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Slum Soccer proves how sports has a positive impact in lives of children

Slum Soccer is a FIFA-awarded Football for Development organization that uses football as a tool to educate, empower and provide opportunities to diverse and underprivileged communities throughout India. Founded in 2001, the NGO has been working since the past two decades to bring underprivileged children to make them confident of standing up on their own two feet. Not only does the NGO focus on the training and fitness of the academy members, but it has also made imperative for all the children to pursue education, as most of the children who come here are either dropouts or have never went to a school.

Vijay Barse, Founder – Slum Soccers tells SPOI more about his NGO and the kind of support it has been receiving from the society –

Could you tell us more about your NGO and the kind of work you are doing?

Slum Soccer is a FIFA-awarded organization that uses the power of football to bring about a positive change in the lives of underprivileged children and youth. Through specially designed curriculum and activities, we engage and mobilize our participants towards learning and fitness.Slum Soccer started as simple weekend sessions “Football For All” camp, “Changing Lives Through Football” and has bloomed into full-fledged football coaching camps, educational & healthcare workshops and societal development programs, bringing a positive influence to the lives of underprivileged children and youth. Through our designed curriculum, activities, tournaments and community centres, we are reaching out to youth, children and giving them a platform to explore various social issues and find out their remedies in their own settings.

The unbridled joy on the faces of a few street children kicking a broken bucket around a slushy ground in an impromptu game of makeshift football, blissfully unaware of the pelting rain in the midst of a sudden rainstorm, prompted the founding of our organization, Slum Soccer.

Slum Soccer was registered as a Non-Governmental Public Charitable Trust Organization governed by the Public Trust Act of the state of Maharashtra in 2001 under a board of directors. The organization is subject to periodic financial audit by law. We function with the ultimate aim of reaching out to the Indian homeless and underprivileged using football as a tool for social improvement and empowerment.

What has been your biggest success story till date? How would you like to take this legacy forward?

Edukick,conceptualized to address the 4th Sustainable Development Goal, is an initiative by Slum Soccer which focuses on the promotion of primary education for the children from the underprivileged section of the society thatdoesn’t get a chance to attend school and also for those who attend schools but their academic opportunities are very poor. Project EDU-KICK aims to improve and build upon the existing educational outcomes and to improve its efficacy.

The uniqueness of this model lies in utilizing existing resources to reach a new point. The proposed impact does not exist to direct beneficiaries of the project, but rather teachers and coaches at the school. This project is an innovation; it uses technology very uniquely. The use of sports to teach life skills is nothing new, however sports as a means to increase educational outcome is just being considered an instructive tool with many implications.

Our experiences and interactions with the local community have shown us that these schools and their students, with no sporting facilities are marginalized on multiple levels –

• They lack communication skills and confidence.
• Girls are not allowed to play and their education is given secondary priority than that of boys.
• Sports is considered a waste of time and hence not encouraged.
• Even if they are attending schools, the pedagogy and educational methods are unable to address their current learning and overall development need.
• Inefficient teaching in classrooms.
• Children do not understand mathematics clearly and afraid to study it.

By focusing on this underserved population, we believe EduKick can have the greatest and most lasting impact.

Through this project, we are currently working in more than 60 schools across Maharashtra. It is not only engaging children in their schools and teaching mathematics through football, but also encouraging teachers to be on the field and to promote sports amongst children. We are planning to expand this project across India to help children learn better.

What kind of challenges do you encounter while working in such projects?

The major challenge that we have had to face wassociety’s perception of sports. We are often told that children will be better off spending time studying in the classroom rather than playing on the field.

This comes from all individuals working in all spheres of life – the teachers, parents and even the sponsors. But we have proved, time and again, the positive impact of sports in the lives of children. Today, a number of people we’ve worked with are now programme-managers and work closely with the organisation.

Some of the challenges are mentioned below –

• Ground availability: Most of the time we don’t get proper ground in schools. If schools are having such a ground nearby people use it for their family functions and for other events.
• Lack of support from schools and teachers: Sometimes teachers do not allow coaches to take children out of the class to have football session.

Would you also like to throw some light on the upcoming biopic movie and how would it influence the work you are doing?

Amitabh Bachchan is a superstar and has an amazing fan following. I am glad that my work will reach maximum people.This would help Slum Soccer to expand work all over India and assist our vision of spreading football in all over the country.

How Crowdera is helping your organization.?Any goodwill message to the world about Crowdera ?

We express our deepest thanks to Crowdera for helping us making our dreams come true of underprivileged children. We have been associated with Crowdera since 2015 for our fundraising needs, and now they are helping us in raising funds for the team India to participate at the Homeless World Cup 2018 in Mexico. Apart from that, it also helps in organising various tournaments and events in spreading our words and programs across Maharashtra. Crowdera is just not only our CSR sponsor & partner but also a big moral supporter needed to continue our mission. We are highly obliged to the entire team for all their efforts to reach our target. 

Could you share the major learning from your years of running successful initiatives?

During the years of running multiple projects, we learned that the most impactful way is working in school instead of communities. It helps us approach a number of children as opposed to a community. In terms of gender ration, it should be 50-50. While working with children their parents and community should be aware of the program and their learning. Every program should have a start and an end date in order to see the result and objective achieved. Each program should have a pathway for the participants and further opportunities after completion of the program.