Childrens Charity, India
Joel Cazalet shares his experience volunteering in India with the OSCAR Foundation
Going out to Mumbai and helping as a volunteer for the OSCAR Foundation was something I had been hoping to do for a few years. It was amazing getting off the plane and being introduced to the rich culture of India by the incredibly friendly and hospitable OSCAR staff.
With only a 1 month visa and with the help of the OSCAR team, I had a full itinerary packed with different activities and trips, from shoe distributions in rural Karnataka to events on the ‘Back Garden’ football ground in Mumbai.
The first couple of days were spent making new friends and being shown around the communities in Colaba and other parts of Mumbai such as Dharavi. It was really inspiring to see how the OSCAR project worked and how many people were involved and helped by it. Then it was straight off to rural Karnataka to hand out shoes donated from England through the charity, ‘Shoes to Share’. This was a great adventure, an overnight sleeper train to the heart of India. Living for 5 nights in the village of one of the staff, Govind, along with his family goat, was definitely a life-affirming experience and a huge contrast not only from my life in the UK, but also from the life and culture of Mumbai.
In Karnataka, it was great to explore many quiet villages and meet the OSCAR kids during their football sessions. I’ll never forget the smiles on the kids faces as we handed out football boots from the two huge bags we had carried out from the UK. Some of the kids had never had any footwear before and it was great to think how much use they would have.
Another highlight of the trip was the two International Women’s Day events. With big turn outs of over 200 women and girls from the local villagers on both days, it was great to see the celebrations and dancing and witness how important these events are for empowering women in the rural areas.
I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to visit Karnataka – it was such a new and exciting experience. I would also highly recommend it as an area in India to visit!
Back in Mumbai, we spent the second part of our time helping out in the office, doing various useful jobs and using our computing skills. The office has such a friendly and sociable atmosphere and it was great to be invited to join in the office lunch everyday and try out many different Indian dishes.
Everyone at OSCAR was so friendly and hospitable, showing us around and taking us out, that we decided to end our trip by hosting a small gathering to say goodbye and to introduce the kids to some very British games like grandmother’s footsteps and British bulldog! We had a fantastic afternoon filled with laughter and smiley faces and I think they enjoyed playing as much as we did!
India was an incredible and eye opening experience and everyone in the OSCAR team made my time there so fulfilling. I am so grateful to Ashok and his wonderful team for giving me the opportunity to come to India and see the community and the impact it is having on so many people’s lives. I’ve left India with many happy memories and loads of new friends but I know for sure I will be back very soon to see everybody again! Thank You OSCAR
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