned teams in the Calcutta cup and other rugby tournaments which we played in.

In September 2013, I got a call from the Indian Rugby Football Union (IRFU) to attend the India camp for the U-19 Asian Championships. I was very nervous and it was the first time I was leaving my home in Kolkata to go to another place. My team mates assisted me to get my passport done in a short span of time. The India camp was very good and I made it to the Indian National U-19 rugby team. It was a huge achievement for me and I got lots of encouraging positive wishes from my team mates of the Hazards, Jungle Crows and Paul sir. The U-19 Championship in 2013 was held at Lahore, Pakistan and it will always remain a very memorable experience for me. Wearing the India jersey for the first time and listening to the national anthem being played gave me goose bumps. 2014 was the year when things were getting one notch higher and I was assuming more serious roles as a rugby player and coach.

Early in 2014, I got an offer from Paul sir to work as a community coach for the Khelo Rugby project. I loved working with children and it was a very good life opportunity for me. I took it up with full heart and till this day continue to work in the many communities of Khelo Kolkata spreading the joy of rugby. In 2014, I achieved another personal dream and milestone by making it into the Jungle Crows team. All my role models like Tudu da and Zaffar da played for the Crows and it was a dream for me to represent the Crows team. I continue to represent the Crows and have played in all tournaments for them from 2014 till date. In my first season for the Crows, we won the Howrah Rugby 7s, All India U-20 championship, Georgiadi 7s, Centenary Cup. We were also the plate winners at All-India rugby nationals and stood runner-up in the popular Calcutta Cup. In June, 2014 I made it to the senior India national team that played in the Division III 5 nation’s championship at Pakistan. We lost against a formidable Uzbekistan team in the semi-finals, 17-23.

In 2015 I got selected to take part in the 2015 UNOSDP Youth Leadership Programme at the IMG Academy at Florida, United States of America. The 13-day camp was dedicated to giving youth leaders from around the world, a practical training on the best practices in the field of sport for development and peace in order to better use the power of sport to make positive changes in their communities. The experience was very good and helped me to get more insight on how to become a better coach at Khelo Rugby.

In May 2015, I represented the India team for the Asian championship held at Tashkent, Uzbekistan. I loved this tour and Uzbekistan was a completely different experience. The country is very beautiful, the people were very warm and friendly and the food was lip smacking good. It made me realize that the real beauty about a country is the people. Uzbekistan gave me that very welcoming experience which I will always cherish. Coming back to India, we trained really hard to do well in the All-India nationals in October 2015 and were rewarded for our hard work with the plate winner’s trophy. In Feb 2016, my Jungle Crows team-mate Sarfaraz Ahmed (Tiger) and I represented the India Rugby 7s team at the Asian 7s tournament in Dubai, UAE. It was nice to have a team-mate and brother along with you on a national tour. We had a good tournament which started with a convincing win against Qatar but lost to a technically superior Chinese Taipei team.

Khelo Rugby has a cultural exchange program with the Auckland Grammar school, New Zealand. In July 2016, my colleague Harinder and I travelled to Auckland for a 21 days program at the Auckland Grammar school. New Zealand is by far the most beautiful country that I have visited and I am really thankful to the Jungle Crows for providing me with this opportunity to learn in a rugby crazy nation. I came back even more recharged and committed to sharing what I learnt with my fellow colleagues and the Khelo children.

Just over a month back, I attended my 5th India camp for the Asian 7s tournament at Doha, Qatar. The camp was held in Delhi for 3 weeks and we used to train thrice a day. We did fitness training, had Gym sessions, rugby skills training and a couple of friendly matches. Every player wishes to represent the national team. To play for the country, one has to follow important things like discipline on and off the field, respect your coach and follow his game plans. One has to also respect each team-mate and bond as a team. The tournament at Doha, Qatar was not a successful trip for the India team. We lost the first two matches and only narrowly beat Pakistan by a small margin. Doha, Qatar was a good place. I liked the food especially their shwarma’s and burgers. They have very good sports facilities, probably the best rugby pitch I have played on so far. Having good sports facilities is very vital in attracting youngsters to the sport. At the Doha 7s, I also got the opportunity to meet rugby legend Ben Gollings and have a very small but meaningful conversation with him. It was inspiring to talk even for a few minutes to such a top player and share a selfie with him!

In India, playing for the Jungle Crows, we are privileged to have a very well maintained rugby pitch in the centre of Kolkata at the Maidan.  I guess a major part of why we continue to produce good players every year is because of the good facility that we have at our disposal.

For my personal growth, I am extremely grateful to Khelo Rugby. Becoming a community coach is the best thing that has happened in my life. I get to spread smiles to thousands of children which is a very nice feeling. I am also thankful to Shaila Ma’am and Rubickon English classes who painstakingly and patiently taught me verbal and written English.  The ability to speak in English has improved my confidence even more. Compared to my previous international trips with the India team, in the trip to Qatar I was much more confident at immigration and striking conversations with random strangers in public.

I want to be a role model to the 100s of youth that I train in rugby on a daily basis at our Khelo Rugby communities and the Crows Academy. Being a coach is a very big responsibility as I have to keep learning new things and develop my own self in order to assist another person to do better. I strongly believe that every person is capable of achieving any goal in their life if they work hard and are sincere in their dedication towards achieving the goal. An aspiring rugby player has to put in a lot of work in improving his/her rugby skills. A player has to be very patient because good results take time to achieve. I have seen a lot of aspiring athletes take supplements and drugs to enhance their physique. It is best to stay away from these harmful chemicals. A person’s body is best built by eating natural food and a dedicated fitness regime. An athlete has to be careful of what they eat and stay away from intoxicants like alcohol and cigarettes. There are other important components that makes one a good player. One has to respect your team mates, rugby is a team sport. If you learn to play and work together as a team, then only can your team win laurels. I have literally grown up with rugby and I strongly feel that as many children as possible should have the chance to grow up with rugby.

 

How to be a SUPERHERO

All about our new Khelo Rugby balls

by Paul Walsh

Our new rugby balls for Khelo Rugby feature four panels that help children think in terms of being a SUPERHERO!

But what sort of SUPERHERO do we mean?

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Lesson one is the theory…..

Panel 1: EXCELS

  • be exceptionally good at or proficient in an activity or subject.

Panel 2: COMMUNITY

  • a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.

Panel 3: CARES

  • what is necessary for the health, welfare, maintenance, and protection of someone or something.

Lesson two is the practical….

What we have tried to do is capture some important life lessons in the design of the ball panels. And along with training for our young Khelo Leaders to deliver sessions using the ball as their guide, our ambition is to influence a few thousand young minds on these issues.

2017-ball-excelsExcels: we want the children who are part of Khelo Rugby to think about their own performance in everything they do – at home, in school, in activities and in playing. The ball shows a school, an open book inscribed; “Always learn something new” and children on a pedestal after competing. We know that winning isn’t everything but we do believe children should be encouraged to put in their maximum effort. And though we would love to be producing fleets of professional rugby players (our passion), this is not what Khelo Rugby is about. School and education is where children need to excel and this is why the school building is prominent. And if rugby is also the children’s passion then great, because in our experience the longer a youngster can stay in education – passing Class 10, Class 12 and going to College – the longer he or she can play!

2017-ball-communityCommunity: at the heart of Khelo Rugby is our rugby community, where Khelo has grown and developed from. Our inspiration has been working with youngsters who have found their feet and blossomed playing rugby to now be part of their own businesses, working in decent jobs and studying further than they could have imagined. Discussing with children their own communities and how they can have a positive influence on them is a big part of Khelo Rugby. These communities include their families, the locality they live in, their town, city or village and of course all their rugby playing friends. Looking out for those less able is demonstrated by a couple of old folks, we have the symbol for recycling and a green tree. We feel community is a responsibility and each and every child needs to understand and be confident with their role in their communities.

2017-ball-caresCares: our ambition is to support children to become caring individuals and to do this we think it is important that they care for themselves as well as for others. Heart, tooth and an apple show some of the physical well-being a child needs to know about. We’ve lost Khelo children to traffic accidents so a symbol and training for safely crossing the road has been incorporated on the ball. And a clock is there to prompt a discussion on punctuality and the responsibilities we have to others.

We were delighted our new balls arrived in time for our Winter Camps and made a real difference to the work of the Coaches during the Camps. There was lots of excitement as the balls flew into use and we have been delighted with the positive reaction from everyone who has taught or played with them.

Finally, special thanks to Shreyas for introducing us to Mamata who did an incredible design job!

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Kichad Rugby

How playing rugby in the mud (kichad) can teach children important life lessons

By Peter Fernandes

We started 2016 with a plan to build our Khelo Rugby project around the Power of Play. Sport can be such a powerful tool, on our playing field there is unity, social inclusion and gender equality. Khelo Rugby has come a long way in serving the community and we want to keep doing more for the young children who play with us. Khelo wants to be able to make a lasting impact on the lives of thousands of children, giving them strength, courage, knowledge and essential social skills required to build a good future.

At Khelo Rugby, we train our community coaches to provide high quality coaching to children that would not normally get such a chance. We encourage a very informal and friendly approach that builds trust with the children. The coaches are ably assisted in most communities by ‘Young Khelo Leaders’, who are young rugby players, normally graduates of Khelo Rugby who have displayed consistent skills in leadership and commitment to the programme. These Young Leaders are essential in enabling us to conduct more than 40 training sessions per week across 24 communities in Kolkata.

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Khelo Rugby’s Milindo leads a Charcha in Saraswatipur

Each month we work on a theme based around a socio-development issue and selected by the children and coaches themselves. The objective is to impart important knowledge to the children and give them a chance to learn away from preconceived notions & stereotypes. These knowledge sessions we call “charchas”, they are usually conducted at the end of each training session. Apart from the standard charcha sessions, we also organise workshops and rallies for our young leaders and community coaches to impart more in-depth knowledge about social issues.

The results have been really fantastic and have also been a test of the leadership qualities of the young leaders who have delivered beyond our expectations. We have realised along the way that true leadership skills come to light when the young leaders are given important responsibilities and are held accountable for certain duties.

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Khelo Young Leaders getting their work done!

Our Khelo Rugby centre in the village of Saraswatipur near Siliguri has been one of the most inspiring stories of the impact of the Power of Play. Within a span of 4 years, with the dedicated efforts of our coaches, the children have excelled to become outstanding rugby players and strong individuals who have gone on to represent the India National Women’s rugby team at international competitions and the West Bengal state rugby team. The girls have superb athletic abilities and are now looked upon as role models for the younger generation of girls from Saraswatipur. The story of the empowerment of the rugby playing girls of Saraswatipur has been a special feather in the cap of Khelo Rugby.

Our August theme was Indigenous Peoples to coincide with 9 August the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. Like many tea estate communities Saraswatipur has a large proportion of indigenous people, mainly from the Munda and Oraon Adivasi communities. In order to celebrate their Adivasi culture we planned an educational camp concluding with a one-day rugby tournament – giving the children a few days of learning, competition and fun. The organising of the entire camp and tournament was entrusted to a few young leaders, from both Kolkata and Saraswatipur.

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Kichad Rugby

Through the camp children were able to learn about other indigenous peoples around the world and why there is a day to mark indigenous peoples. The children were also able to share interesting things about their own culture and life and feel proud of their Adivasi culture.

New Khelo Rugby manager Milindo on his first visit to Saraswatipur led a team of 6 young leaders from Kolkata and supported all stages of the project. His own expertise and experience was invaluable in enabling the children to talk and discuss openly and in a positive way. Interesting that the symbol of the international day was designed by a youngster from Milindo’s own indigenous community Rebang Dewan a Chakma boy.

indigenous-logoMajor highlights:

  • 12 teams with 180 children playing mixed tag rugby participated in a total of 32 passion filled matches, delighting the spectators.
  • Felicitation ceremony was held for 8 West Bengal players and 2 India National team players, Swapna Oraon and Chanda Oraon from Saraswatipur. Attended by the Sarpanch and members of the Panchayat of Saraswatipur village, Priest from the local church and the manager of the Saraswatipur tea estate.
  • A friendly tag Rugby match was played between Kolkata young leaders and Saraswatipur young leaders with a display of great strength, technique and stamina giving a boost and vision to the young ruggers of the village to continue working hard in the sport.
  • 20+ Young Leaders of Khelo Rugby organised the whole event with tremendous professionalism. The young leaders from Kolkata were treated like family and their hosts took them sightseeing, bathing in the river and to their homes for lunch and dinner. The experience was a humbling one for the young leaders who brought back some vivid memories.
  • For the first time, the people of Saraswatipur village celebrated the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples and they promised that they would celebrate this day every year.
  • Celebration of indigenous culture with a program of Adivasi songs and dance which gave a broad perspective of the deep-rooted culture and uniqueness of Adivasi people.
  • 300 plates of chicken curry were cooked, served and eaten – nobody went home hungry.

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This was a true community event with everyone participating either actively or as part of a supportive audience. The elders of the villages were touched that their children had brought such an incredible event to life and that to with an acknowledgement of their own culture and identity. The energy and vibe were mesmerizing. Every try, every good effort on the field was keenly responded with huge cheers and much clapping. The audience and community were a big motivational factor and contributed in large part to the success of the event.

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Playing Together from Kolkata to Karachi

Our Sport is GREAT Children’s Forum brought together sport for development children in Kolkata and Karachi

by Shreyas Rao

The International Day of Sport for Development and Peace – IDSDP (6th of April) always provides good opportunities within Sport for Development organisations like the Jungle Crows Foundation to try new initiatives and bring refreshing ideas into our projects.

Sport for Development events across the world provide a focus to the day and help in building new ways to engage young persons in different ideas and initiatives through sport.  With this in mind, we had the ‘madcap’ idea of seeing if we could get children from our communities in Kolkata to interact with children in Karachi through a video conference on 6 April.

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Sport is GREAT Children’s Forum – Kolkata meets Karachi

Britain is GREAT, an initiative of the British High Commission has given us the opportunity to create and deliver several events under the Sport is GREAT banner. Using our Khelo Rugby programme we have held events in Kolkata and Bhubaneswar. Our Sport is GREAT work kicked off with a  Rugby World Cup themed children’s tournament in Bhubaneswar and most recently saw a rugby tournament in Kolkata just for girls. For this we had more than 160 girls from across our Khelo locations in Kolkata and Siliguri come together to play and listen to an inspiring talk from Shubha Kenworthy.

Our thinking was that we wanted to do something a little different to mark IDSDP in 2016 and the video conference was something we felt could be very special for all the children involved. We were fortunate that the Kolkata offices of the British Council and Deputy High Commission shared our enthusiasm. Kolkata partners for what we called our Children’s Forum were identified by including Future Hope and Durbaar who both participate in the Football for Development project Dosti. And though we would have liked to link up with our own Khelo Rugby children in Lahore logistics meant it was better to connect with Dosti children in Karachi.

On the day of the event, 30 children arrived very excited at the Deputy High Commission in Kolkata dressed to represent their respective organisations. After a brief ice breaker session, the children all seated themselves anxiously at the conference room eagerly waiting to meet new children in Karachi.  After a few redials the children were all soon immersed in free-wheeling, fun-filled banter about various aspects of their life, opening their hearts and their minds listening and talking about each other’s lives and engaging in an engrossing exchange.

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Children representing Future Hope, Durbaar and Jungle Crows meet in advance of their Kolkata – Karachi link-up

I was delighted to be the moderator and followed a plan along the following lines, while encouraging the children to set the pace and be in control of their own conversations:

  • Introduction – from each side: their names and what sport they played.
  • A brief chat about their city and community.
  • Language and culture – sharing each others different and same languages.
  • A discussion about their own sporting experiences and favorite players.
  • Challenges the children have faced while growing up and how sport has helped in these.
  • Exchange on passions and hobbies.
  • Fun chat over the hypothetical question – if I was in India for a day…. or If I was in Pakistan for a day…
  • A round of Anthakshari between the children based on their common love of Bollywood songs

To make things simple, it was agreed at the start that the interaction would take place in Hindi. While it was the girls who dominated the discussion in Karachi, the participation was relatively equal from both boys and girls in Kolkata. Sport helped ease the tension even through a video conference – we started with a debate about whether Ronaldo or Messi was the better player. Of course Messi won, with the discussion going to a vote in both Karachi and Kolkata! Other highlights for me included the children teaching each other their respective languages – Bengali and Pashto, laughter and agreement on their love of Biryani and telling each other about their famed city landmarks.It was also great to see how the children could think criticaly even at such a young age, always surprising us with their maturity about issues and their enthusiasm about learning about each others culture. They were also sensitive enough to be politically correct – with a girl from Pakistan saying that she would love to play “Holi” if she ever visited India. The sports kits of girls was also a topic for discussion with the girls from India quite curious about what girls wore when they played outside in Karachi. At which, a little girl in Karachi nonchalantly stood up and turned around to show everyone her name printed on the back of her full sleeved track, implying that they were all indeed present in the room with their sports kit on. Several of the Kolkata children were pleasantly surprised that the girls even got a chance at sport. Towards the end, there was a lot of light banter about Bollywood and varying and similar tastes in music, fittingly ending in a fun game of Anthakshari between the two teams!

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Karachi Dosti On the Air

This experience turned out to be  incredibly memorable for everyone involved; children and adults alike. With such an event it is quite hard to comprehend its significance. But it was noteworthy that all the children participating came from disadvantaged communities and generally lacked any regular access to technological resources. Yet, the children showed much maturity in the discussion, steering clear from populist prejudices and preconceived notions. The exchange of thoughts seemed to have enabled the children to refresh their minds from any narrow vision of the “other”, the “enemy” or other such identities that can be indoctrinated from a young age.  It was clear that at the most basic level, children know no hatred, their curiosity is genuine, and the bonds they form are pure. It was incredibly heartening to see, in the end, a couple of them came near the screen and intently waved at each other.  Alas, their hands could never meet but a peculiar yet innocent friendship took form.

One thing was clear, it was only the medium of sport that made something like this even possible to imagine. Sport creates unique channels of interaction; it provides an opportunity for opening new passages for dialogue. At a time when debate about nationalism is becoming ever more loathsome and petty, such events help elevate the plane of debate. Sport with its broad visions of equality can open up so many new doors everyday and guide us towards a renewed global movement.  It is indeed a rare privilege for sport for development organizations around the world that they can facilitate such unique initiatives, that they can dream beyond borders and provide experiences beyond boundaries!

It is worth concluding by noting that the views here are expressed on my experience as a moderator. I will also be compiling more thoughts from the children themselves, and I am sure that is bound to spring many surprises.

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Author Shreyas captures a selfie with the children in Kolkata and Karachi!

Who Wants to Change the World?

by Paul Walsh

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(Article first published in The Telegraph, Calcutta and reproduced here with permission)

“Want to change the world? Invest in an adolescent girl.” – the United Nations Foundation.

Over the winter our Jungle Crows Foundation ran winter rugby camps for children in Calcutta, Saraswatipur and Bangalore. In Calcutta this was the 11th year of the camp. Combined more than 1800 children took part, on the biggest day in Calcutta we had more than 900 children out playing on the Maidan. Looked after by more than 80 volunteer Coaches and fed each day of the 11 mornings a hearty breakfast by one of 14 local hotels and restaurants who stepped forward to support the initiative. Get along to junglecrows.org and you can watch a short film about it.

Over the course of the camp we too realised that girls are pretty damn important in facilitating change. I mean it wasn’t the sudden dawning of something pretty obvious, but a sense that involving more girls in our work really did make a difference to the experience for everyone. We tried hard to get more girls to this year’s camp, organising safe transport, reassuring parents. And it worked partly, 35% of the children playing each morning were girls, this was certainly an increase on previous years and you could sense it changed the atmosphere of the camp.

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This year in the Jungle Crows we are driving forward with an initiative we are calling the Year of Play. The same film referenced above tells you more about that, but the first objective of this programme is to involve more and more adolescent girls in our work. The UN says girls are the key to, “eliminating poverty, achieving social justice, stabilizing the population, and preventing foreseeable humanitarian crises.” That’s quite a lot of responsibility, but having been brought up by a young Mum on her own I can also report how it’s not an unrealistic expectation. We all know girls in our society face many more hurdles in growing up than boys, whether it is marriage at too young an age, isolation due to community customs, denial of education or the threat of trafficking. Most of us will be able to recount experiences where we have at least heard of young girls denied their full chance in life. And this denial of rights is bad for all of us, for all of society. Girls are real change makers in our world, they are the catalyst around which a better world can be created. Today there are more than 600 million girls aged 10-19 growing up in developing countries, just imagine the change they could create if given the right chances.

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We reckon PLAY and sport can be pretty powerful in encouraging and supporting this change. This is what our Khelo Rugby Community programme is all about. Working with children directly in the communities they live in. Community support is essential to any change and if we want to get more girls playing we need to have the support of their families, elders and schools. One way we can change attitudes is by involving girls in high profile visible events of which they are the centre of attention. This was why when we had the chance to partner with the British High Commission for a Sport is GREAT event we chose to do girls rugby. It really was an incredible day with 160 under 14 girls all playing tag-rugby to a very high standard. The final was particularly close and featured a mixed Calcutta team versus a team from Saraswatipur – the tea garden village we work in near Siliguri. The girls from Saraswatipur won, which was a super achievement for them and really showed how they have bloomed with Khelo Rugby.

VIV_0285After the girls rugby myself and the Deputy High Commissioner Scott Fursendonn-Wood raced over to the British Council where we were part of a panel discussion on how sport can play a central role in social development. The debate was high quality and really showcased some of the great social development work going on in Calcutta with sport at its centre; from engaging with school drop outs through Kolkata Goalz to the huge impact of Special Olympics Bharat with so many positive stories in between.

The benefits of play and sport are well known to most parents and in so many ways it is even more important that we work to extend these benefits to include all girls. I think we all know how play and physical activity is a key to a healthier life now and as children grow up. Research has also shown that active children learn better, develop keener memories and have better concentration. Play boosts self-confidence, lessens stress, helps us make new friends, develops team work, is good for goal setting, and I can go on!

And so this is why in the Jungle Crows we’ve adopted the hashtag #PowerOfPlay for 2016, please do use it if you think PLAY can be a positive in children’s lives. And for all the girls in your life please encourage them to get out and play, and then you too can be a part of supporting 600 million girls who are going to transform our world.

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Winter Camp: Coaches Speak

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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

Lovepreet1a

“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:

biswanathturi dec 2015

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

kameliya dec 2015

“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:

Suraj1

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:

john dec 2015

“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: 

saima dec 2015

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:

bikash dec 2015

“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:

ravi dec 2015

“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:

tiger dec 2015

..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:

ajay b dec 2015

“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:

parvez dec 2015

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:

pritam dec 2015

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.