On 19th April, we were delighted to welcome the founder of the OSCAR Foundation (Organization for Social Change, Awareness and Responsibility), Ashok Shankar Rathod, to St Mary's Calne.  Ashok gave an inspirational talk in Chapel, with Ruby, an OSCAR international young leader, about the OSCAR Foundation and the #kicklikeagirl tour which runs from 29th September to 13th October.  This tour aims to provide underprivileged girls from a Mumbai slum and rural Jharkhand a life-changing football, educational and cultural experience in the UK. Last year, Ashok organised a football educational tour for 14 U12 boys from the slums; with the help from supporting schools in the UK, these boys were the first in their families to get passports and to experience life outside the slums. St Mary’s Calne pupil, Amber (UVI Form) was inspired when meeting this group of boys and suggested that St Mary’s Calne get involved with the girl’s UK football tour, which encourages the girls to reach their maximum potential.

Ashok explained how he started the foundation in 2006 at the age of 18 years old, as he saw how many of his friends were dropping out of school and spending any money they earnt on smoking and drinking. Parents thought that marriage would be the solution for many of the children, but marrying at a young age just created further problems, as many then had large families to feed and were on very low incomes. Ashok decided to set up the OSCAR Foundation to encourage children from the slums to play sport in a team; this unique programme not only teaches sport to children but also helps them to understand the value of education.

Ashok explained how life in the slums is very tough, with no running water, no showers and crowded conditions. He was determined not only to involve boys in the programme but to engage the girls and initially started with a group of ten girls. Telling their parents he was taking them for a picnic (rather than to play football!), they allowed them to participate, and a football team was soon born! Having never played football before, he explained to the girls that there are three main rules – don’t pick the ball up, stop if the referee blows the whistle, and stop the other side from scoring! In their first match, all the girls defended the goal, so although there was not a lot of attacking, the game went to penalties! The OSCAR Foundation now has 1,400 girls participating in the programme who are also inspiring other girls to change their mindset, to stick with their education and to have confidence in what they can achieve.

Over the next week Ashok will be running a slum-style football session at St Mary's Calne and meeting with the LVI girls who will be spearheading the school's fundraising efforts, with a key focus being a 12-hour ‘Danceathon’ on Saturday, 9th June. The new Head Girl’s Team will be writing to parents very shortly with further details which will include a link to a dedicated fundraising page and we look forward to the whole school community getting involved and supporting this campaign.

To view the video from last year's OSCAR Foundation UK tour for U12 boys, please click here

For further information about the OSCAR Foundation, please click here