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From street life to education through football

Proudly telling the world about our community in our 50th anniversary year

Two IB students from the UK and India worked with the OSCAR Foundation to educate underprivileged children in Mumbai.

“The beauty of the IB is that it makes you think differently. You don’t just study your country, you study the world”, says Ruby Sowerbutts, a 2017 Diploma Programme (DP) graduate from Cheltenham Ladies’ College in the UK. “Pushing your own boundaries and stepping outside your comfort zone is also essential when undertaking your chosen creativity, activity and service (CAS) project”.

As a regular visitor to India and keen to work with underprivileged children, Ruby decided to do her CAS project with the OSCAR Foundation (Organization for Social Change, Awareness and Responsibility), which uses football as a means of getting youths from economically challenged communities into education, as well as encouraging leadership and teamwork skills. “From an initial 18 street boys in 2008, there are now over 4,000 children attending school regularly and working hard to change their lives”, says Ruby.

Last year, the foundation organized a two-week football tour of the UK for 14 boys from the slum communities of Mumbai. “[OSCAR’s] fundraising target was £40,000”, says Ruby. “My first project was to publish a Global Cookbook. I wanted to represent the different cultures at my UK school by getting the students to send in recipes from their home countries. The planning of the book was challenging, but it ended up being the single biggest fundraiser for the tour.”

Ruby has done far more than just raise funds. “The tour project was the first of its kind. The 14 boys had no passports and many not even a birth certificate. It was a long and complicated process. I was actively involved in the journey from the beginning to the end”, she says.

Gaining new perspectives

Ruby invited the OSCAR Foundation’s founder Ashok Rathod to the UK to host a school assembly and some football skills sessions. “He was very inspiring and demonstrated how life-changing the football tour would be for the OSCAR children. Meeting the children was enriching and life-changing for me too. Their optimism and enthusiasm for all their new experiences impressed us all and changed our perspectives of our own lives.

“The UK tour also gave the OSCAR boys’ families something to be proud of and their peer groups something to aspire to. The pride of the communities is immeasurable and the 14 boys continue to thrive. They are working hard, excellent role models and optimistic for their future.

“The OSCAR programme was the perfect CAS project. It involved a lot of activity, creative thinking and service. It allowed me to focus on volunteering and raising money for an incredibly worthy cause, as well as to spread the message to students around me.

“Working with OSCAR really made me appreciate the quality of education that I received and I was determined to give back in any way that I could. I am grateful that the IB had enabled and encouraged me to get involved with an organization like this. The students at my school learnt so much from their involvement”.

Making international links

Ruby says she has no doubt that her commitment to the OSCAR Foundation will be lifelong. This October, Cheltenham Ladies’ College will be hosting 14 Indian girls from the OSCAR Foundation for the #kicklikeagirl UK Football Tour. In January, during her gap year between school and starting at Bristol University, Ruby went to India to spend six weeks working with the girls due to come on tour. While there, she gave a talk at BD Somani International School, Mumbai.

Avantica Saraf, a DP student at BD Somani International School, explains: “Our school’s association with the OSCAR Foundation dates back almost four years. As part of our CAS activity we teach the OSCAR children—who come to our school four times a week—the basics of English, mathematics, Hindi and art, and we teach the young adults English and other subjects too.

“The #kicklikeagirl project seemed unique and special. I was moved and inspired by this endeavour not only because the cause was about empowering girls in a traditionally male sport, but also because I am myself in the school’s football team. I jumped onto the team fundraiser for #kicklikeagirl and made it part of my CAS project because it totally fit the bill.”

Avantica planned a three-point programme for the fundraising including a “Singing Spree” made up of her fellow students, Arianna Patel, Zahir Tapia and Saniyya Agarwal, who sang at school. “It brought cheer to the routine school day and raised funds for our cause”, says Avantica.

“The next event was an evening of competition and festivities where we invited the OSCAR football teams to play our school teams and set up a summer carnival. The playing field came alive with music, colourful stalls, mouth-watering aromas and the intense matches. The visiting team had the time of their life, playing with us and also enjoying the carnival. Kudos to my team, Ami Sethia, Daryush Mehta, Zyra Nargolwala and Tanisha Kejriwal, for their support in the success of the evening. We raised a sum of 50,000 rupee from these two events.

“Inspired by Ruby, our final and most ambitious fundraiser is the cookbook that we are compiling”, says Avantica. “It is filled with recipes contributed by students, teachers, parents and our Principal Mr Don Gardner, and is expected to be published soon.

“This fundraising programme came with dual benefits. It gathered funds for the OSCAR girls’ football team and gave me a real understanding of the IB learner profile attributes”, says Avantica. “The project prodded us to reflect on the cause and be principled in our approach to the fundraiser. We discovered the thinkers and communicators within us as we brainstormed to create the events, and reflected on the impact we could have on the lives of children from our neighbouring slum communities. The #kicklikeagirl project kicked off several new perspectives for me and for that I am thankful.”

Find out more at OSCAR Foundation.