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An inspiring visit to the Oscar Foundation

In this article

Kev Dhaliwal, Edinburgh Futures Institute Interim Director and Jude Henderson, Edinburgh Futures Institute Chief Operating Officer share their learning from a recent visit to the OSCAR Foundation in Mumbai, India.

A core purpose of the Edinburgh Futures Institute is to support our local communities as part of our social and civic responsibility. It is always humbling to connect with, understand, and partner with remarkable people around the world and to see how their actions are changing lives and having a lasting impact on their communities. Our learnings with partners around the world help us to look inwards and reflect on the power of values, culture, and purpose.

In February 2024, Edinburgh Futures Institute visited the OSCAR Foundation in Mumbai, India, a charity that uses the power of football to encourage children to stay in school and equip them with the skills to be resilient and future-ready. During our visit we met the OSCAR Foundation’s founder, Ashok Rathod, who shared with us what inspired him to start the OSCAR Foundation.

Ashok was born and brought up in the densely populated Ambedkar Nagar slum community in Mumbai. He had a very difficult childhood, but was fortunate that his uneducated parents insisted he go to school. An education gave Ashok the chance to create a better life, not just for him, but for his family and wider community. Meanwhile, many of his friends were falling victim to drink, drugs ,and crime, and the only solution their parents could think of was to force them into early marriage.

Ashok was determined to do something to stop this destructive cycle of poverty. He set up OSCAR with 18 school drop-outs, using football as a way to introduce the concept of going to school and teaching life skills. Ashok began with a simple mantra: ‘No School, No Football,’ where going to school is a precondition for students to be able to play football. This concept soon gathered pace, and in 2009, OSCAR International was founded after Ashok met others who were inspired by his activities.

The OSCAR Foundation’s objective is to ensure children and youth stay in school, so that they are able to discover, develop, and nurture talent, using football as a tool of engagement. The foundation continues to use the ‘No School, No Football’ policy ­ where they provide football and life skills sessions to children from underprivileged communities on the condition that they attend school regularly. The Foundation’s life skills lessons delivered by AIFF (All India Football Federation) accredited coaches include sessions on Empathy, Communication Skills, Problem Solving, and Creative Thinking. Through its Football, Education and Young Leader programmes, OSCAR has empowered 15,000 children and youth in low-income communities in India since 2010.

A group of children in red and white uniforms are playing soccer on a field. Some adults in casual clothing are also present, seemingly guiding them. A small structure or shed and trees are in the background.

A man wearing a garland of flowers is shaking hands with a group of children in a sports field. The children, dressed in red and white soccer uniforms, are holding soccer balls. Another person is photographing the scene, and there is a netted fence in the background.

Through the OSCAR Foundation, Ashok wants to create a world which inspires young people to become role models and to mobilise their community to make a positive social impact. It aims to encourage leadership, teamwork, and provide educational support to young people from disadvantaged communities and equip them with the tools to fight poverty.

Ashok’s aims at the Oscar Foundation resonate with our desire at the Futures Institute to contribute to our local communities in Edinburgh, and even across the UK, where childhood poverty is also pressing issue.

On our visit to the OSCAR Foundation, we were able to see the effects of an inspiring learning environment on children. We saw happy and engaged children learning digital literacy on computers in a small classroom in Ambedkar Nagar, taught by an OSCAR leader. And we even played football with them! The joy, energy, and love of OSCAR was evident in the faces of the children we met. The power of sport to widen participation and engage the local communities  was evident during our visit. We saw many children walking in the slum community wearing Oscar football shirts. Ashok and his team are inspirations to us all, attesting to the power of a values-driven approach to the entrenched challenge of childhood poverty.

In June 2024, Ashok will be visiting Edinburgh Futures Institute representing OSCAR India, along with a representative from OSCAR International here in the UK as we embark on a partnership with this inspiring organisation to learn about ways in which we can work with our local communities to fight childhood poverty and to widen our participation as part of our social and civic duty. We are looking forward to learning more from our partners and creating a lasting difference for our communities.

Further information

OSCAR Foundation

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