Today is World Children's Day, UNICEF’s global day of action for children.
To mark the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child we took a look at football inspired initiatives for children.
OSCAR stands for Organisation for Social Change, Awareness and Responsibility and it is the brainchild of Ashok Rathod.
Ashok grew up in Mumbai, surviving day to day in the slums, sleeping each night on the roof of his family’s shack, studying by street lamp outside on a blanket each day.
At 18, inspired by the childhood friends who had failed to finish school, he shared his story with some boys in his neighbourhood and how important his education had been to him. Then he invited them to play football. He was surprised when they turned up he scraped together enough money to buy a football.
They started to play; scrappily at first, refusing to pass to others, divided by caste, but gradually Ashok inspired them to work as a team.
His only proviso for teaching them to play was that they must attend school. And they did. Within 2 years he had 150 turning out and OSCAR officially began.
His next step was to encourage the local girls to play. Many parents weren’t keen so he decreed he would only teach the boys of the families if they would let the girls attend too. He started his first girl’s team with just 10 girls; today there are 1400!
One of the girls, Anshu Kacchap explains, “people in my community would say, “girls are meant to do household work” or “girls shouldn’t wear shorts”. Sometimes the community would also influence my parents and try and stop me from playing football. But I didn’t succumb to these pressures”
She has since travelled to the UK with her OSCAR team, a trip she describes as her “biggest achievement” and aspires to become a professional football coach
The foundation now has the backing of Spanish footballer, Juan Mata, who has helped coach the children in Mumbai and the simple ‘No school, no football’ proviso has helped change the lives of over 3000 children in India. Click here to find out more or donate.
Kit It Out is a Liverpool based charity appealing for kit donations from both football clubs and the public and then distributing them to those in need via community centres.
The initiative has grown rapidly in recent months and they are now giving out 400+ kits a week to disadvantaged children in and around the Liverpool area. Link up with them on facebook or twitter @Kititout1
Old School Football recently collected kit and boots for another amazing initiative organised by Jordan Florit, author of a new book “Red Wine & Arepas: How Football is Becoming Venezuela’s Religion”
After the obstacles of a less than flexible customs department, Jordan was able to distribute the kit he had appealed for, to the disadvantaged, football-mad children of Venezuela.
“Thanks to the generosity and kindness of parents, children, and junior football teams in England, I was able to donate over 600 pieces of football kit over two weeks in Venezuela.
I wanted to do it because we all know how much a football shirt or a pair of boots means to a child with a dream to one day be a professional footballer: we were all kids once, have them or coach them. For many children in Venezuela, a football shirt or a pair of football boots is beyond a luxury. Many parents earn as little as $15 a month; providing kit isn’t even a possibility.
Giving out the donations was an honour and a humbling experience. The joy and hope that immediately illuminated so many faces - children and parents - is something I’ll never forget. Each piece of kit donated keeps a child’s dream alive or gives them the hope to start dreaming.”
11-year old Alberlis was one such recipient. She spends all her free-time playing football but her mother, on a monthly wage of $18, could not afford kit or training. The donations of kit & equipment she received enable her to try out for Caracas FC and she passed!
Football Beyond Borders also uses the power of football to inspire and educate. Like the OSCAR Foundation the organisation started from the ground up with a few football loving, London based friends considering a community, wracked by recent riots.
In their own words “there was a realisation amongst us that young people did not have the opportunities or agency to shape their future in a positive manner”
They started running a few youth football sessions in South London and quickly realised that there was a real need, especially for prevention work for those in their early teens.
They now support boys and girls from disadvantaged backgrounds across the UK, who are passionate about football but disengaged at school. They do this both within the school environment through a football themed, literacy curriculum and also also by incentivising school attendance and improved grades through football tournaments, overseas tours and end of year showcases.
As one young participant, Marley, puts it “when I look at my future, there’s so many different ways I can go, so many different things I might want to do and that’s all because of FBB"
The organisation is currently touching the lives and raising the aspirations of over 350 young people a week. Follow their work on Instagram @footballbeyondborders and Twitter @FBeyondBorders or click here to donate
Another organisation using sport to empower and educate children is Play For Change Across three continents, in Nepal, Bali, the UK, Belgium and the USA they use football and other sports as a catalyst for social change.
For example, in Miami they give access for children from low income families to regular soccer coaching, training them twice a week with the emphasis on nutrition, discipline, social education and well-being as well as technical football skills. You can donate towards their work or get involved
Please let us know in the comments of any football inspired charities that you are involved in.
Every child deserves to have every right.