Sports have this innate ability to bring people together and fosters a sense of community and instill discipline in our lives. In a country where cricket is considered the holy grail of sports, infrastructure for other sports is undoubtedly lacking. However, that has not stopped people who are passionate about the sports they like from pursuing and spreading their love for it. One such organization is the Jungle Crows Club which was set up in 2004 in my hometown, Kolkata, with a vision to bring together people who are passionate about rugby and to improve the lives of the children who play for the club.
Rugby is a simple sport. You take the ball and run forward. But like any sport it requires concentration, grit, determination, and training. 'Khelo Rugby' was born out of a desire of a group of players to give back to their communities. The idea was to take a rugby ball to the most impoverished of places in Kolkata and let the magic of the sport take over the lives of the children hailing from those parts. This ethos of community support has continued to live on as the club grows and spread its wings.
Khelo Rugby has received many recognitions and awards over the years for the impact it has made on children and the development of the localities that they hail from. In 2017, Khelo Rugby was appointed as an official World Rugby ‘Spirit of Rugby’ partner, the only one in Asia. The odd shape of the ball and the funny bounce is enough to create unbridled joy in the lives of these children. Khelo Rugby organizes regular fun-filled rugby sessions where they build the trust of the children and their communities. After fostering togetherness through the sport, the coaches of Khelo Rugby, through structured discussion sessions, begin to explore other avenues of these children’s lives — their struggles, hopes, dreams, and aspirations.
Khelo Ruby was born in Kolkata and presently has more than 30 communities in West Bengal that are part of the club. The children come from disadvantaged slum areas, local schools, and other NGOs. In Kolkata’s famous dry and dusty Maidan grounds, there is a field called the Jungle Crow Field, where the children practice. Khelo Rugby in Saraswatipur is based around a group of villages in the Doaars region, north of West Bengal. Dooars, renowned for its tea garden, has a rustic rural feel about the place. Over there Khelo Rugby has built the Jungle Crows Sunrise Centre, a purpose-built hub catering to hundreds of children from the area. In Bengaluru, Khelo Rugby operates in economically disadvantaged communities and in local schools and Jungle Crows partnered with sports brand, Decathlon to create the Education to Employment project. Khelo Rugby’s latest project is in a cluster of villages in Jarmundi Block, Jharkhand where they collaborated with the international NGO Terres Des Hommes to create a ‘Right to Play’ program.
Khelo Rugby keeps growing and developing, with rugby remaining at its crux. It is not just about the sport. It also strives for the holistic development of all children under the club’s tutelage. Amongst the several partnerships Khelbo Ruby has forged over the years to fulfill its vision, the most impactful has been its collaboration with the English Access Microscholarship Program, an international project created by the U.S. Department of State.
The Access’s program aim is to help teenagers from economically disadvantaged backgrounds gain opportunities in employment, education, and life in general. Access arms its students with the required skill set and knowledge in the English language, which is essential to survive and succeed in the modern world. The idea is to bridge the gap between children from impoverished backgrounds and those children whose guardians can afford urban English-medium private schools.
Additionally, the Access program grants students the ability to compete and participate in future exchanges and study in the United States. Approximately 95,000 students in more than 85 countries have participated in the program since its inception in 2004. Ever since Khelo Rugby’s partnership with the Access program, it's been getting a fresh crop of bright students each term in Kolkata and Bengaluru. Now, the curriculum is being designed in a way that focuses on the children’s holistic development through the intersection of the English language and sports.
When I am not writing for our publication, I spend my time teaching the children from Khelo Rugby as a part of the Access Program. They are all extremely bright, intuitive, and are hungry to learn. Most of them are leaders of their communities and simultaneously excel at rugby. Some of them are national-level rugby players, as well. The English taught to them is not alike a school curriculum but focuses more on communication. The idea is to instill confidence within them and in a world where English is a universal language, nothing gives more confidence to children than being able to express themselves through the language. There are several interesting activities, programs, and workshops that are also conducted by the Access Program. It is initiatives like these that will propel our nation and future generations toward a brighter tomorrow.
Find out more about Khelo Rugby here.
To know more about the English Access Microscholarship Program, contact the US Embassy in your city.