Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Sarah's Reflection on her experience in India with Goals for Girls

This reflection was written by Sarah Furth:

There hasn't been a day since I got back that multiple memories from India have crossed my thoughts. The trip was so incredibly amazing and beautiful and exceeded all my expectations. It has been about three weeks since we returned to Portland and I am still overwhelmed with everything I was fortunate enough to experience with the Goals for Girls program. Not until I got home was I able to completely digest what had just happened. The emotions that I felt during those two weeks are still so raw in my mind. India was a humbling and rewarding experience beyond any words.  I have laughed, cried, and smiled as I have reflected on the trip. The first week in India was spent at the Rising Star campus in Kanchipuram. Rising Star is  like a boarding school, mainly one that reaches out to kids whose families are affected by leprosy.

The girls from Rising Star broke the walls we (the American girls) had up. As the week progressed, were all laughing, holding hands, telling jokes, playing soccer, exchanging stories, and learning from each other. We were able to go out into a leprosy colony and help a mobile clinic treat the patients. We helped build a road, named Goals for Girls Avenue, on the campus for the new medical building and planted banana plants, eggplants, and peppers in the fields. We participated in countless life skills activities with the girls. We tie­dyed t­shirts, made color team flags, competed in a mini­ Olympics, and learned traditional Indian dances. Conversations about goal setting, the future, and self­confidence were frequent. Each of the girls had big dreams of becoming a doctor, PE teacher, or a part of the police force. And I hope each of then beats the stigma associated with leprosy and fulfills her dreams. They all have the skills to do it.            

We scrimmaged a boys’ soccer team called Pathways from another nearby non­profit organization. Girls versus boys. Not something that is necessarily expected in India. Every afternoon consisted of soccer. We taught the girls basic dribbling, passing, and shooting through our own organized clinics. We later did the same for the other kids at the school. The younger kids would grab me and ask my name, where I was from, what my family was like, what we were doing at Rising Star...ask to take a picture.  I can still see their smiling, curious, innocent faces. So much The girls we worked with were teaching the other kids how to play soccer. They were telling me how they were going to start playing with the boys. They all had changed so much within the week, growing more confident in their soccer skills and their desire to be heard. I shared
 my experiences in front of the entire Rising Star School on the day we left. This was by far one of the most overwhelming, beautiful, emotional, and empowering weeks of my life.

Next stop was Bangalore. The main event was a soccer clinic in the middle of the city. We partnered with several programs, the main one Dream A Dream that does similar life skills trainings with many schools throughout Bangalore. There was no grass on the field, just dusty dirt. But it was decorated with circus­like banners around the field and was prepared to host about 500 people. Ian and Cindy ran a coaches clinic in the morning and we demonstrated as the team being Girls from all the schools began arriving in their team uniforms. We did large group life skills activities. The Oregon and North Carolina girls were divided into groups and paired to play with an Indian team. The cement bleachers were packed with other students, boys and girls. The round robin tournament began. My team, the Sparkling Rainbows, made it to the final game. My team had played a little soccer before, but I we played in more games with them and won, it was obvious they wanted to win. They all absorbed what I suggested they do on the field. We didn't win, but it was amazing to be a part of this city tournament for the long, hot day. It was a really big deal for Dream A Dream, and my adrenaline didn't stop until dinner time.

We also visited a microfinance business in Bangalore, Janalakshmi, that gives loans specifically to women so they can start their own businesses. In groups, we were taken out into the field. My group went to a women's home in a Muslim community. We were able to go inside the house (6 by 7ft single room) and ask the smiling women and her daughter all about her business, which was selling the traditional Indian night dress to local women. All the neighbors came to see us, let us hold their babies, and told us more about the women's business. That is one thing I love about the Indian culture; the sense of family in a community. Everyone is so kind and welcoming and they will share what little they have with you.

Delhi was the final destination and we geared up for more soccer.  The main partners in Delhi were Anglian Football, CEQUIN, and YUWA. The first day we hosted a soccer clinic at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi. This beautiful facility recently upgraded for the 2010 Commonwealth Games. With the Shakira Africa song playing in the background, it felt like an Olympic Stadium. The fog gave way to rays of sunshine as we set up the field and girls began to hop off the busses and pour into the stadium, lace up their cleats, and run onto the field ready to play. We ran different stations, working with girls of all ages to teach them a fun little game or a new move. We later divided into teams and scrimmaged each other. I met a girl who plays for the Indian youth national team. She has been to Sri Lanka twice and Europe to play. Overall, it was a very successful day.            

YUWA is a program that was started by a man, Franz Gansler, from Minnesota. He has been living in India for the last 5 years. YUWA is using soccer to combat human trafficking, female illiteracy, and child marriage in Jarkhand, India's most corrupt area. Franz and Rose had brought twenty two girls on a 48 hour train ride across India to come play soccer with the American girls. And were they quite the soccer players. They practice every day on the small field they have. They had never played on a regular soccer field before but you never would have guessed by the way they played together. Franz is hoping to bring the team to the United States next summer to play. We spent some more time with the YUWA girls later away from the soccer We attended an ICRW conference with other non­profit organizations that are working to empower women in India. The conference was mainly for Goals for Girls to share what we were doing. I was on a panel with several other girls that spoke about what we had experienced, what we had gained from playing soccer for so long, and how the game compared for girls in India. This was a really professional experience and it was neat to talk with these other business people about the work they were doing.

The final day was a tournament day back at the stadium before bittersweet goodbyes to everyone, especially the YUWA girls, who we had grown so close to in a matter of three days. As Ian writes, “When you peel back the superficial layers that make these American and Indian girls different, you find countless similarities between them; one in particular was the joy the game of soccer brings.”

 We were all changed in drastic ways. We toppled our walls and allowed ourselves to be completely open to all the beautiful chaos India has to offer. I had no idea how or if I was even going to be able to make a difference in a girl's life in such a short period of time, but now I know I did. I had to step out of my comfort zone at first, but within the first week it felt natural to be speaking in front of everyone, demonstrating a drill, or sharing my memories from the day. I was simply myself and I tried my best to lead by example. The movement I was able to be a part of with Goals for Girls that changed the lives of many Indian girls, and in return, changed my own.

I cannot begin to express my gratitude for Goals for Girls and everyone who made this trip possible. The way the west coast and east coast girls came together during this trip was pretty cool. We didn't know each other at all but that initial awkward, shy feeling quickly changed to a sister feeling. We faced these uncomfortable situations together and were so focused on making the Indian girls feel individual and loved. And by doing so, we were able to gain new perspectives on life. I can watch a documentary about the struggles girls face in developing countries, but to physically become immersed in a country and its people and to talk with girls my age who have a much rougher life than I do, was almost unreal. I was inspired by each girl's strength, grace, and determination to take control of her own life and set high goals for her future. You'll never know how far you can go unless you try. I am not saying it lightly when I say that this was truly the greatest life changing experiences of my life. And I will never forget it.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Goals for Girls Founder/President Perspective: Ian Oliver

The fog was heavy early the first morning we were at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi. This beautiful facility recently upgraded for the 2010 Commonwealth Games sat quiet, empty, imposing but welcoming as the American and Indian girls exited the bus and headed up the long entrance stairs. As we set up equipment for the clinic, as all the partner organizations exchanged early morning pleasantries, and as the girls started to warm-up and shake off the cool morning, the fog began to lift from within the giant bowl of the arena, slowly making its way over the pillars in the far corner that pointed towards the sky. The start to the day couldn’t have been more perfectly scripted as the fog made way for rays of sunshine and team after team of young Indian girls eagerly made their way to the field for a full day of soccer with these special visitors from afar.

India is a land of beautiful chaos. Somehow through unwritten rules millions of people, bikes, motorcycles, cars, trucks, dogs, and cows make their way through the cities. With over a thousand political parties, over a thousand languages, and countless subcultures, nothing is simple or done in a small way.

Similarly, the challenges young girls face in India are numerous and complex. But what we saw was a new generation of Indian girls with greater expectations for what their futures will hold. When you peel back the superficial layers that make these American and Indian girls different, you find countless similarities between them; one in particular was the joy the game of soccer brings.

Soccer is poised to grow rapidly in India which will soon become one of the world’s largest markets for the sport. As we ran clinics and tournaments it was clear that there is demand for more of this beautiful game across the country. Whether as a tool to improve lives of young people, a recreational activity, or a high-level competitive pursuit, the attraction to the game was strong.

In particular we saw the beginning of what could be one of the most transformative cultural phenomena for girls in India. It is easy to take for granted how much this game has done for all who play it here in the U.S., but to see the immediate positive impact the game has on a young girl in India is priceless. In such a short time we were able to bring out a whole different side of the girls we worked with, all through the simple gift of soccer.

I have read all the beautiful words of this year’s team and coaches. I feel honored to have spent this time with them, watching them and all of us grow together through each interaction and experience. And I can’t help thinking about that one morning at the stadium and what it represented. Out of two weeks of sun-up to sun-down activities, logistics, briefings & debriefings, interviews, clinics, events, and visits…after an incredibly successful program with so many independently wonderful and powerful moments…that one morning, with so many magnificent metaphors, brought into focus for me what Goals for Girls India was all about.

Watching the teams of young girls arrive at the stadium like a pilgrimage, drawn to the excitement that awaited within gave me hope that this next generation of Indian girls are driven to pursue brighter futures. And that fog lifting was like clearing the air of uncertainty and bringing into focus their collective goals, both on and off the field. As these young girls eagerly laced up their shoes in Kancheepuram, Bangalore, and Delhi, we saw the power of the game to motivate, inspire, and make change.

One day soon I know I will be back in India and when I return to Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, the players stepping off the bus will be a top Indian women’s team arriving for a match, headphones on to block the nearly unbearable noise from the 60,000 fans cheering their entrance, and ready to inspire the next generation of girls there to watch.

Monday, January 20, 2014

G4G Coach's Perspective: Danielle Foxhoven

Months ago when I was first asked to be the "professional player" representative for the 2013 Goals for Girls trip to India I was really only interested because India has been at the top of my bucket list since I can remember. But that exclamation point was quickly followed by a lot of question marks because I didnt know if I wanted to be a chaperone to a group of 17 year old girls (most of whom have never travelled out of the US) in a country that even some of the most travelled people struggle to be in. The decision took me a few weeks of debating to come to the conclusion that I did in fact want to go to India as a part of Goals for Girls.

As this trip was approaching I had absolutely no idea what to expect. I was fresh off a two month trip doing similar nonprofit work in Africa. The difference was that in Africa I only had to watch out for myself. But I was now responsible for all of these girls who had no idea how to travel. We were all nervous, unfamiliar with each other and completely out of our comfort zones. And now that the trip is over, the loud noises of India have left my ears and I have had some time to reflect I have found many things that I appreciated from the trip. And when I say appreciated, I mean, I have found some things that have truly become a part of me and have changed me. 

I am going to preface this with a bit about myself... growing up I was a part of the youth national teams. I was always on the brink of being on the roster and being cut. I was always so excited to be going into camp because I knew I could play with them, but when I thought about having to be a part of the team I was scared to death. I was so self conscience about who I was and felt so uncomfortable around all of these super confident girls. It was my biggest struggle and the reason why I probably didnt reach my goals with the youth national teams. Realizing this weakness and dealing with it through college has been a real ride and has paid great dividends to the person I am now. 

I tell you this about myself because meeting everyone at the airport and taking off to India brought me back to those national team camps. Only a few of the girls were familiar with each other, some were friends. We were coming from all over the country and we were completely unsure of what the next two weeks possessed for us. The first week I was in charge of the green team and in the room we were staying in it was almost silent. No one spoke, everyone was shy and pretty reserved. I knew exactly how all of them felt. I knew the uncomfortable feeling they were all experiencing, and although I tried to bring up the mood of the household, I knew it would take time to break through the walls we all had up. 

But the girls at Rising Star took over that role and broke down all of the walls that our American girls had up. By the end of the week our girls and the Indian girls were holding hands, hugging, playing soccer and laughing. The group of our American girls, east and west coast were a real team... a group of friends laughing, exchanging stories and making memories together. We did things none of us were comfortable doing before coming to India. But we were all in the uncomfortable situations together and that grew a huge bond. I know we all went to the India with the idea that we would be changing the lives of the Indian girls, bringing soccer to them... but what happened to our group of girls was equally as impacting, equally as amazing. 

Over the next week after leaving Rising Star Outreach program the group just continued to grow more and more comfortable with each other and with the uncomfortableness of India. The group was truly an incredible group. I dont say it lightly when I say it was the most pleasant and amazing group of girls that I have ever worked with. I got to talk to and know every single one of them and I cant say enough amazing things about all of them. This trip came at a pivotal moment in their lives because as they all go off to college they will have a new perspective about the world and how they can change it. And I cant wait to see what they will do in the future, because I know its going to be amazing. 

As I said going into this trip I was selfishly excited to go to India but I was nervous about taking care of these girls. I knew we were going to be changing the lives of a lot of Indians, but I had no idea the kind of changes I was going to be experiencing. Not only did the work we did with the Indians change both their lives and our lives, but I got to watch our American girls see how they were changing the Indians lives and in return were being changed. I was equally as affected by both the Indian girls and our American girls. We were all changed in drastic ways. We allowed ourselves to be open and experience India to the fullest and that gave us all new perspectives. That is the most positive influence you can ever make for someone.  

I cant express my gratitude and appreciation for Goals for Girls and everyone who was a part of it. It was truly one of the best and most life changing experiences of my life. One I will never forget. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

G4G Coach's Perspective: Cindy Parlow-Cone

As I sit here in the wee hours of the morning (thanks jetlag!), I have ample time to reflect on all the amazing people we met in India, the caring people in the organizations that we met, and the significant impact our group made in such a short period of time. More than anything I am struck by how beautiful India and its people are. A theme throughout our time in India, and the question that I put to our girls nightly was, “What did you see or experience today that was beautiful?” The answers ranged from something as simple as a smile, a gesture, or a kind word. As we continued our travels the awareness of each of us grew to the beauty in the world and its people, and we were all amazed at how easy it is to find the beautiful. While I had so many beautiful moments during this trip, I came home with four indelible experiences.

First, I’ve always felt that the greatest gift you can give the world is changing a child’s life for the better; this over the course of the past two weeks, I witnessed girls’ lives changing before my eyes. I watched girls gain self-confidence, learn to work as a team, find their voice, understand the importance of living a healthy lifestyle, learn goal-setting skills, and realize that they are important and impactful. There is nothing more beautiful than watching a child come to the realization that they are special, have tremendous potential, and are impactful in others’ lives.

Two, if you focus on positively impacting someone else’s life the exchange will inevitably change your life for the better. While our focus on the trip was to impact young Indian girls’ lives through soccer, I was amazed at the transformation that took place within the Americans as well. I watched the American girls grow into more confident, insightful, engaging, and empowering leaders as they realized that their age wasn’t a barrier to and that they were capable of impacting someone’s life. It was beautiful watching our girls grow more empowered directly through their work trying to empower others. We quickly became aware that we were learning as much from the Indians we worked with, if not more, than we taught them.

Three, I was continually taken aback at the time and care the Indians take into making the simplest of things beautiful. As I think about my life, and how I am often rushing from one activity, exercise, assignment or event to another, while I always want to do a great job, I am rarely concerned with how beautiful I make something look. The Indians on the other hand are amazing in the great pride they take in turning simple objects, assignments, and events into something absolutely beautiful. You can see this as you scroll through the photos of the trip.

Four, less is more! Comparatively, we Americans have a lot of “stuff,” certainly much, much more than the Indian people that we worked with. I became aware that there was little concern or want for something they didn’t have, only the pride and enthusiasm in what they have. The most important “thing” to them is family. This was evident in everything they did. While we all understand the importance of family, in the fast-paced world in which we live, it seems this is often too easily forgotten or taken for granted. The Indians taught me a new respect and appreciation for the importance of family.

This trip was an exceptional experience in my life for many reasons. I need to give a special thanks to Ian, Jackie, Dani, Amit, and all the girls on the trip for making this adventure so inspiring and fun. I absolutely love Goals for Girls because I get to see the immediate and long-term effects that it has on everyone who is involved!

Player Perspective: Chelsea

This trip was a truly amazing experience for me. I have never traveled off the U.S. continent and I could not have gone on a better first trip than this one. Jackie, Ian, and Cindy made the trip extremely smooth that I did not have much time to miss many people because we were doing so much on a daily basis. I also want to thank Amit Nagar who was like a second dad who was also like a tour guide. He helped us so much with tour guides and traveling around India. For the next trip that Goals for Girls takes I would totally suggest that they bring along someone who knows the continent. With all of these people’s help I was able to learn some valuable life lessons and learn more about myself along the way. I think everyone learned something from the wonderful Indian community and the amazing girls we met along the way. Apparently we were the first Women’s soccer team to come to India and the second Women’s sports team to come to India.
                Of the lessons I learned the major lesson I learned was that the small things are most important in life, and they should be cherished the most. I have noticed, throughout my life, that many people continuously want more. This was not the case in India. Almost all of the girls we worked with were so grateful that we had come to India to play soccer with them. I found this inspiring and I hope that I am able to become more grateful for the little things in my life. An example I can remember was right before we left Rising Star and I was talking with my pen pal, Tamilselvi, and about to give her my gift. Since we were not supposed to give the girls expensive gifts I gave her a simple bracelet I had made with a gift I got for Christmas. The minute she saw the bracelet her eyes lit up with complete happiness and she gave me a big hug. It was a simple bracelet, and yet she had a look on her face as if she had just gotten what she wanted most in life. From this I realized how much I ask, and often get, what I want. I now know that the simplest things are to be cherished most in life and taking things for granted does not help people appreciate what they have.
                Another moment on the trip when I found this apparent was before we left for New Delhi. We went to a micro-finance loan company to learn about what they do and how it works. Then we split up into groups and went to different customer’s houses to learn about their business and their situation. The family I visited with Paige, Laura, and Dani had a 6x8 room apartment for seven people! There was a mattress on the floor and a couch on the opposite side of the room. Against the wall with the door to enter there was a table with piles of fabric for clothes, and on the opposite wall there was a smaller table with finished pieces of clothing. We got to meet almost the whole family. There was a mom, a dad, two boys and three girls. One of the boys was at school, but the rest of the family was there to see us. The eldest daughter, 19, is already married and lives with her husband. The family runs a business that makes skirts. They showed us a couple that were very pretty. The mother and father work on the skirts while the two younger girls are at school, along with the younger boy, and the older boy works during the day. When the children get home all of them work on the skirts together. The mom and dad said it only took about ten minutes to make the skirts. After the family had dinner the children would then do their homework and go to bed. I asked the family if they were happy even with the situation they were in and they said “Yes because we have each other.” I found this to be truly amazing because the family did not allow their misfortunes to get in the way of their daily lives. I know that many people in the U.S. would dwell most days and constantly complain about their situation, but this family was trying to make it better and they didn’t dwell on the misfortunes.
                It was a fun trip for the most part because almost every place we went there were many people who would wave at us from the bus and smile. I believe I was in the background of about 100 or so pictures that other people were taking. When we were at the Taj Majal taking a group picture there was a man who ran up and jumped in the back of the group. Then about ten of his friends ran up with cameras taking pictures of us. Many of us felt famous when pictures were being taken.
                This trip was the most amazing experience of my life, and I want to thank all of the people who made it possible. I miss it already! It inspired me to travel more and I hope I will be able to experience the rest of the world.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Player Perspective: Jordan

Two days ago we arrived in Delhi. Exhausted from yet another flight delay, we sluggishly  talked through the lobby of the hotel we are staying at. That night we slept in beds that felt like clouds and woke up completely rested. We then went down to the hotel’s international breakfast and ate until we were full. After meeting in the lobby at 7:30 a.m. we walked out to a bus full of girls that were Yuwa soccer players.

These girls were several years younger than us and came from a village that was far less fortunate than the homes we all live in (Jarkhand). They had traveled a long 40 hour journey to come play with Goals for Girls. They had every reason to be tired, grumpy, exhausted, and non-talkative because of their travel circumstances. We prepared ourselves to get ready to give them some energy but to our surprise, they were instead lively, talkative, and excited to see us. Their passion for the game of futbol was admirable. This reaction made me realize how fortunate I was to have soccer growing up and made me feel slightly guilty for somewhat taking the game for granted.

Soccer means a lot to these Yuwa girls.

As some of the senior players pointed out to me later that day at the clinic, girls soccer has so much support in America and that support is nonexistent in India. My community and loved ones have always supported my soccer career but this is not the case for most Indian girls. The struggles I have in my life are nothing compared to what these girls experience on a day to day basis. The Yuwa girls practice every day and have an intense love for the game of soccer. I was very impressed by their skill level and their aggressive style of play. I hope that we have taught these girls that they can be good at soccer, can be supported by others, and can have self-confidence about their play. Fortunately, we get a chance to hang out with these awesome girls again before we leave. I am confident that as long as these girls keep playing the game that they love so much, the life lessons will follow. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Parent/Chaperone Perspective: Amit

“I am absolutely blown away by our girls!”

My wife Jaymie, will attest to the fact that, every morning and evening conversation that I have had with her since we landed in India a week ago, has begun with this exclamation. I am absolutely blown away by these girls, and I am so proud of them. The grace, maturity, respect, enthusiasm, excitement, open mindedness, responsibility, compassion, friendship and toughness that they have shown, while operating well outside their comfort zones from the moment we landed in Chennai has been admirable. They are rock solid.

There have been no complaints whatsoever about anything – everything has been taken in stride. And they have not just “tolerated” stuff – they have totally embraced it. Today on our trip to Mysore Palace, the girls got a whiff (jokes aside!) of the fact that India has 1.1 billion people. It seemed half of them decided to come see this national treasure on this warm Sunday afternoon. Hot and crowed. Vendors pushing knick knacks in the girls’ faces. Personal space squeezed out into nothingness as we walked shoulder to shoulder through the palace along with thousands of people. Walking bare feet all through and all around the dusty walkways of the palace and the gardens. Public toilets, which even on a slow day would make anyone think twice about whether they really need to go.

No peep. No complaints. No nothing from our girls. Just happy faces, smiles, excitement, interesting questions, curiosity and thankfulness at the opportunity to be here.

This is what we have all seen every moment since arriving in the country. The comments from the leadership at Rising Star about how impressed they were with the maturity and responsibility demonstrated by these teenagers tell me that we have a very fine bunch of girls here. Several people pulled me aside yesterday during the Dream-a-Dream Day and told me how amazed they were at how our girls handled themselves.
Bring it on India! These girls are eating it all up!

Coach Perspective: USA Olympic and World Cup Gold Medalist Cindy Parlow-Cone

After an amazingly successful first week in India, we are traveling to Delhi today for a number of soccer clinics and a tournament. I am looking forward to meeting and working with other coaches and players in India to help raise the level of play and spread our passion for soccer. We have already know what soccer and sports in general can add to a young girl's life. Everyone has been so eager to not only participate but to learn and improve.

I have read and watched videos on the three groups we will be working with in Delhi. The three groups are Anglian Football, YUWA, and Cequin. I am excited to finally meet them in person!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Day 7: Player Perspective: Becky

This morning we woke up and the sleep was awesome! Breakfast had tons of options and I filled up for the big day ahead. We drove 20 minutes to a dirt soccer field with almost circus tent set up. It was awesome. First we did a coaches clinic which we hope really helped the coaches and gave them some ideas of drills. At this point, I was getting starving! Dream a Dream split us up into two huge groups for lifeskills where we did a "trust fall" game called "My Supporters" and played handball. Amit then got back with SUBWAY Sandwiches and we all pigged out!

After lunch, the tournament began. There were probably 300 students watching from 6 different schools. By the time it was our turn to actually play soccer we all were all feeling pretty exhausted. After starting the first round I realized these girls would need much more encouragement than Rising Star girls needed. The game was almost over and Cindy wanted a goal. So, the next time I got the ball I scored. That was it. Immediately the girls were excited to play! The next game was semi-finals, and me and Riley really talked the girls up. I did absolutely everything in my power to assist these girls in scoring because I could see how happy it made them and in turn, me. It was getting close though and we needed another point. I passed the ball through to a girl named Hashita and she scored! She jumped up and down so excited and I couldn't help myself but to jump up and down with her. I was just genuinely that happy! To see that by just passing her the ball made her light up. She did it again in the finals with the exact same reaction. At half we had scored 1 goal and we were winning.  Ian pulled me and Riley aside telling us it had to be a tie because a very important guest was coming and they didn't want the game to be over before the guest arrived. We both played defense so that we could "let" a goal in, but then Hashita took the ball down the field all by herself and scored. It was the coolest feeling ever. We then let Chelsea score so that it would end up in a tie, with the need to end in PK's (giving us enough time for the guest to arrive before the event was over). During the PK's, Hashita made a goal and no one else did, but that's all we needed to win!

There was a short closing ceremony thanking everyone and lots of pictures. We then went back to the hotel. We showered and walked to a restaurant called Mainland China, followed by some icecream. That ended day 1 in Bangalore!

Day 6: Player's Perspective: Sarah (2nd Sarah)

I’m sitting on the bus to Bangalore right now looking out at the run-down buildings, waving to the all the curious smiling faces and thinking how familiar this country already feels.  This last week at Rising Star with the seventeen Indian girls has been one of the most emotional, raw, and empowering weeks of my life.  Reflecting now, I have witnessed so many beautiful moments.  I didn’t really know what to expect going into this trip and didn’t know how I was going to make a difference in such a short period of time.  But now I know I did. 

I think one of the greatest take-aways for me this week was watching the girls grow more confident in themselves.  One of my penpals, Fasitha, was one of the quieter girls in the group.  I was always encouraging her to express her ideas and asking her questions about her family or school, anything to get her talking.  Last night after dinner, she was eager to introduce me to her sisters and cousins among all of the other children hugging me and wanting to know who we were.  Today during the clinic, Fasitha and Papitha organized a shooting drill for the other girls.  Fasitha was at the front of the line instructing them how to properly kick the ball.  I was so proud of her for taking the initiative to share what she had learned.  She came up to me right before we left, gave me a huge hug, looked me right in the eye and said, “I’m going to miss you so much Sarah.  Thank you for coming to India.”  After being a part of the clinic today and the scrimmage against the boys team from Pathway yesterday, I know these girls will continue playing soccer, even with the boys.   They have improved SO much in their soccer skills and their laughter and high-fives was all I needed to know that I had had a positive impact.

Quick recap of today: It was our last morning at RSO and we attended an all school assembly before scrimmaging NC vs. WA/OR.  The RSO girls joined in later too.  After a tearful goodbye, we hopped on the bus.  So far, we’ve stopped at two Hindu temples and a silk shop in Kanchipuram.  It’s hard to think we still have over half the trip left and I’ve experienced so much of the Indian culture already at RSO.  I’m going to miss all of those girls but I cannot wait for the experiences in Bangalore and Delhi!