Royal Patron: HRH The Duchess of Edinburgh GCVO
My journey began in Mumbai, a city that pulsates with an energy like no other.

By Alice Masquelier-Page

When I first boarded the plane to India, I was filled with a mix of excitement and apprehension. As a volunteer with the OSCAR Foundation, I was ready to assist with football sessions and educational programs, but I had no idea how profoundly this experience would change my perspective on life and happiness.

My journey began in Mumbai, a city that pulsates with an energy like no other. Where homes are so compact, they fit together like puzzle pieces, and the streets are alive with a symphony of car horns, road vendors, and laughter. My days were spent between the learning centres in the community, the OSCAR office and the football pitches and although the days were tiring and the temperature almost unbearable, the children’s boundless enthusiasm and infectious smiles made every moment worthwhile. 

I was struck by the stark contrasts in Mumbai between the towering (literally) affluence and the poignant poverty, coexisting side by side. Initially, it was overwhelming and made me acutely aware of my own privileged upbringing. I felt a sense of guilt, as if my comfortable life was somehow unjust in the face of such hardship. But as time went on, I realised that these children, despite having so little, exuded a happiness that was pure and untainted by materialism. They taught me that joy can be found in the simplest of things – a game of football or a new game learned.

From the bustling city, I next travelled to the rural landscapes of Karnataka. This village, with its endless fields and serene atmosphere, felt like a different world altogether. Life here moved at a slower pace, and the community was so tightly knit.

My mornings started with the crowing of roosters and the smell of freshly cooked chapatis. The hospitality of the villagers was overwhelming; they welcomed me into their homes and hearts, offering everything they had, even if it was just a cup of chai. The five days I spent in Karnataka provided me with a true authentic experience of the day to day lives of the villagers. I stayed at Govind’s family home, hosted by his mummy who treated me like royalty, where we would share laughs in the evening over home cooked meals traditionally eaten while sat on the floor and discuss our night’s sleep the following morning given that sleeping on the floor was a new experience for me! 

I visited a number of villages and engaged in football sessions with the local children. These interactions, though modest, were profound. Their eagerness to learn and their excitement for football showed their true spirit.

In Karnataka, I learned the true meaning of generosity. These villagers, despite their limited resources, were always willing to share. It wasn’t about the value of what they gave but the heart with which they gave it and really made me consider the true meaning of happiness and wealth.

My final stop was Daman, a smaller city by the beach, known for its manufacturing industry and the latest OSCAR project site. This newest project is primarily set up for those children whose parents are factory workers, providing a chance at a more prosperous life by integrating education with sport. It is evident the sessions are a hit as I visited the communities and witnessed the children eagerly waiting until the next time they would play. The children here, like those in Mumbai and Karnataka, also taught me invaluable lessons.

My journey with the OSCAR Foundation was more than just a volunteer trip; it was a profound learning experience. The kindness and generosity of the people I met was humbling. Despite having so little, they gave so much. They taught me that happiness is not a product of material wealth but of human connection and simple joys. I learned to let go of my guilt and instead embrace mindfulness – to be aware of my privileges but not burdened by them, to use them to make a difference.

The most important lesson I took away is that those with the least are often the most willing to share and happiness really comes from the heart. This trip changed me in ways I could have never imagined, reminding me that true wealth lies in generosity and simplicity.

As I reflect on my time in India, I carry with me the warmth and kindness of the people, the lessons learned from the children, and a renewed appreciation for life. My heart is fuller, my perspective broader, and my commitment to giving back is stronger.

Please visit the OSCAR YouTube Channel to see Alice’s video diary

Leave a Reply