Updated: Jul 25
What do the children love doing the most and never ever get tired of? Nothing, but "play" gives them that absolute happiness!
Last year's Sports Day event was cherished by all the students and villagers as they kept seeking another such event throughout the year. We geared up again for recreating the same magic with more surprises and an action-packed day scheduled for 19th Feb 2023.
On the sunny Sunday morning of 19th Feb 2023, over 470 participants including over 170 kids from our ThinkCenters from all over Deogarh gathered together at the venue, our Jharagogua land. The young battalion was ready to give their best.
The day started as early as 4:00 am, as many of us traveled from Bhubaneswar and landed early at Tainsar, Deogarh. By 5:30 am, we could see the children and parents gathering around villages ready to be picked up as the event location was around 16km away across the Kailash Ghat. We started getting messages from other locations that the kids were ready there too. The atmosphere was filled with enthusiasm and excitement.
By 7:30 am our ground at the remote village of Jharagogua came alive with the sounds of cheers, whistles, and the thundering footsteps of children. It was our annual sports day. Slowly the audience, the participants, the volunteers, the mentors, the parents, and the villagers graced the land with their presence.
The festivity was on, there were balloons and sports day banners flying everywhere, designed and painted by our young talents. Being mindful of our environment, we take every possible opportunity to learn and practice. The kids hand-painted all the banners on cotton canvas as we avoid printing on synthetic/plastic canvas.
Our planning had started by mid-Nov-2022 for an adventurous and memorable event. This time, we got cellphone network there, the cellular data, which helped us in our planning and coordination.
Twelve exciting and interesting games were planned along. Of the many, there was the ultimate fun "Hen Fight" (not the real hen, though), the reign of strength and muscle power "Tug of War", everyone's favorite "Sack & Three Legged Race", the mind and body balance game and not to forget the staple game in every event "The Musical chair". A day filled with fun, laughter, vigor, entertainment, cultural events adventure, and not to forget the delicious food.
The day was not only about running, throwing, and tugging; it also had a lovely surprise, a handful of cultural activities which included dance performances and skit performances. It was a feast for the eyes and a day to cherish for long.
This year the children and offline mentors, came up with something new and impressive for the audience. Newness! Who doesn't love surprises!! The cultural activities were an exemplary display of talent and a showcase of social awareness. The kids performed skits on Deforestation and Educational Awareness. How cutting trees is affecting the environment and their own lives and how education is transforming their personal lives. They portrayed their own difficulties, experiences, and solutions under the guidance of Santosh Sir and Anastasia Madam. There was dance, music and many more. It was an emotional and proud moment.
All the participants were encouraged and winners were recognized with rewards and certificates of merit and participation.
To run the whole day event, there were arrangements for breakfast and lunch. Unlimited water too. For medical emergencies, an all-around First Aid Kit was readily available. The day ended on a cooler note where the kids could relish "the finger-licking ice-lollies", thoughtfully sponsored by one of the guests.
An eventful day filled with chitters chatters, chirps, applauds, music, dance, cohesive learning, and memories forever, thus came to an end. We kept our promise - "recreated yet another nostalgic and remarkable day together as a family growing gradually". Together on a journey of creating endless good memories and our continuous efforts to make the whys and hows meet continues.!! Hurray!
Looking at the areas of interest of students and our growing family, henceforth we may call this an "Event of Sports and Culture". Besides, we may need to consider a multi-day event. Anyway, we have got a lot to think about and plan.
We will return with an even more exciting story, next year. - Stay tuned!
For all those readers, who find pleasure in reading, please continue...
We have got some real adventure for you.
A) Why Sports & how is this related to "what we do"...
At EK ASHA, we believe in ensuring Holistic education for the needy. The teachings and the learnings are not all spoon-fed, but self-driven. Our approaches to building a better-transformed society are intentional.
While sports are not only about playing, winning, or losing but understanding the game; strategy, teamwork, synergy, participation, and sportsmanship spirit. Such events provide our students an opportunity to learn these fundamental qualities of life, which shall help them in shaping their future.
Winning is not everything. The joy of participation, the will to win, the desire to succeed, and the urge to reach your full potential are the keys to unlocking personal excellence.
B) Now, the adventure part... (a bit long but quite a dramatic experience)
If you find it thrilling, passing through a jungle and the steep ghat, imagine conducting a sports event with close to 500 people coming from over 10 villages through such roads can be quite challenging!
Challenges were many but the enthusiasm surpassed it all... There was no drinking water, no electricity, no shops if you run out of supplies, no restrooms, and certainly no one to seek help if your vehicle breaks down. luckily, there was spotty access to the cellphone network this year, which is a great relief since last year's event. Also, there was no forest fire like the previous year. But we had our share of adventure, this year, and quite a memorable one. The charm is not only in the awards and success stories that we typically get to hear but in those untold stories that stay behind. Those are the real stories... The excitement of the wilderness, exploration of the waterfall, the calmness, the majestic sunrise and sunset, the fear of encountering wild animals, and all those stories that cross your mind. Among all these is the fear of getting stuck in the middle of a reserve forest unprepared is the captain of all. To our luck, the vehicle that carried villagers from Tainsar (a village 16km from the place of the event) broke down just outside the venue on its return. It was around 5:30 pm by then. Those who travel know, the sun sets a bit sooner in hills and mountains and it gets darker much quicker. It got around 45 adults, primarily women, stuck in the middle of a dense forest with no access to public transport. This meant 4 trips in a vehicle like a bolero and that's four to 6 hours. If you have dealt with villagers before, you can imagine the scene. Since they were mostly the parents of the students we have been teaching over the past 2 years, they were all very supportive but one cannot ignore the anxiety in their eyes. The vehicle broke down just 500 meters from us. Yet, some of us, who traveled from Bhubaneswar and Hyderabad to attend the event, had no idea of this. One by one, all the vehicles left carrying the children and people. Those who came from the nearby Jharagogua and adjacent villages preferred to walk back through the hills and forest. That's their daily path that reduces their journey by 2 km if they had to travel by paved road. Anyways, we were waiting for the vehicle to return and pick us up. The tent guy, the water guy, and everyone else left slowly. We had a few volunteers left with us. It was pitch dark by then. The women in the group were anxious. We had to catch the last bus at 9:30 pm back to Bhubaneswar. We had no way to contact anyone due to the poor cellphone network. We started to realize the life of the people who live in the forest and their hardships. While for some of us, it was a moment of realization of the comfort we enjoy and assurance that we have chosen the right place to help people, for rest it was the worry. Worry about how to return back, what if we get stranded here all night...etc... but also worry about how we go about building what we have aimed to build. All the eyes were looking at Sambit Bhai for an answer. He was calm and perhaps that was not very comforting for a few. Well, where is Bijay? He could surely give us some hope. Suddenly Bijay and his elder brother Tapan returned and it brought a sign of relief. Although Bijay was trying to tell us something, we weren't able to hear. His voice was completely down due to cold and the day-long sought to manage all these in an open place. He said, he is making arrangements, the Boleros are making trips to help reach villagers reach home first and then we will be shifted. He has also, arranged another vehicle so all of us could travel. It was a little over 7:30 pm by then, we still held our hope as we have one hour of drive before we could catch a bus although winding and climbing roads were not easy during the dark, people had no choice left. For a few, it was an opportunity to light up and enjoy the campfire as it gave warmth, the only source of light left in the jungle, and assurance of safety from wild animals. It also provided an opportunity to sing around and dance around, for some it gave the perfect opportunity to listen to childhood ghost stories. For Sambit Bhai and Siddheswar, it was an opportunity to gaze at the open sky and do some night photography. It's wonderful, how a tiny source of light could make transformative impacts on our lives. Finally, one Bolero came to our rescue. It was around 8:30 pm. Mitali didi and her husband Siddhartha Bhai hadn't eaten the entire day due to Ekadashi, a day with religious and astronomical significance. Everyone jumped onto the vehicle without much delay. Bijay, his brother, and a few other volunteers were leading us on two-wheelers. Oh yes, I forgot to mention, Gautam Bhai and Siddheswar Bhai had taken an earlier vehicle about an hour ago. They were instructed to keep the seats for us. Anyways, we started... We were in the middle of the hilly terrain and our vehicle stopped. The engine failed to start. Now, we were completely in the jungle, there was no hope to get any support at that time of the night. It was pitch dark. The guys on bikes had passed us as they had to catch the bus and make it wait for us. You can now imagine the situation. We are in a vehicle, on a deep forest hilly terrain, getting late for a bus to catch, hungry with 1 baby girl, 4 ladies, and four adult men including the driver stranded in pitch dark with no hope of getting any support from anyone. There was no cell phone network either. Bijay, his brother, and the entire gang returned to our rescue, they had a hunch something was wrong. There is something called the 3rd sense and it worked. The next 30 min was an extraordinary effort by those young men to get the vehicle started and get us back to safety. The vehicle did start for a brief few minutes and took us a few hundred meters further ahead into the forest and towards the top of the hill. but it didn't last long. It was getting dramatic and a perfect Hollywood movie scene. But there is more to come. The hero has to win. Bijay finally was able to contact someone across the hill in a village called Kailash, apparently, the name of the ghat is Kailash Ghat road. Well, a driver agreed to come and pick us up. By then, some of us had lost hope of returning back to Bhubaneswar, that night. It took around 15 min for the vehicle to come to us. Tapan Bhai, Bijay's brother, the driver, and two other volunteers stayed back with the vehicle and we came back. Bijay lead us to the front with his bike. We reached his house at Tainsar but the Bus had just left, it was around 9:45 pm. We had built up hope by then, giving up is just not in our blood. We had another chance to catch the bus at Deogarh. We quickly picked up all our bags from Bijay's house and left for Deogarh almost instantly. We caught the bus just in time and picked our seats. Oh, what a relief! But, Tapan Bhai and other volunteers who stayed back with the vehicle in the middle of the forest, what about them? Bijay's mother was worried and we are sure the family of others who were stuck in the forest were worried too. The forest is an elephant corridor and houses many wild animals. We were all very worried for them. There was a sense of guilt within us that these young men are stuck in the middle of a forest. Sambit Bhai kept in touch with Bijay and Tapan Bhai. They were stuck till midnight. Finally, they were able to get back home around 2:30 am. These are the silent contributors and heroes, many of us forget to remember their names. Just like shepherds, no one members their names. But no good deeds could be possible without them. We thank all of the unsung heroes from the bottom of our hearts. Stay tuned for the next one and don't forget to join us and support our journey to teach the underserved in such remote places. Imagine the life of people in such a place. Imagine if someone in their family may be needing healthcare support, imagine kids going to school crossing forests and hills in the rainy season, cold winters, and forest fires during summer. They still lack access to basic facilities in an era of cyber communication where the world is connected so closely, there still are people living without access to basic needs. I remember an incident from the last Annual sports day event as a few villagers approached Sambit bhai requesting for building a school or a hospital. Some of them sighted such heart-wrenching life stories where people in their families have died before an ambulance could reach them, and students are having to drop out of schools due to inaccessibility. We surely have got a lot to do because we have got the capacity to do it. Hope this sheds some light on the true life scenarios, hope it encourages you to join us and support the needy. We are hopeful because, together we can and together we are!
Bagmita Tripathy & Sambit Das