Royal Patron: HRH The Duchess of Edinburgh GCVO


In the bustling streets of Mumbai, amidst the chaos of everyday life, lies a beacon of hope and change – The OSCAR Foundation. Founded by the visionary Ashok Rathod, with help alongside from Lucinda Sowerbutts, this charity has been making waves in transforming the lives of thousands of children through the power of football and education. Recently, I had the privilege of embarking on a journey as part of a group of supporters and Ambassadors from the UK to visit this extraordinary charity to Mumbai and delve into the countryside of Karnataka to witness first-hand the incredible work being achieved by this organisation.

India’s Republic Day, January 26th, marked the beginning of an extraordinary and magical trip. We met some of the OSCAR children, all dressed in their vibrant red football kits, waiting patiently in line, radiating enthusiasm and determination. Their spirit was infectious, and it was heartening to see the impact that the OSCAR Foundation had on shaping their futures.

Next, we delved into the heart of Mumbai to visit Ashok’s family and witness first-hand his way of life and the community he grew up in. It was a humbling experience to see the warmth and hospitality of Ashok’s family and friends, offering us a glimpse into the rich tapestry of Mumbai’s diverse culture. The streets were alive, everyone on their way to do something, hustle, bustle, smiles, sparkling eyes, spirit and an undeniable spirit of positivity. If you want to experience hope, joy and sheer determination, this is the place to be. 

As the day transitioned into evening, we experienced a stark contrast as we dined at the prestigious The Royal Bombay Yacht Club. This was a rare treat and we were happy to be joined by the British Deputy High Commission. The juxtaposition of our day’s experiences served as a reminder of the vast socio-economic disparities that exist within India’s vibrant metropolis.

Saturday, January 27th, marked OSCAR’s Annual Football Day, a day filled with fierce competition and camaraderie as some of the 7,500 children OSCAR has helped so far showcased their skills on the field. It was a rare day out for the children’s families, who watched on with pride and joy at the Karnatak Sports Ground. How inspiring to see how sports could serve as a powerful tool for empowerment and social change, providing these wonderful children with a sense of pride, belonging and purpose. 

Our exploration continued as we visited Sassoon Dock in Mumbai, guided by passionate OSCAR supporters, who provided us with insight into the local community’s livelihoods and challenges.

The evening was a highlight as we joined the OSCAR Boat Party, a joyous occasion where young leaders and older children were treated to a trip out into the harbour. The laughter, excitement and dancing aboard the boat were palpable, illustrating the profound impact of such experiences on the children’s lives.

Monday, January 29th, saw us embark on an overnight train journey to Yadgir, where we were greeted with a warm welcome at our hotel. From there, we ventured into the countryside to witness the way of life in villages and gain a deeper understanding of the communities Ashok grew up in.

That afternoon, we had the joy of distributing bicycles, made possible by the generous contributions of individuals like Jo Dunne who organised and made possible this event, to children in remote villages. The joy and gratitude on the faces of the Young Leaders as they received their bicycles and rode them away were a testament to the transformative power of such initiatives. As Catherine and Rupert Fleming remarked time and time again, it is the small things that make the largest difference. This was one of them, the bicycles enabling the Young Leader to spend more time with different groups of children they mentor.

Our journey concluded with a visit to a community where we met so many of the beautiful ladies from the village; we danced, communicated as best we could but above all felt huge joy at being part of their community, clearly supportive, tight and positive. This day was full of heart-warming experiences as we arrived at Ashok’s family, who kindly cooked us a traditional delicious and much missed lunch. Sitting together, sharing stories of our trip and laughter, we felt a profound sense of connection and gratitude for the privilege of being a part of this transformative journey with the OSCAR Foundation.

Reflecting on our time spent with the OSCAR family, I am reminded of the words of Ashok himself – “Every child deserves a chance to dream, to hope, and to build a brighter future.” Through their tireless dedication and commitment, Ashok, Sunita, Govind, Karan, Lucinda and Julian Sowerbutts, and the entire team at OSCAR are turning this vision into reality, one child at a time.  

As I bid farewell to Mumbai and Karnataka, I carry with me memories of resilience, hope, and the profound impact of community-driven initiatives like the OSCAR. It is a reminder that through collective action and compassion, we can create a world where every child has the opportunity to thrive and succeed.

My endless and huge thanks to Ashok and Lucinda for making it possible for our group to visit.  They worked extraordinarily hard to ensure we saw and covered so much in the little time we had.  These are the most unique people I have met, their drive to make a change is carved deep in their DNA. 

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