SCORE for Health & Hygiene

How the children of Khelo Rugby worked together to SCORE for Health & Hygiene

by Milindo Chakma

On any given chilly morning or sunny afternoon you will find Khelo children running around to score a try, can be in Brooklyn or Boistala or any of our 25 Khelo Rugby locations in Kolkata. India today is still one of the major countries where half of the urban population are living in slum areas. Most of the Khelo communities we work with are in these slum areas. There are many many health related issues for the children growing up in these slums, specially in the monsoon season.

Diseases such as dengue, malaria, typhoid take many lives in the rainy season. “Health and Hygiene” was selected for the month of September as the theme for our Khelo Rugby Program. The main objective was to work with the Khelo children to help them better understand issues around personal hygiene – such as washing hands with soap and eating healthily and raise awareness about monsoon diseases such as dengue and malaria both for the children and their communities.

At Khelo Rugby we try to work on different social issues affecting communities by using fun games, rallies, street plays and charcha sessions. We encourage the children in Khelo to came up with their own innovative ideas to deliver these messages. We want the children to be leaders in their own communities and pioneer what we do together. The Health and Hygiene month was a tremendous example of this, with children devising their own posters, organising rallies and getting out and about in their own and neighbouring communities to share the messages they had devised. This is neatly summed up in this 90 second film featuring some of their activities.

SCORE: Since we work with young children, the medium we choose to deliver key messages is very important. Shashi one of our young leaders from Howrah Philkhana designed an info-graphic poster “SCORE”.  In the graphic the word “SCORE” is used to convey important messages on the wider topic of health and hygiene. The meaning of SCORE is short, catchy, sweet and meaningful.

Sleep Safely – Use a mosquito net. Sleep for 8 hours. Early to bed, early to rise.
Clean with Soap – Wash hands with soap. Take bath daily. Keep nails trimmed to keep germs at bay. Erase germs with soap.
Open your Eyes to Your Surrondings – Keep your home and surrounding area clean. Use dustbins and empty dustbins regularly.
Remain Fit – Play Sports. Walk, jog, run. Exercise regularly. Encourage your family to stay fit.
Eat Healthy – Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Eat boiled and well cooked food. Drink plenty of water. Avoid salty snacks and soft drinks.

This excellent infographic from Shashi gave our coaches and young leaders great support in delivering these important messages.

September at Khelo Rugby was all about health and hygiene. It is important our young leaders and children are fully engaged and leading the way on our monthly themes – they have to be owned by them.  Through awareness campaigns, cleanliness drives, charcha session and the SCORE infographic we were able to support children in taking a small step forward in living safer lives.

Try For Peace with Khelo Rugby

#TryForPeace – What’s Peace All About?

by Paul Walsh

In 2013 we took part in our first ever Global Peace Games, we really enjoyed the experience. It was great that the children from Khelo Rugby in Calcutta were able to share an experience – virtually at least – with children in Pakistan and Afghanistan. You can read about this on the blog we published then: Scoring A Try For Peace.

For this years event we wanted to make the experience more relevant for the children. While the UN Manifesto for Peace is spot on in terms of what it says we thought we needed to try to bring it down to a level the children could better relate to. This is the Manifesto of Peace:

RESPECT ALL LIFE
REJECT ALL VIOLENCE
SHARE WITH OTHERS
LISTEN TO UNDERSTAND
PRESERVE THE PLANET
CONTRIBUTE TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF COMMUNITY

As I said it is all good stuff, but we were keen to make our message of Peace a bit more understandable for the children we work with. One cute little resource we found on the web was this poster:

Peace 2014

We were able to build our work around the messages in this and really relate it to the children’s own experiences and importantly the experiences of the Coaches also – since it was the Coaches who were going to have to discuss Peace with their children.

One of the things that came out of this were some touching stories from the Coaches about how the message of peace was interpreted and made much more relevant for the children. Here are a couple of the stories:

Coach Ajay: “This was the first tournament the children of Chingrighatta had played in, they are a new Khelo Rugby community a little away from most of the others. On the day of the tournament the children all pleaded with me that they be allowed to play as their own team. We’d agreed in the run-up to the tournament that we would mix all the children up on the day so they got the chance to play with and make new friends. I think the Chingrighata children were a bit nervous about this and really didn’t like the idea at all. Reluctantly they split up and all joined a different team. And how they enjoyed it! At the end they all came running over to me and said what a great time they’d had, how they had made new friends, how they had played better than they had ever played before and when was the next tournament! I was so happy with this and explained that this was what peace was all about, we needed to spend time with other people, share experiences with them like playing together so we weren’t afraid of others and could all be good friends. This made me very happy.”

Coach Ajay

Coach Ajay

Coach Lovepreet: “One of the children from my Behala Khelo community, he was in the team that won the Bowl trophy on the day. Since all the children were mixed up we knew some children would be sad not to be able to take the trophies home. And this boy, who is a good player and has played in tournaments before was determined to hold onto the trophy and to take it home. One small girl from the Kolkata Port Trust Colony, I could see she was looking at the trophy and really wanted to hold it. It was the first time she had ever played, so it was extra special that she had been on a winning team. I asked the Behala boy, ‘How many tournaments have you played?’, ‘How good is it to have the trophy?’ He looked a bit shy and then I said, ‘Imagine you were playing in your first tournament and you were able to take a trophy home to your family?’ and pointed out the girl standing nearby. Quick as a flash he got my idea and walked over to the girl and handed her the trophy, telling her to take it back to show her family. Both of them were smiling from ear to ear and I thought, yes this is real peace when we show each other respect, share and can make a small sacrifice to support and encourage another.”

Coach Lovepreet

Coach Lovepreet

It would be great to hear from others with experience of working with children through sports and addressing ‘Big Ticket’ issues like Peace. I think we have really learnt a lot from our efforts this year and now better understand how important it is to make issues connect to the children we are working with. We know we engage with our children really well through our great sport of rugby, so we have their attention, just we also need to make our social messages as connecting and engaging.

We now await our next Khelo Rugby event in Pakistan in the Fort Abbas community with the Desert Camel’s very own Wazeeri in charge. One day soon we hope our Khelo children will not only get to look at their friends in other countries through a screen but be able to play together and learn a whole lot more.

All the photos of the day’s action – the children had a great time – can be seen on our Khelo Rugby Facebook Page and please do give it a ‘LIKE’ so you always know what is happening.

#TryForPeace

#TryForPeace

Special thanks to:

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#TryForPeace – Action from the Final

RAF Spitfires Fly Into India

J11RAF Spitfire player Jamie Douglas writes on the Spitfires 2014 Tour to India

“Kolkata we have arrived!” After a long journey from London to Kolkata via New Delhi the Royal Air Force Spitfires 7s Team had landed safely in India. After an eye opening drive from the airport to the hotel which was filled with beeping horns, laughter, the odd scream and some stunned silence we were greeted by smiles, drinks and a traditional welcoming Bindi, this country had already won us over! Like every rugby team our mind was on food, so we all got to our rooms had a quick turn around and headed out on the town with the Khelo Rugby lads leading the way. Paul, Zaffar and Hari kept us right during our walk through the city and led us to a very nice restaurant. It had been a long tiring day travelling but it was topped off with friendly faces, a good laugh and great food; bring on the rest of the tour.

Welcome from Jungle Crows Zaffar, Roshan and Hari

Welcome from Jungle Crows Zaffar, Roshan and Hari

Day 1 – Don Bosco Ashalayam – Kolkata

Today we met with a few more of the Jungle Crows lads who run Khelo Rugby. Listening to some of their stories captivated everyone; the stuff these boys such as Zaffar and Roshan have gone through is unbelievable and to now be doing what they are doing is truly inspiring, they are a real credit to themselves and are great ambassadors for Khelo Rugby. After our meet and greet we all jumped in the wagons, one of which the Spitfires paid for last year with the sales from playing jerseys through out the season, and we headed off through the hustle and bustle of the busy streets of Kolkata to our first Indian School.

Helping Hands

Helping Hands

As we arrived sports day was in full swing and we quickly found teams and joined in.  As soon as we went off we were mobbed by kids pulling us to their teams “uncle,uncle” they shouted as we all went off with our respective teams. Straight in to the thick of it, football, rugby, cricket (which the kids were far better at than me), tug-o-war, human pyramid, it was crazy! These kids were so energetic, full of enthusiasm and just loved sports, as they ran around bare foot in the scorching heat we tried keeping up with them, running from game to game, lifting them up, high-fiving, laughing with them, posing for pictures, we all really enjoyed it. After a friendly game of touch rugby against some of the senior boys we went for a swim in local pool and then for some food at the school. For everyone involved it was amazing, the kids seemed to love having us there and we loved being there. Watching these kids play rugby and other sports and seeing how much fun they were having was the best part for us, it brought everyone together which is amazing and what Khelo Rugby is all about.

I can't catch him....

Jamie can’t catch him….

Day 2 – Travel to Mirik and the North

After an amazing first day the team were well rested and ready for another big day in India. Today saw us travelling up north via plane from Kolkata to Baghdogra and then onwards to Mirik via the steep winding mountain side roads much to the delight (or not) of Hodgy who isn’t the best front seat passenger it turns out but what a drive it was, breath taking scenery, high altitude, friendly faces of the Nepalese traders at the border and some crazy driving.

Crazy Driving - Crazy Passengers

Crazy Driving – Crazy Passengers

Eventually we reached our destination at the Bon Bosco School in Mirik where the kids stayed after school to play rugby with us. Straight away they were running through passing drills, playing some touch rugby and then we finished it off with a big game of British Bulldogs, it was such a good laugh.

Bulldogs!

Bulldogs!

After the kids all went home we headed down into the village to do some training of our own. We parked up beside the lake in Mirik and headed over to what was to become our training paddock. It was our first session out in India and it was at 6000ft up in the mountains, it was literally breathtaking!

Training Venue - Mirik

Training Venue – Mirik

 Day 3 – Travel from Mirik to Saraswatipur

With the sound of dogs, crickets and chickens waking us up at the crack of dawn we were back in training gear for another lung busting session on the schools playing court and then a quick shower and change ready for our next day of adventure. As the school kids arrived we joined them in assembly where we were treated to some amazing traditional Nepalese dancing and some very kind words from the Father of the school. We waved good bye to the kids and headed off back down the mountain to Siliguri and then onwards in to the forest and into the small village of Saraswatipur. After a bite to eat and brief on what was happening the day after we all got our head down in the church hall in which we were staying.

Day 4 – Saraswatipur Khelo Rugby Tournament

Awoken by the whispering and giggling of children at the door we got up and changed and got some breakfast down us, which was kindly made by the Khelo lads and the drivers. Today was game day for these kids and you could feel the excitement in the air from both the kids and us, as we arrived at the playing field in the village we were greeted by lots of smiling faces and we were treated to a welcome song by some of the kids of the village.

Welcome in Saraswatipur

Welcome in Saraswatipur

It was amazing, they were all in their uniforms even though school wasn’t on, and they sang away and then came past and shook all of our hands welcoming us to their village. This tournament that had been organised by Khelo Rugby was a lot bigger than any of us expected, the pitch was a lot better than expected and the level of rugby that came from it was unbelievable. These kids have skill in abundance, some fast feet, great passing skills and an ability to lead and follow. Every team was coached by a Spitfire but they didn’t need much coaching. We gave them the bibs, the team name, the ball and they were off!

Khelo Khelo

Khelo Khelo

Each team was made up of kids from different areas which we didn’t find out until after the tournament, they all played as one team, no arguments, they all new what to do and they all really enjoyed it. At the end of the tournament after some tough games the Godavari ‘Generals’ won the tournament lead by our very own Physio Rich Sutherland. It was great to see so many youngsters getting together and competing but mainly having fun playing rugby, we could all see what positive impact rugby had made on this village, its surrounding areas and the people involved with it.RAF Spitfires Rugby 7's The Khelo Rugby coaches have worked so hard for this and it is definitely paying off. After the intense heat came the rain much to the delight of the Spitfires who clearly had too much sun as even with our vests off it still looked like we were wearing them thanks to the white bodies and red arms and faces. We went for a wander through the forest and down to the river where we came across the village elephants coming back from across the flood plains and it was unbelievable, we were within touching distance of them, it’s not every day you get to run a tournament in a village in the middle of a forest and see elephants! This was definitely a highlight for many during the tour. After the rain stopped we were back in training kit and off to the pitch that we had been at earlier for more intense training, in between herding cows, goats and pigs off the pitch.

Elephant Man

Elephant Man

Day 5 – Travel from Saraswatipur to Kolkata

After what had been an amazing few days up north it was time to leave and head back to the big smoke of Kolkata, this is were we said goodbye to some of the Khelo lads that helped us during the tournament as they were staying up their to carry on coaching, it’s this sort of commitment that explains why the kids were so good. After a short bit of travelling we were back in Kolkata and the torrential downpours brought by monsoon season were most definitely here. After a couple of hour’s downtime we got dressed up and headed off to the British Embassy where we were hosted by the Deputy High Commissioner Scott Fursseddon-Wood. It was a great opportunity to meet people from all parts of India and businesses and also some of the rugby lads are involved in Khelo Rugby and the Jungle Crows Foundation who make all these tours possible. After a very enjoyable evening with great food and people we headed back to the hotel and got our head down for our next big tournament.

Day 6 – Kolkata Khelo Rugby Tournament

Another Khelo Tournament organised by the Jungle Crows boys, these guys are ridiculously busy and have 1000s of kids playing in the Khelo Rugby programme. We left the hotel walked across the road and down to the playing fields where the Jungle Crows were already setting up pitches and organising 150 very excited kids into neat lines. As we collected our playing bibs we were given a team and immediately got to work on celebrations, dances and then rugby drills.

Rhinos

Rhinos

All these kids were so excited; they couldn’t wait to get their hands on a rugby ball and get the tags on and play. The whistle went and the games began, the day was full of laughter, teamwork, impressive rugby skills and some great games of touch rugby. You could see the hard work of the Jungle Crows coaches coming together here; all the kids just loved rugby and were really good at it, a really impressive show of skills.

Khelo Khelo Calcutta

Khelo Khelo Calcutta

Eventually there was a winner; again Rich Sutherland’s team came out victorious! Our Physio was proving that you don’t have to play rugby to be a great coach. After the prize giving and a spot of lunch we said goodbye to all the kids who seemed like they could have played all day, and we headed back to the hotel. After some serious rain we headed out to train in the mud, we found potentially the muddiest pitch in Kolkata and hit it hard with some of the best training we had done in India, great preparation for the big tournament tomorrow.RAF Spitfires Rugby 7's

Day 7/8 – All India 7s Rugby Tournament – Group Stages/Finals Day

Then the day came, the “business” end of the tour, we have come here to compete in this tournament which in the previous 3 years the RAF Spitfires have won, no pressure then! Another early morning rise for the team after a long week of running around after kids, coaching, high-fiving, travelling and training it was time to get together and play some rugby. There was a different mood in the camp during the morning brief it was a lot more serious than usual as we had games to win, we had a lot of pressure on us this year with such an illustrious past and high expectations from other teams, we knew we had to do well. We arrived at the stadium got ourselves ready, kitted up and hit the training hard, Tracey our photographer was snapping away as she had been all week even though the rain that was coming down hard now. The reception we got was phenomenal from the other teams, everyone shaking our hands, wishing us luck and asking for photos, it was great. When it came to the games we got the job done, we played well, the attack was fast and structured and the defence was organised and vocal. A good first day saw us beating the Chennai Irish, Future Hope and the Maiden Hazards to secure our place in the quarter finals the next day.

And the rain came down....

And the rain came down….

After some good food and lots of rest Finals day was upon us, a slightly later start for us so we watched some of the other teams play, supporting our hosts and good friends the Jungle Crows and the Khelo Rugby Foundation Team in some very closely fought battles. Then it was our turn, the quarter final came and went with a solid victory for us, then the semi final against the Future Hope Team we played yesterday, we knew we had to be on our game for this one as they were out for payback but throughout the game we controlled it to put us through to the final against the very physical and skilled side of Bula Fiji. As the rest of the finals were played out we watched with intent, while psyching ourselves up for the final. The team came together after the pre game warm up for the last time; skipper Matt Pereira gave a passionate team talk, rallied the troops and headed out to the field. After a heated game of big hits, great steps, one unfortunate injury for Bula Fiji and some great tries we came out victors without conceding any points. A great win an awesome tournament and an absolutely phenomenal tour.

Calcutta 7s Champions!

Calcutta 7s Champions!

From day one in India we loved every minute of it, being able to work so closely with the Jungle Crows Foundation and support Khelo Rugby and helping them achieve their goals was amazing. The work the foundation does for developing rugby all over these communities is second to none and being able to witness it and help out first hand was unbelievable. Personally my highlight of the tour was the tournament in Saraswatipur; I couldn’t believe the skill level of these kids, the work that the Khelo Coaches put in has definitely paid off, these kids were awesome and they all loved it! It has been such a rewarding tour for all of us and I know we all want to come back next year for more of the same and hopefully to see how much further the foundation has taken rugby in India. Thanks for having us, see you next year……….

RAF Spitfires Rugby 7's

Rugby Brews Up in the Jungle

My Saraswatipur Khelo Rugby Adventure

By Hari Singh 

16 Hours by bus was how my journey began, but at least it was air-conditioned. But not for one minute did my excitement at heading for Saraswatipur village in North Bengal leave my mind.  This was going to be very much a first for me – coaching children brand new to rugby and that too in a remote jungle. When I got off the bus at Siliguri, the sun was glorious and right above my head and there was a tremendous hustle bustle at the bus stop with jeeps and cars heading all over North Bengal and further afield to Sikkim and Assam.  As guided before leaving Kolkata, I jumped aboard a bicycle rickshaw to reach Salesian College where I met Father George Matthew who would in turn get me going on my further journey to the village.

Father Matthew warmly welcomed me and after only a couple of minutes we headed towards the college canteen for lunch of steaming warm momos. I stayed in a college guest room that day which was comfortable and a great relief from the bus journey. The next morning, Father Matthew drove me towards the tribal village “Saraswatipur” in the Baikuntpur forest. The journey was 20KM away from Siliguri and it was not less than a jungle safari. I was overwhelmed with the kaccha roads surrounded by forest cover on either side. While on the way father gave me a small brief about the tribal families, the children and their lifestyle. He also told me to be careful after dark and not to go anywhere as wild elephants were a big threat to people living in the village.

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Bicycle Tour through the Village (I’ve got a passenger!)

As I reached the village, I was amazed by the lush green beauty of the nature. The whole area of the village is surrounded by tea plantations cut into the forrest. There was an ancient tea factory as well, which I would later visit and marvel at how tea is made. I was greeted by a few village children and my fellow rugby coach from Kolkata – Amirul, who had been in Saraswatipur for five days already. Myself and Amirul were delegated with the responsibility of coaching tag rugby to the village children and preparing them for the “Saraswatipur Cup”. Our fooding and lodging for the upcoming days were arranged by Father Matthew. We stayed in a room attached to a newly built church and our daily meals were prepared by a local village family.

Hari Blog 3

Visiting the Tea Factory

The much awaited time had come for me to begin with the training of the young kids who never saw a rugby ball and never heard about the game in their entire life. Infact, nobody in the village had ever heard of anything called rugby. This was the major advantage for us to attract kids towards the playground as every kid wanted to grab the unusual oval shaped ball and learn the game which was totally new to them. We started off quite well with almost 130 kids coming for training everyday and it went up to 200 in the next week. We had a systematic and planned approach to our training. We divided all the children into few groups and had time table set for each groups.  Saraswatipur is really a group of villages and very soon we had children from all over the area playing – this is now one rugby mad place!

Hari Blog 4

Practice – children were great and now rugby crazy!

From third week onwards we started with morning and evening training sessions. The children’s responded in a very positive manner and they took the training sessions very seriously. We also started with English classes in the evening for the kids. We would begin English classes at 7pm inside the church because that was the only place where we had electricity all the time. Very soon we became firm favourites with the children who loved the new game and were enthusiastic to learn new things and we shared an emotional bond with each child in the village.  Soon we were helping them with all their homework, helping to revise for exams and moving around the village like locals.

Apart from training rugby and our classes for the kids, we were also able to have some fun.  Even though I couldn’t swim I jumped in the river along with everyone else and was swept along by the current to a shallow sand bank.  Time after time the children went and so did I! We also got to go fishing and hunting in the jungle, something that was taken seriously every Sunday as the boys headed off with bows and arrows to catch something different for dinner.

Finally, before we knew it a month had passed and the RAF Spitfires were in town. On their arrival to Saraswatipur, the village people welcomed them with flower’s and also conducted a local cultural program with dances and singing to welcome their guests. Most of the village people are from tribal or Adivasi background and their songs and dancing is very important and kept alive throughout the generations.

And though the spitfires couldn’t understand much about what was happening the welcome was very warm and everyone was well entertained.  After the program, all the village children with the RAF team went to the playground for a small training session. It was really wonderful to watch the kids enjoying their time with the Spitfires and seeing also how much the Spitfires enjoyed.  The Spitfires really didn’t want to leave at the end of their first day and wanted to stay back in the village, but arrangements had been made in Siliguri and it was important to get through the jungle before dark, before the elephants came out.

And so we came to the Saraswatipur Cup.  Me and Amirul had made 8 teams of 5 girls and 5 boys on each team of 10.  Each team had one Coach from the Jungle Crows team, a group of who had also travelled up, and one from the Spitfires.  And what a great day it was – better than me explaining were the photos which summed up the spirit and joy of the day for the children and all the visitors.

The Crows Foundation is now planning to place a permanent Coach in Siliguri to keep the Saraswatipur rugby going and introduce the sport to more children in the city and across the region – I hope soon Siliguri and Saraswatipur will be known not only for good tea but also for good rugby!

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Action from Saraswatipur Cup