Last month, Floris Jan and I went to India on behalf of Bovelander Foundation. This was already my fifth visit to India for the foundation. We visited a few of the active projects in Jharkhand, the Tata Hockey Academy, and attended various meetings. In addition, we started a new project that will be setup in Maharasthra and visited schools in the surrounding area. There was also a fundraising dinner organized by the Rotary in Pune.
From 2016 to 2020, I have been involved with One Million Hockey Legs (the predecessor of Bovelander Foundation). As of 2020, I have been a board member (secretary) for the Bovelander Foundation.
There are many different reasons to why I feel such a strong connection to the Bovelander Foundation, from India being my native country, hockey (the sport that I played for a long time), to what the Bovelander Foundation stands for.
It is enriching to be able to dedicate myself to the children in my native country. What is rewarding to see is how the children develop quicker socially and benefit them for the rest of their lives. Which just shows how valuable the programmes offered by the foundation are. The sport itself helps develop many life skills that will hopefully help these children throughout their lives.
During our visit, a hockey festival was organized in Khunti. Floris Jan and I played hockey with the children and you could see how much fun they got out of playing hockey, and so did we. At the Naval Tata Hockey Academy I was able to experience how passionate and professional the coaches, trainers, staff were about hockey, and how they are able to get the most out of the children. At a boys meeting at the Academy, questions were asked on how they could stand up for themselves. That moment was great because I could see the boys become mentally stronger. I realized that in the Netherlands, people do not always recognize what a team sport can consciously and unconsciously do to you.
The skills that you develop from the sport you will be able to apply in other areas in your life. The positive feelings that you get from playing the sport, can create an open mindset, so you are more open to learn new things. This is exactly what we see by the children in India.
One of the new projects to be set up in Maharasthra has a special meaning to me. Floris Jan and I visited the orphanage where I lived until I was three years old. I know what it is like to live at an orphanage, and the simple things we take for granted in life. Over the years, I have visited the orphanage several times and have seen for myself how attentive volunteers are to the children. I am proud to see the orphanage where I have lived can participate in the project and I think it is a fantastic opportunity for the children.
We also visited the English Medium School in Kedgaon. The headmistress of the school was very enthusiastic about setting up a grassroots programme there. She is sports-minded and used to play hockey herself. She emphasized to us how important it is for the children in the countryside to play hockey, and explained what sport can do for them. It is beautiful to see that hockey is still popular in India.
Besides visiting the hockey projects and seeing everything it brings, we also got the chance to spend time on fundraising.
When I told my Indian cousin about One Million Legs and Bovelander Foundation a few years ago, he was immediately enthusiastic and brought me in contact with his Rotary friends. This Rotary Pune organized a fundraising dinner during our visit. The dinner was held on International Women’s Day, so we decided to use the proceeds from the dinner to sponsor a female coach in the grassroots programme in Jharkhand for a year. It was touching to see how dedicated these people are to helping you. I know they won’t stop there, as they will continue to support us in the future.
The dedication from all the parties involved, from all the different events we attended, like our project partners CInI and Meljol, Tata Hockey Academy, NGO’s, Company Visits, to the heart-warming dinner by the Rotary Club Pune, inspired me. But also the drive and enthusiasm of the Pune Hockey Friends (The Dribblers), CTC Champions Training Centre of Siddharth Pandey and Devindar Walmiki.
The visit to the English Medium School and the Mukti Mission where I witnessed the positivity and creativity in everyone, made this trip so worthwhile.
It motivated me, and gave me a lot of energy for the next visit in April.