We in the Jungle!

Originally published on his own blog “Off-Season”, Harry A Johnson is a Watson Fellow scouring the world for the most innovative uses of sports as a vehicle for social change. Here he writes about his experiences visiting Saraswatipur for our Kichad Rugby Festival.

By Harry A Johnson Jnr

Some may argue this point, but to my knowledge, the POLYTECH High School Boys Basketball team from 2009-2013 has to be the most dominant team of all time in the Henlopen conference. During my four years at POLYTECH, we did not lose a single game in our division –completing a streak of 65 straight games– and only lost two games in the conference over my three years as a starter (go ahead and correct me if I’m wrong). Our team’s mantra quickly became “We in the JUNGLE!!,” describing our high speed, in your face style of basketball that suffocated other teams. Less than one day after arriving in India, I was once again in the jungle. However, this time I was on a rugby field surrounded by trees standing 100 feet tall and the under constant threat of elephant attacks. More surprisingly, I felt right at home.

The first program that I am exploring here in Kolkata, India is Khelo Rugby. This sports-based social development initiative uses rugby as a vehicle to counter a number of social issues (ie. poverty, homelessness, lack of access to education) and works to ensure that Indian youth grow up with the best of opportunities (a more in-depth review of the program will come soon). The program works in over 45 communities throughout India. During my first 24 hours here I got to accompany the program on a trip to Saraswatipur, a group of villages in Siliguri — a small town in the jungle foothills of the Himalayan Mountains.

About Khelo and Saraswatipur: 

Saraswatipur is a tea estate made up of a cluster of 4 villages. The lives of children growing-up in these villages are embedded in the larger context of life as a tea garden worker. This is because more than 90% of the people have Adivasi tribal backgrounds meaning they were brought in as indentured labourers to work in the tea gardens at the start of the century. The villagers live in basic conditions, make meager wages (85 rupees/day= $1.33/ day), have limited access to the outside world and a lack of employment opportunities beyond the tea garden. In addition, the village is plagued by rampant alcoholism, illiteracy, lack of schooling, poor sanitation practices, lack of safe drinking water, oppression by Tea Garden owners and the constant threat of wild animal attacks (e.g., elephants, leopards).

Khelo Rugby began in Saraswatipur in March 2013. Since then, Khelo has trained more than 500 children in the sport of rugby. Along with rugby training, Khelo has conducted youth development camps, provided various sports-based opportunities (e.g. participating in Rugby tours and Rugby tournaments organized in India), secondary school scholarships, and work opportunities. The program has 26 children from Saraswatipur in the Khelo Scholarship program and 4 former players (2 girls; 2 boys) are currently working with Decathlon, an international sports brand.

Khelo took a unique approach to developing the program in Saraswatipur. When Khelo first arrived, the program purposefully introduced the sport of rugby as a “girls sport” so that parents would not exclude their daughters from participating. Four years later, it is evident that Khelo’s deception was actually a self-fulfilling prophecy. The girls from this small practically unknown village have dominated girl’s rugby throughout the entire country of India. These are some of the Saraswatipur Leopards (Girls team) accolades:

  • U-18 All-India Nationals 2nd Place (Runner-Up)

  • September 2016 All India Senior Nationals 3rd Place (Plate Winners)

  • August 2016 All India Georgiadi International 7’s 1st Place (Winners)

  • August 2016 All India Senior National 7’s 3 rd Place (Plate Winners)

  • May 2016 U-18 All India National 7’s 2 nd Place (Runner-Up)

  • 6th Place (Leopards Boys team)

  • January 2016 West Bengal State 7’s 1 st Place (Winners)

  • September 2015 Junior All India Nationals 1 st Place (Winners)

  • July 2015 All India National Rugby 7’s 2 nd Place (Runner-Up)

  • June 2015 Calcutta Rugby Tournament 1st Place (Winners)

  • February 2015 National Games, Kerala Entire Bengal team comprised of Saraswatipur Leopards

  • November 2014 U-18 All India Nationals 2 nd Place (Runner-Up)

This past summer 5 girls from Saraswatipur were selected to the U18 Indian national team which participated in the 2017 Paris World Games and another four girls were selected to the U20 Indian national team which played in the Asia U20 rugby tournament. More importantly 3 players have gone on to college and to the programs knowledge they are the first three in what may be centuries. Khelo’s work continues to expand as the program is currently fundraising to build a youth center in the village.

Above is a short documentary on one of the girls from Saraswatipur who played on the India national team

My Experience: Saraswatipur Rugby Festival

The focus of my trip to Saraswatipur was to help in the coordination and execution of a rugby tournament for kids aged 14 and under. The tournament was then followed by a cultural celebration in honor of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. This quickly turned into a cultural exchange between the people of Saraswatipur and myself. As I walked around the town, I was met with unapologetic stares that did not seem to cease over my stay. Although I was taken aback by the attention, I slowly realized the stares were a sign of interest and curiosity. It was hard to communicate with many of the villagers because they have their own language which is a mixture of Bengali, Nepali, Hindi, Bihari. Anyone born outside this village will struggle to follow this mix. Fortunately, some of the villagers knew a small amount of English. (English is known throughout India because it is the language of government, law and medicine.) As I engaged with those around the town, it was evident that the beauty of the landscape was a reflection of the people of the land. I felt at home as I was welcomed into home after home, chased around by small children and shook well over 200 hands during my three day visit.

Advertisements

Bangalore Delights in Winter Rugby

The Story of the Khelo Rugby Winter Camp in Bangalore

By Zaffar Khan

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

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

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

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

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

1914817_10153949649406004_4023263568651316431_n

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Khelo Rugby: Looking Back Moving Forward

Busy Busy Times for the Crows and Khelo Rugby

by Shreyas Rao

The last three months have been incredibly busy with the Jungle Crows Foundation and we have just now found time to tell you all about what we have been up to here on our Khelo Khelo Blog!

We have the most amazing team working on all our projects, which are really having a huge impact on the children we work with everyday. So it is a very big thank you to the team, but no time to rest as the next three months are going to be even more exciting.

Here goes for a mad dash through June, July, August and even a bit of September………

Khelo Rugby:

  • Has now expanded in Kolkata to 21 locations with more than 600 children regularly taking part in the programme.
  • Sessions got a little chaotic as pressure from the rugby season built up, but now that is over we are getting back to normal and making sure Coaches are keeping up with their coaching timetables.
  • The Khelo curriculum is undergoing a re-write as we learn more from our different experiences in all the locations where we work. This is a job that we can see never really ends. We are always learning, each Coach and Community brings a different dynamic, there is no one fits all solution.Oct1

Global Peace Games:Oct2

  • Conducted over three days in September (18, 19 & 20) beginning with a mini-leadership program led by Lovepreet and Akash for 20 Khelo Leaders from our Kolkata communities.
  • Day two was a Tag Rugby Festival with the participation of 200 children from 16 different locations. A record participation of sorts! Each Senior Coach was asked to bring 3 teams minimum and they all met the targets. A fun day for all involved and good job by the Khelo Leaders in leading and organizing the event and putting some of the learning from the day before into practice. Our new communities also participated in a festival for the first time.
  • Day three was a Cycle Ride organized by Pritam in association with Discover on Wheels for all the children who had received bicycles earlier in the year from Pink Bike.Oct3

Junior Rugby: 

Lots of ‘proper’ tackle rugby tournaments organised by the Crows, Future Hope and Bengal Rugby saw participation from most of our Academy players. We kicked off with a slightly mediocre performance in the Future Hope Monsoon Cup on a splendid looking #CrowField mind you! But then really picked it up with a top-notch performance in Bengal Rugby’s Under-14 tournament at CCFC where the Jungle Crows emerged Champions beating larger teams like Armenian College, KISS and Future Hope. The girls where not to be left out coming Runner’s Up in both the Women’s 10’s and Touch Rugby tournamentsPAUL PICS

Rugby is Great:

One of the highlights of the last three months was the Rugby is Great event which we organized with the British High Commission and KISS in Orissa. Ravi was sent on a one – week assignment to coach the teams and prepare for the tournament – great job by him. We also selected an Under-13 team from Kolkata after conducting our own Tag Rugby ‘qualifier’ tournament.

A 12 member team comprising children from 10 different Kolkata locations set off with coaches Kameliya and Lovepreet in charge. The event was hugely successful with the British High Commissioner Scott giving away the prizes and loads of newspaper coverage. Home team KISS emerged well deserved champions while the Khelo Rugby team were runners-up. The final was pulsating and an excellent display of rugby pre the Rugby World Cup!PAUL PICS1

Power of Display:

Oct12Our event to mark UN Youth Day saw our Khelo coaches taking on a theme and engaging with the children from their communities to come up with posters, art work or displays on those themes. Themes included Environment – Ravi, Child Rights – Kameliya, Khelo/Play – Tiger, School – Akash, Hygiene – Deep and Equal Rights – Lovepreet. Before going into the communities each Coach had to make a presentation on their theme to myself and Paul so we were sure they understood and had researched their topic.

Plenty of guests turned up on the day and the children guided by their Coaches came up with some really interesting and diverse work ensuring the event was a good one.

Jungle Crows Cupcakes from Mrs Magpie were a bonus for the super effort all round!

Oct11

In Partnership with the American Center:

In August we were invited by the  American Center in Kolkata for a film screening about girls participation in sport. This was a good chance to involve many of our girls in a different activity and let them see how other girls around the world enjoy sport just as much as they do. Oct13

A total of 8 of our Khelo Leaders have been selected for a Leadership Programme at the American Center. They will go through a 3 month training at the Center on a one class per week format. Post this they get a chance to meet US diplomats, take an internship at the American Center besides other opportunities.

What Have I learnt? 

All the coaches were given the task of preparing presentations about their last one year with JCF and all the coaches responded in a very positive way, making presentations and surprising many with their improving grasp of the English language!Oct14

Khelo Sporting League:

KSL (Khelo Sporting League) is really doing very well, giving those youngsters who have graduated from Khelo Rugby a new and interesting focus. We moved away from the location teams format we had originally started with and we now play in mixed community teams. Though the players were initially reluctant, the idea has caught on and all the youngsters are responding in a positive way. KSL now has an average turn-out of 100 to 120 youth every month and we ensure that they all have the chance to learn something new every time!PAUL PICS2Media:

Khelo Rugby and Jungle Crows has received plenty of media attention over the last one year – founder Paul being featured in Amazing Indians show of Times Now, we were on BBC World TV, on the Award Winning Scrumqueens site, and articles published at Sportskeeda

And there is more, much more that has made lots of people smile and will keep them smiling into the future. We have only just begun……

Lovepreet’s Bengal Jungle Adventure

Saraswatipur – Challenges and Opportunities through Khelo Rugby

By Lovepreet Singh Gill

My name is Lovepreet Singh Gill and I have lived my whole life in Kolkata.  I started playing Rugby more than 3 years ago starting from the Winter Camp organized by the Jungle Crows Foundation and I have really loved playing and training with my team – the Jungle Crows.  The founder of our club is Paul Walsh and with him we now we run the Khelo Rugby program for children from disadvantaged communities. I am involved as a full-time coach in the program, in which I go to the communities to do rugby coaching and have some fun with the kids, while helping them to have a good way of life.  I have also been involved in Netball and I have been doing the same in the schools while teaching netball. On Saturday morning, we also have our Rugby Academy sessions were children from all over come to learn proper rugby. Having been involved with the Khelo Rugby project and Academy for a while, I received a fresh challenge in October 2014 from the foundation.

Me and some of the Saraswatipur children

With some of the Saraswatipur children

Just shout; “KHELO KHELO”

I was selected to manage our Khelo Rugby programme in the North of Bengal in a very rural village called Saraswatipur. The nearest big town is Siliguri and that village was right in the middle of the jungle! The previous coaches were Sanu and Amirul, and as their time in the village was over, Paul requested me to do some work there. I was little bit scared when I heard from my colleagues that lots of wild elephants are there in that jungle!

The three and a half months that I was there was amazing and I found any number of really talented children. Not only in Rugby, but even in other activities like dancing, football, volleyball etc. The children were very enthusiastic and they were really good at catching new games. The participation of the girls in rugby in Saraswatipur is more than in the town.The senior girls team were already very good in the game and all the credit goes to Sanu and Amirul who made it possible through their hard work. I didn’t have too many difficulties while coaching them because all the boys and the girls were listening to each and every thing through my coaching sessions!

Victory In For the Girls!

When I heard that the All India Under 19 girls 7’s tournament was coming up, myself and Sukumar (who joined me for a month and helped me a lot) had planned to do plenty of good training sessions with the girls – using drills, developing their fitness and working on their other weaknesses. The girls worked very hard and came runners-up in the All India tournament. On that day, I felt really proud that I was able to coach such talented girls and to win in only their second tournament outside was indeed a great achievement for them.

All India Runners-Up

Saraswatipur: All India Runners-Up

Jungle Adventure at Saraswatipur

One day I planned with the local boys that we will go deep into the jungle where the villagers are allowed to hunt for birds and pigs, we were about 10 boys and they all were excited about it. Next day in the morning, I was excited but nervous about facing the elephant, still I heard a voice in my heart – “lets go, we will see what will happen!” I took my catapult and lots of parle-g biscuits in my bag and we all arrived at the jungle for a day of lot of fun! We came back and on the same night, a jungle elephant came into the village! It was the first time I had seen a jungle elephant in the open and all the people (including me) were shouting “hurrrr hurrr” so that the beast would go back to the jungle!

Friendly Village Peacock!

Friendly Village Peacock!

Winter Camp 2014 at Saraswatipur

Like every year, in the last week of December, Jungle Crows Foundation organized a winter camp at Kolkata and at Saraswatipur in which more than 400 hundred kids participated. The main motive of that camp was to have fun with kids. This time I got the opportunity to do the Winter Camp in Saraswatipur and make it successful. Parvez was there to help me and previous coach Sanu also came along. Before the winter camp started, we organized a one day workshop with young boys and girls about how to become a good leader. We had given the tasks to them to create new fun games which we can apply in the winter camp. After that, we selected the best young leaders who will do coaching in winter camp and this time we said to the young leaders that, in this winter camp, the main focus is to teach boys and girls in the age group of 13-16 about proper rugby.

Through the blessings of god and hard work of young leaders, the Winter Camp went excellent! All the young leaders and the kids said that this was the best winter camp they had!  I felt so good, no one can imagine that! It was all possible due to my mates –  Parvez and Sanu. Big thank you to them.

I have been back in Kolkata for some time now, in my home and felling happy but I miss Saraswatipur a lot. For a number of days, I was there and I didn’t miss my family at all much because the boys and girls there gave me so much love and respect that I will never forget. Miss them all a lot. But I have so many great memories from my time in the jungle and village, I will cherish them forever!

Winter Camp Saraswatipur

Winter Camp Saraswatipur

 

Jaipur Bulls Play Rugby

Khelo Rugby takes the Oval Ball to Rajasthan

As told to Shreyas Rao

khelo jaipur 3The Khelo Rugby team was recently invited by the Jaipur Bulls team to conduct a 5 day training program for children playing with them in Rajasthan. This came as a great opportunity for us to go into a new location and teach the game to new people. Two of our Khelo Rugby Coaches namely Nanda Majhi and Ajay Balmiki and two of our young Jungle Crows stars Sabirul Peada and Amit Pandey jumped on the train in Kolkata to travel to Jaipur to conduct the training.

Ajay - Sabirul - Ajay

Ajay – Sabirul – Amit

The training sessions were divided into 2 segments – a morning session for the seniors who were getting ready to play the National Games qualifiers and evening sessions for the under- 12s. 100 children took part from two different communities and were taught tag-rugby. On the last day of the training camp a tournament was organized by the Jaipur Bulls under the supervision of Nanda and Ajay which had 10 teams of Under-12s. It was a great experience for everybody involved, especially the children who all loved having the the chance to learn a new game.

From the Coaches:-

Coach Nanda

Coach Nanda

Coach Nanda: The senior Jaipur Bulls players involved were very sincere and genuinely happy to learn. They also showed a keen interest to implement the Khelo Rugby in about 4-5 communities.  They said that they will also aim to go to the schools. The response was very good and enthusiastic from the children too. They were coming from all over and a long way to play every day.  I think that Jungle Crows can grow more with tie ups like this. And in the end, the icing on the cake was that the team I coached won the tournament!

Coach Ajay:  Initially the children that we began coaching did not know any tag rugby and they were only tackling, but the ground was very bad. We had to teach them from the basics. However, they improved a lot because they we were talking a lot to each other and were respecting each other. In the end of our sessions, they used to lift the coaches with joy! Each day a few more girls joined in as well which was good, and the number increased from 2 to 6 to more than 10 in the end.  As we were leaving on the last day, many of the children were crying which made us feel sad and happy. This was my first experience with communities outside and though language was a bit of an issue, it was a great experience.

#KheloKhelo

#KheloKhelo

Coach Sabirul: This was second time I went for coaching outside of Kolkata after my experience with Mirik. On the first day I was quite nervous but when I met the seniors, I felt better. The children were all nice. The first day it rained and all the children ran away but the next day onwards it went fine. On the funny side, I got mixed up with my language and kept giving instructions in Bengali very often! This experience has given me more confidence and I hope to be able to go to more new communities. khelo jaipur 4

#KheloKhelo Bangalore

Khelo Rugby has Landed in India’s Garden City of Bangalore

By Zaffar Khan

Khelo Rugby and the idea of it being in Bangalore, well, when it was suggested to me my only thoughts were that it’s a big city and should we be taking Khelo Rugby there? (I’ve now been here since October!) South India according to research has the highest literacy rates and the best level of employment in India. Every time I’d heard any news about Bangalore it would be for some kind of marathon run happening or some multi-national company opening their new office in the city. It just did not come across as a city where the idea and the fundamentals of Khelo would fall into place. Keeping that in mind India always surprises everyone, even its own children and it turns out that Bangalore is just like any other city in India (while of course being totally unique also) though it seems one of the differences is the media and people on social media show less of the disadvantaged side of society here. The first time I was in Bangalore was eight years back for a Rugby 7’s tour with the West Bengal state team. I then remember the empty roads, green atmosphere and clean air and most important the roads which did not have much traffic on them.

My First Monday late afternoon in Bangalore

My First Monday late afternoon in Bangalore

Talking about traffic I now live in Sarjapur, almost on the outskirts of the city. To cover a distance of eighteen kilometers in Kolkata it usually takes me more or less one and half hour. I had the first experience of Bangalore traffic, when on my second day I promised my friend that I would meet him at MG Road in two hours max on a Monday evening, I soon realized I was sitting in the bus for the past  three hours and we had not even reached half way. I soon told myself that this is not going to work and I should stop promising people. Well untill I got used to the traffic timings. I have got a cycle now and I make it to MG Road in less than ninety minutes. My greatest achievement in the past one month has been beating a brand new red mini cooper on a fifteen kilometer race #BangaloreTrafficZindabad (#longlive Bangalore traffic).

With Khelo Rugby our aim is not to just photocopy the project to new places like Bangalore, but to learn from where we have had success like Kolkata. In Kolkata #Nanda #Hari and the gang have done a great job so we need to look at those good things but also see what works elsewhere. So we try to learn from Siliguri where #Amirul and #Sanu have done fantastic ground breaking work, Pakistan where #MuzamilWazeeri keeps raising the bar for all of us – all the time, and other places where we are using sport to be more than just a part of the pitch. We’re learning again now from Sarjapur, Bangalore. Sarjapur is a rapidly growing area which has many government schools, which are often lagging way behind. For example I had a conversation with the Sapthagiri School Principal where we have recently started to work and she said, “our school and neighboring schools in Sarjapur had lots more children a few years back but children are now dropping out of school and we do not know how to control that. I think it is because Bangalore is developing and people are finding easy low money jobs and children tend to just drift into the money making business. I think it’s not a good idea to leave education without completing it”

Saptagrhi School Khelo Day

Khelo Rugby Day @ Sapthagiri School

We have often faced issues like “school dropouts” in the Khelo communities we work with, particularly in Kolkata. Our community coaches who work with these communities are able to discuss this with children and often have experienced first hand the same pressures. We speak to the children who are going through a rough phase to help them understand the importance of education, being a big sister or brother able to listen, understand and guide. I personally was a school dropout, when I did not do well in my class seven school exams but I am happy I had a family who pushed me and encouraged me to get back into education and I am eternally grateful to them.

I call it the "Little School"

I call it the “Little School”

At the moment in Bangalore we are focussing on the government schools who we can really support . The idea behind working with government schools is that most of the time they do not get attention or opportunity in terms of sport and outside opportunities. Our aim during 2015 is to have over one thousand kids playing rugby every week in Bangalore. We will also start to implement workshops on health and hygiene, carry out sports development in government schools, tell them about our own child protection policies and keep a close eye on every child we work with so that he or she can achieve what they deserve. This is just the start but already we are working with over 180 children every week.

I have also managed set up a “Brothers and Priests” team just to keep us safe from the evil eye 😉 – a longer story for another day!

St. Patrick School Brothers and Priest Touch Rugby Team

St. Patrick School Brothers and Priest Touch Rugby Team

As always we are always looking for people who are interested in coaching children and are eager to make a difference to the communities they live in. You do not have to be a rugby coach to be part of the process, if you can bring smiles to the faces of the children or keep them busy in something creative and interesting you are the right person for the job. Please do get in touch with us through our Khelo Rugby facebook page or through the email address: info@junglecrows.org.

Keep Smiling….Be Happy….Play Rugby

Try For Peace with Khelo Rugby

#TryForPeace – What’s Peace All About?

by Paul Walsh

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

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

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

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

Peace 2014

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

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

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

Coach Ajay

Coach Ajay

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

Coach Lovepreet

Coach Lovepreet

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

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

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

#TryForPeace

#TryForPeace

Special thanks to:

P1170451

#TryForPeace – Action from the Final