LISTEN TO A PODCAST
A sports teacher sees a group of slum children kicking a broken bucket from one corner to another on a rainy day. He saw something different- the joy, unworried nature of sport and children having good time. He goes back to his cabin, brings a football, gives it to them and asks the slum kids to play. Thus began the football sessions for slum children. It continued with nearly 12 slums in Nagpur and that’s how the organization was born. Later these young children from all the slums gathered at his college and played the first jopad patti football tournament.
“The rule was there were no rules” The only thing required is the willingness to play with each other.
Any form of violence or abusive language was strictly prohibited and so were bad habits.
What started up just as a weekend venture has now grown into a humongous organization.
During one such session, a mother comes and appreciates the efforts saying that
children were safe for an hour without involving in any undesirable activities.
This made us realize the intervention being done in their lives and the more left to be done.
Henceforth this one hour is used not just to play football as a time pass but as something which made the slum kids actively take part.
Started mixing up football with messaging thereby addressing issues related to slum kids such as involvement in gangs, doing petty thefts etc.
Children started coming to practice sessions on time.
Timeliness, punctuality and cleanliness are not something which cannot be easily expected from slum kids but Sport had that power.
15 districts participated in the tournament.
12 Teams from different states participated in our first-ever National Level Jopad Patti Football Tournament.
Tie up with other international organizations doing similar work.
A team of boys from slums represented India in the Homeless World Cup held at Copenhagen in Denmark.
It helped me realize the immense potential and immense change in these boys. None of them wanted to go back to the lives they were living. After representing India at the International Level the boys understood how important it is to practice discipline.
When kids were asked who their favorite player is, their answers were surprising. Not international star players or celebrities but their own seniors from the same slums.
This made us train the youth to emerge as coaches.
It helped us in two ways – pass on the legacy by taking ownership of the organization as well as in reducing costs.
Slum youth got an opportunity to be employed as football coaches within the organization.
A coach reported back saying that he heard for the first time in his life that someone calls him Sir which made him feel privileged and humble.
HOW ABOUT THE OTHER 50% OF THE POPULATION (GIRLS)?
Efforts are not to create football players but to create balanced citizens who can support themselves and society at large.
Football is a medium chosen to accomplish this task.
Issues such as HIV AIDS, Gender-Based Violence and Gender Equality which could not be addressed in a regular classroom setting were easily approached on the football field.
Once on the field, kids were free from inhibitions and everyone understood that they must contribute to the team.
PROGRAMMES FOR DIFFERENT GROUPS
Designing programmes which target specific groups and issues.
Realized our responsibility to target issues pertaining to education.
Targeted students of Grades IV and V
Understood their curriculum and designed programmes that help them learn the concepts through football.
Girls from Khadijabhai School – sample was chosen to facilitate the learning of mathematics, language, health and hygiene through football.
Initially though a challenge but gradually staff members of the school, parents too involved in setting the stage for learning through football.
Concepts such as number line, identifying numbers etc were taken up through football. Girls were waiting for someone to tell them in a playful manner, right kind of environment and supporting voices.
A simple act of just encouraging kids to come out and play has been the major game-changer not just to change their outlook about the power of sports but also in activating the community.
Another programme – Shakti Girls – where issues such as menstrual hygiene management, women empowerment, gender based issues addressed through the power of football.
The theory behind is ‘If you can support each other on the field then you can also do it off the field’. Building in them a spirit of sisterhood where they support each other.
Efforts in the direction of passing on the ownership of the programme from the organization to the local community leaders.
Another programme – CATS – Community Action Through Sports – where we mix both boys and girls – practice football together – work together for community cleanliness drives, volunteers working in helping anganwadi workers in vaccination etc.
National Level Tournament called National Inclusion Cup – A team of 24 men and women team held in a beach in Goa.
Youth Program called Game Changers – where youth are trained as coaches by youth leaders, certification post which they go and work as assistant coaches in small towns.
Our aim is not to develop football players of the highest level but to help them become mentally strong, building in them a team-based outlook to solve their problems. Succeeding at all levels with programmes in Delhi, Pune, Chennai, Nagpur etc. Today we have 12000 school-based participants participating in various programs and 150 youth leaders out of which 30 had received their license for training. Many boys and girls are able to plan their journeys of life beyond their cycle of poverty, able to see the enthusiasm in them to support not just themselves but even other members of the society. A small reaffirmation helps a lot of youth to take that positive energy and keep playing. This helped us realize our role giving that extra push in shaping the future of India.
Session By @ Abhijeet Barse - Slum Soccer, Nagpur
Written By @ Dr. P V Satya Ramesh - Principal, V and C Patel English School