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“With the Street Child Cricket World Cup being hosted in Chennai last month, it was a perfect opportunity for me to take some volunteers to visit Amos Trust’s partner and the inspiration for our visit, Karunalaya.” Katie Hagley writes.
Stories of Hope
Doing Hope in... India
Words: Katie Hagley
Images: Mark Kensett
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Good News From Chennai
We visited Karunalaya’s boys’ and girls’ shelters, played games, danced and sang with the kids and met the staff team. The love and family-feel within the shelters is palpable.
Paul Sunder-Singh, Karunalaya’s founder, proudly told us that over 4,000 children have benefitted from Karunalaya’s care over the years, be it short or longer term, reeling off the successes of many who have lived there and telling us how many return to visit now they have families of their own. All the children were so excited about the cricket and keen to come and watch and cheer the Karunalaya team (aka India Tigers) on.
Paul Sunder-Singh, Karunalaya’s founder, proudly told us that over 4,000 children have benefitted from Karunalaya’s care over the years, be it short or longer term.
We received the warmest of welcomes as we visited some of the 21 pavement-dwelling and slum communities that benefit from Karunalaya’s programmes. We met with young people in supplementary classes on the streets, the sports programmes (cricket and football), children’s camps, rights training, counselling, leadership training and much more. The number of young people remaining in education with Karunalaya’s support continues to astound me, with so many studying for degrees in history, economics, maths and social work, to name a few.
Warm welcomes: Young children from the street-dwelling communities of Chennai, India.
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In one community, we attended a mobile eye clinic, which was happening after Pavement Dwellers Rights Association members petitioned for it. This resulted in free eye checks across all the communities and cheaper glasses.
Whilst there, I bumped into Hema and recognised her from my last visit a year ago, when she had called us over to her shelter to tell us that although she did not do anything with Karunalaya, they had really looked after her during the pandemic.
When I approached her at the clinic this time, she was eager to tell me that she now does more with Karunalaya — her daughter has joined the football classes and supplementary lessons. Furthermore, Hema had been busy helping the children from the shelter and communities to get a dance ready for the opening ceremony of the Street Child Cricket World Cup. As her daughter laughed and played with the children waiting for their eye tests, it was clear they were no longer living on the edge.
Street Child Cricket World Cup
This brings us to the Street Child Cricket World Cup (SCCWC), which consisted of 19 teams: 7 Indian teams and 12 international teams of young people aged 14-18. For most, this was their first time in another country and first time on a plane. Many had struggled to get visas and birth certificates and ID, allowing them to get passports, but all were delighted to be there.
Each team was welcomed on arrival, with the 70 volunteers lining up cheering, whooping and clapping and letting them all know from day one that each and every one of them was somebody — something they would hear and be shown every single day.
For most, this was their first time in another country and first time on a plane. Many had struggled to get visas and birth certificates and ID, allowing them to get passports, but all were delighted to be there.
The opening ceremony took place at a local school. One of the week’s highlights was seeing 40 children we had met the week before with Karunalaya (both at the shelter and from the community), sharing a fantastic dance routine to welcome the Street Child Cricket World Cup to Chennai.
The crowd was on their feet and started dancing along with them. I definitely had something in my eye while watching them dance. As Paul told me afterwards, “This dance is the win. No matter what happens, our whole community has been involved in this show”.
Pep Talk: Paul Sunder-Singh from Karunalaya in Chennai, India, giving last minute coaching to the India Tigers cricket team.
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In the run-up to the tournament, we’d spent time with the 8 young people taking part in the SCCWC (4 boys and 4 girls), along with their two youth leaders, Paulraj and Nagalakshmi, who had won the SCCWC in England back in 2019.
This year’s team captain, Monisha, had also played and won at Lord’s in 2019 and recently scored one of the highest marks in her public exams — an incredible achievement for someone studying under streetlights. She has now started a degree in history with a view to training for the Police. She and the rest of the team were so excited about Chennai hosting the tournament and welcoming all the international teams, and of course, they had every intention of winning again!
This year’s team captain, Monisha, had also played and won at Lord’s in 2019 and recently scored one of the highest marks in her public exams — an incredible achievement for someone studying under streetlights.
Seeing the Karunalaya team arrive at the hotel ready to participate in this year’s SCCWC was such a joy, particularly for those for whom it was all new. They arrived a little late (always the way with those closest) partly due to Paul’s insistence that they all complete school that day — education is key at Karunalaya.
Durga could not get the words out quick enough as she described her room to me. She told me who she had met so far, what the food was like, and how good it was to be there. She and her team-mate Tamasara live in the girls’ shelter and work in Karunalaya’s shop as they are no longer in education. I think they were pretty excited about a few days off, too.
Team Captain: Monisha, who played and won at Lord’s in 2019 who recently scored one of the highest marks in her public exams.
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The tournament is not just about cricket; all the young people take part in Congress, which is a chance to share their stories with one another, to think about their hopes and dreams and the issues that prevent them, and finish with a statement to their Governments and local communities demanding their rights and that they are heard.
I worked with the Mauritius team (as one of only a few French speakers present) while my colleague Meg worked with the young people from Karunalaya. There was so much overlap between teams on the issues they discussed, the importance of safety and how unsafe their homes and the streets are. The importance of high-quality, free education and healthcare. The vital need to have ID to go to school or hospitals or get a job. And finally, gender and the need for far more opportunities and resources for girls forced onto the streets.
There was also lots of fun. The Late Show allowed each team to put on a performance and there were trips to the beach, the local water park and a barbecue hosted by the Deputy High Commissioner.
The vital need to have ID to go to school or hospitals or get a job. And finally, gender and the need for far more opportunities and resources for girls forced onto the streets.
And then, of course, there was the cricket, where the spirit of the game was much in evidence: singing and drumming on the buses to and from the pitch, teams cheering on their new-found friends and opponents, music blasting and much laughter. With temperatures and humidity of 35 degrees, we were all glad when the hoses came out to cool us down.
Six! One of the young men from the India Tigers team strikes out.
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Sadly, Karunalaya did not lift the trophy this time around. Still, they did play some great matches, winning pretty much every game until the semi-finals, where they were beaten by Zimbabwe who went on to an all-African final, which was eventually won by Uganda — a really strong team.
In the Congress, Karunalaya’s players highlighted how gender inequality in their communities affects many aspects of girls’ lives, including whether they can play sports. The level playing field at the Street Child Cricket World Cup, fielding teams of equal numbers of boys and girls, helped to demonstrate girls’ equal rights to play.
In the Congress, Karunalaya’s players highlighted how gender inequality in their communities affects many aspects of girls’ lives, including whether they can play sports.
Karunalaya are using the impact of the Street Child Cricket World Cup coming to their city as a platform to help end gender-based violence against girls and women living in pavement-dwelling communities. Over the past year, we have been focusing on raising funds for Karunalaya to enable them to do this — through women’s rights training, supporting girls to remain in education, advocating and awareness-raising about gender-based violence, creative community education to reduce early marriage, and much more.
Thank you for all your support with this and to those of you who, in the last 2 weeks, rose to the challenge of our final appeal, which meant we could raise a further £8,500 before the last ball of the competition was hit. We really appreciate your support. You can read more about their plans to build on the SCCWC and how you can help.
Read more about Karualaya’s plans to build on the SCCWC.
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