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.
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.
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.