By Renu Rakesh
Thursday, September 15, 2011
An out-of-the way village in India has attracted an after-school field-hockey program run by a female player from Germany. At first the parents thought it was just for boys. But after a while that changed.
But something about Garh Himmat Singh struck a cord with Thumshirn.
"We took a walk in the small lanes and even visited some schools," she says. "I saw children sitting on the stone floor. The conditions were bad: Two teachers were responsible for four classes at the same time! English lessons were on the time table but since the teachers themselves couldn't speak the language, no one expected them to teach it to the kids. I saw a lot of English books lying around untouched in the principal's room. That's when I decided to help the children in some way."
In 2009 Thumshirn brought a mixed hockey team from Germany to the village. Through donations they were able to bring a carpet for the girls' school, some sweaters for the cold winters and school equipment and uniforms for those who couldn't afford them.
"That is how it began," she says.
In 2010, after the Hockey World Cup, the parents of some German national players who were en route to Agra came to the village. A veterans' hockey team from Vienna, Austria, followed.
In July of that year Thumshirn started the Hockeyvillage India project to train the local kids in hockey and give them English lessons.
At first the local parents ignored invitations to send their daughters for practice. But eventually, organizers say they began to understand that the program was also meant for girls.
On a bright day in August this year, 14 boys and seven girls took a train to Jaipur to play their first match against a team of Delhi school children. Thumshirn's team lost 6-0.
Yogendra Singh Naruka, 13, the captain, looks on the bright side.
"Only months back, we had no idea about how hockey is played and here we were playing a match with experienced players from a prestigious school. We were completely outplayed on the field but I can't even tell you how valuable an experience like this was for all of us," Yogendra says.
In Jaipur, the children met former Indian goalkeeper Baljit Singh Darwal, who joined them for lunch, while former national coach, Harendra Singh, came to Garh Himmat Singh a day earlier to play with the boys.
It was on that day that Weidemann and her friend Judith Woeff joined Hockeyvillage India as volunteers. Thumshirn began recruiting volunteers last summer.
"Two French girls stayed here for six weeks. Then a German girl was here for two months. There was a long gap in the winter because I was struggling with my business in Berlin and didn't find time to select volunteers. But in March this year, two German girls came for three months and Antje and Judith are here for six weeks," she says.
The volunteers, mostly students and hockey players from Germany, pay for their travel and food -- around $6 a day. They are provided with free accommodation, two mud houses with limited electricity and water supply.
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This article is adapted from one that was released by the Women's Feature Service. For more articles on women's issues log on to: http://www.wfsnews.org.
Renu Rakesh is a freelance journalist from the western Indian state of Rajasthan. She specializes in women-related issues.
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