Humanitarian charity Parikrma is educating children in India and using football to get its message to private industry and government alike. Alex Lawson travelled to Bangalore to discover how the organisation has achieved its seven-year search for a ground, staged its first Champions League event and how Blackburn owners Venky’s could help football in India.
The Parikrma Humanity Foundation is not simply about improving the lives of children that pass through its four schools, but to create a model that will help improve the lives of families nationwide. Walking into one of the foundation’s carefully decorated schools in a backstreet in Bangalore, it is easy to see the organisation carries enough passion and endeavour within its walls to create something bigger.
Bangalore, India’s Silicon Valley, has seen explosive growth with the world’s largest IT firms employing more than one million people. Sadly, just 10 per cent of those people come through the “outdated and moribund” state schooling system which sees the majority of kids drop out before the age of 16 and just nine per cent go on to college.
The poor are being left out of India’s economic growth engine, claimed Vivek Raju a founder member of Parikrma which is headed up by chief executive, hospitality magnate, and former Woman Entrepreneur of the Year, Shukla Bose, working alongside Kalpana Singh and Manab Bose.
“Parikrma was created with a simple question – ‘can any child, even the poorest from the slums of urban India, access the best opportunities and live a full and happy life?’,” said Raju, who has 15 years of marketing experience with the likes of Levis.
Parikrma, founded in 2003, now has four centres teaching 1,300 children from 53 slum communities and five orphanages. Watching Raju tour us round the modest school is a real pleasure, the classrooms are adorned with tributes to the school’s brightest stars and their work. At the desks, the kids are polite, enthusiastic and brimming with a visible desire to succeed. The centres benefit from philanthropic donations such as secondhand computers from IT businesses. But perhaps one of the charity’s most important pieces of real estate has recently been added – its football ground.
The charity has created a United Parikrma Football programme at three age groups headed by a B-license coach from the Asian Football Confederation who also oversees the club’s athletics and Taekwondo activities.
After seven years of scraping together practice sessions at facilities a tenth the size of a football field, Parikrma opened a new ground to complement its central coaching programme launched last year, and now train kids four times a week. Having carved out a good reputation at inter-school and national level, winning Coca-Cola sponsored tournaments, the club turned organiser in creating the inaugural Parikrma Champions League, drawing together the best teams in the city for 48 matches over five days last year.
Raju said: “We found that there was no one tournament that got all the best teams of the city to play with each other. We wanted to give our children exposure to high level of football and determine who the real champion was. For the first time, the teams walked out through a tunnel onto the astro-turf, a matter of great excitement for the children who said they felt like ‘professionals’.”
Former Indian national team captain Baichung Bhutia attended the finals to give away the honours and plans for this year’s tournament are underway.
Individually a number of Parikrma’s best players have become stars at state level, and one player, Tong Mong, has gone on to play for the Indian Bank team in the Super League, one league below the Indian Premier League.
Raju believes sport is integral to the development of the children at the charity. He said: “On the field, only ability and passion count. Social and other man-made divisions are rendered irrelevant. Today, the opportunities to pursue one’s interest and ability in sport is great and talent and passion are all that are needed for a child in poverty to break that cycle once and for all.”
He also argues that India’s growing presence in international football – via the likes of Blackburn Rovers’ sponsor Venky’s and new FIFA-built academies – and football’s increasing popularity in the country offer opportunity.
“The time is ripe for children from poor backgrounds to make use of this,” said Raju. “These children come with great determination to play to their best and football, given it’s easy accessibility and low cost, provides them with that outlet to express themselves.”
Parikrma’s overarching goal is to ensure 90 per cent of its children go to college to study subjects like engineering, medicine, art, hotel management, science and nursing.
In footballing terms, its goals are equally ambitious, taking the team to victory in the national schools tournament, the Subroto Cup and aiming to “institutionalise excellence”.
As Raju beams over children learning to tell the time it is apparent that this excellence is going to come through nurture, careful teaching and a passion that knows no bounds.
Tags: Bangalore, Blackburn Rovers, Champion's League, Community Matters, Indian Premier League, Parikrma, Venky's