Royal Patron: HRH The Duchess of Edinburgh GCVO
Volunteering with OSCAR in India by Georgia & Amelia

Having made lifelong friends through playing lacrosse at the University of Edinburgh, we met in Mumbai airport to start our OSCAR adventure. Amelia travelled from a trekking tour of Nepal, and Georgia from her pub job in London. We were welcomed with open arms by the OSCAR team in the office, just a short walk from our hostel, and immediately felt at home. Greeted with endless chai tea and handshakes from all, we settled into our daily routine of office work and coaching the different batches.

We travelled around Mumbai, gaining confidence with every trip, on the local trains and auto rickshaws to reach each of the communities. In each location we visited the Community Learning Centre, and assisted the amazing teachers in delivering computer and English skills. Of course, we couldn’t resist a fun game or two, our trip favourite being teaching the children “head, shoulders, knees and toes” – a song that will now forever remind us of our time with OSCAR.

The football sessions were often the highlight of our day. The children, shy at first but gaining enthusiasm throughout, would call us Didi (sister in Hindi). We played various football related games with them and of course taught them all our previously mentioned hit song! We would both leave each session feeling like celebrities as the children clambered over each other to shake our hands, with some even asking for autographs! We have to mention the brilliant coaches, who’s energy, imagination and football spirit was a joy to see and was clearly inspiring the young players. A person whom without we would probably still be stuck at Mumbai airport is to Lochana; her organisation, care and warmth has made us feel incredibly at home in such a bustling city, and at such a busy organisation.

After two weeks in Mumbai and having squeezed in all of the sightseeing and vada pav we could, we headed off to Karnataka on a much anticipated sleeper train. Arriving in the early hours of the morning, we were met by Karan and welcomed to Govind’s mothers lovely home. Our days were spent with Michelin star home cooking and travelling by motorbike to and from sessions dodging various farm animals! An enormous thank you goes to Govind’s mother and nephew Arun for welcoming us and making sure we felt at home! We especially loved our evening tours around the village with Arun and teaching him and his friend ‘we wish you a merry Christmas’. Another highlight was the vibrant celebrations that happened in the village during our stay, to which we were once again welcomed with opened arms, asked to dance and always offered delicious chapatis, curries and dhal. It soon became necessary to learn the hindi for ‘thank you but we’re full!’ or else we would have to book two train seats each back to Mumbai!

During our time in Karnataka we met their team of young leaders, some of which are old beneficiaries of OSCAR, who are working hard to continue inspiring the next generation of children. We had a great morning teaching them the importance and format of a CV and we both felt very proud when they all left with a first draft. A shoutout to Anil who was very kind with translating a few of the tricker explanations.

Being new to the area, a tourist day was of course necessary, and the team took us on a hike up to Yadgir fort and to the Yadgir dam, which made for an excellent day in the sunshine! Anil and Sachin insisted on taking us to get bangles and pink scarves after we had talked so much about the beautiful women of the region, so we left with gorgeous souvenirs to remember our time there.

As our time in India draws to a close, we can reflect with only colourful, vibrant and friendly memories. We have seen first hand the incredible work that OSCAR is doing across India, and are very grateful for how welcoming and kind they have been to us during our stay. We would recommend volunteering with such an amazing organisation to anyone, particularly those with a combined love of curry and football.

Leave a Reply