Away to a Match!

” I come to the school everyday at 8 o’clock, ma’am ,” said Ajit.

“Why Ajit, doesn’t school start at 9.30 a.m. only?”

” I want to play, ma’am”

“What games do you play , Ajit?”

” Football, ma’am .”

A way had to be found to encourage these keen footies. Efforts to arrange for  coaching had so far not found the right person. Why not a football match was a brainwave that came floating in. And on that thought came another, Only Blue Mountain School will entertain these boys.

One call to Sophia, Headmistress and things got into motion immediately. Two coaches from the school came the next day to see our football ground ; theirs having some construction going on. Understandably, they were not too impressed. We will find a way they promised. And they did. They roped in students to clear stones and sand from parts of the ground . Students from 6th to 8th standards were ready and excited  to play against our team.

We are not an organised team. We’ve never played anywhere before, we warned them. Our children too are just learning the coaches assured us.

Just getting a team of 12 from the 3 classes was a task. Added to it was the fear that one or two would default , Saturday being a holiday. But the boys were super excited. Do we wear jerseys ma’am they asked. Next time we promised.

A van was arranged. The boys were ready from 11 a.m. , well before the scheduled 1.30 p.m. They had to be shooed home to eat some food before the match. Next time, we will give them lunch too, Sophia said later.  The girls too came, dressed colorfully as a bunch of birds.

We set off, with lots of singing and dancing on the way. At the school, we were led to the playground. It seemed huge. The stands were being built and everyone settled in.

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Coach Girish  followed protocol with both teams getting lined up and being introduced as proper gentlemen.  Kick off.. and the match began.

The audience was screaming , cheering and clapping for both teams.  BMS was more of a team and scored quickly. TMS school put up a great defence and kept the ball in one side of the ground. Half time came and the coach huddled with BMS, giving them plays. The TMS team stood forlorn. Until the van driver came along and got them into a huddle  giving them his views. Girish came later to encourage and give TMS some tips.

Everyone was hoping for a goal from TMS and just before time, they scored !

Sophia, graciously congratulated both teams and presented the TMS team with two balls.

All tired and very happy, we went in for a good tea followed by a tour of the school.

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When is the return match the boys asked?

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Up me Up High!

Up me up, Daddy,
Up me up high!

Up you go and down again,
My little pumpkin pie!

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“It is the child in man that is the source of his uniqueness and creativeness, and the playground is the optimal milieu for the unfolding of his capacities and talents”.

Eric Hoffer

Looking at the desolate concrete of the School at Thalaiyattumund, we decided to create a small play area for the junior children, a swing, a slide and if we could stretch the budget, add a seesaw.

When we consulted the ever-buoyant HM, Radha, she said “Why buy? Use the equipment stored in our shed!” To our horror, she assured us that a couple of swings, a climbing stack, a seesaw, volleyball posts, were all kept in storage for a number of years under lock and key.

Recovering, we got happy, thinking that our budget would be greatly benefited. Little did we realise that resurrecting old equipment would actually stretch the budget. Dealing with masons, smart-ass welders and  ‘mud-guys’  took a toll on patience, time and resources. Work was done, undone and redone.

The slide was the easiest part. Ordered from a manufacturer from Coimbatore, it got majestically installed  in a corner of the play area. As a bonus we bought a rocking seesaw which needs no installation.

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But then, children sliding down got hurt when they hit the rough concrete . The landing area beneath all the play equipment had to be covered with a soft material. Mud contractors quoted ridiculous amounts. Sand prices  had shot up incredibly. The felt like soft landing material seen in the play areas of fancy high rises was too fancily priced.

Research on the Net, consultations with a Professor at IIT, Chennai ; trips to school playgrounds followed. Local play areas had  beaten down grass underneath.  The IIT Proff suggested wood chips or strips of old rubber tyres instead. The new ideas met with resistance from the school staff . Eventually they turned out to be too expensive and we had to go back to haggle with the  the mud contractors.

One fine morning.. ‘ Its done’ he announced. Rushing there we found that he had covered the area with more rubble than mud. Asked him to remove it . While we searched for an alternative. For days after that, he would appear like Hamlet’s Ghost whenever we were in the vicinity, asking to be paid for the ‘work done’.

More consultations, haggling , and several peace talks later, he accepted to get better mud in place and cover with turf. The work is still in progress.

But looking at the happy faces of the children, its all worth it , don’t you think?

New Shoes! Pretty Shoes!

As a spin off of the Sports Program, we wanted to give all the kids sports shoes so they could feel some pride in them and be encouraged to play.

The idea of collecting used  shoes was discussed and dropped as being too cumbersome. Matching shoes to each child would be difficult and may not happen. New shoes would be easier and much nicer for the children.

We decided to put out a campaign on Facebook. But even before we did that, contributions from friends and family began coming in which covered our costs and even stretched to a pair of socks for each child.

The shoes were sourced from a local shoe shop. They came and measured the kids sizes and delivered them to the school.

Distribution was on 22nd February, 2017 . It was a wonderful day of happiness for all of us, children and adults. Shalini who contributed her first salary, Desiree, Nivishna, Sangeetha, Roopa, Prema, and Kalyani happily distributed the shoes

Using the Sports Field

What started as a wild wish to create a skating rink for the children of the locality tamed down into practical , doable use of the playground next to the school.

The school could not claim exclusive rights to the playground because it is the only open space in the village and hence used for all kinds of games and village festivals.

Deciding to hold games from 4.30 to 5.30 every evening was the first step. Making it alternate days for boys and girls was the next. Balls and nets were bought. The children were enthusiastic and the games began  with volleyball and the more popular , football. The boys knew much more about the rules and taught us which we passed on to the girls.

Claiming the field for the one-hour has been a long and drawn out battle. First it was driving out the cattle which were used to grazing there. Then it was tackling the older boys of the village who had long established rights for cricket, marble and general hanging out. Cajoling, talking, persuasion, threats.. each day was a new trial.

Its taken more than 3 months to establish routines. Running, warm up exercises, and then the games.  The children are now stronger, faster and quick to pick up the ball and reluctant to let go.