The 2020 edition of the WFS Industrial Awards, presented annually by the World Football Summit, was held virtually as a live digital event from November 23-27. Representing India on one of the biggest footballing platforms in the world was Dream a Dream, a charitable foundation that works with young kids from vulnerable backgrounds in an effort to empower them for the life that awaits them. They won the Football for Good category which is presented by Common Goal. Incidentally, Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski and Chelsea’s Pernille Harder were the inaugural winners in the Best Player category for men and women respectively at the same event.
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Started in 1999 by a group of young volunteers, Dream a Dream works with more than 10,000 young people every year through their two ‘innovation labs’ – After School Life Skills Programme (ASLSP) and Career Connect Programme. It is the former that was recognised and rewarded at the summit for the work that they do with 8-14 year old kids, helping them develop interpersonal and social skills through experiential learning, in this case through football. ASLSP focuses on using football and art as mediums to teach life skills. The organisation partners with low-cost private and government schools in Bangalore in an effort to help vulnerable children realign their goals and objectives in life.
The curriculum for the programme has been designed by Grassroots Soccer and PYE Global with help from clinical psychologists who specialize in relationship trauma. Each session is of two hours and has different modules. The engagement begins with an ice-breaking activity followed by a team agreement with the facilitators who are mostly volunteers and part-time staff. This is followed by the main football-related activity which focuses on concepts such as teamwork, goal-setting, gender equality and so on.
The organisation also receives funds from FIFA and is part of a network called StreetFootballWorld which works towards implementing social impact strategies through the beautiful game. They also manage a central grant agency, the aforementioned ‘Common Goal’, which has names like Jurgen Klopp, Juan Mata, Paulo Dybala, Megan Rapinoe and many others pledging 1% of their salary as donation for a plethora of developmental projects.
Winning the award for this category is therefore a huge pat-on-the-back, something that Manager – Fundraising and Employee Engagement for Dream a Dream, Mr. Anirban Chakraborty acknowledges. “We feel that it’s important that parents and communities are involved in this. It is also very important that our own role models try and make a difference within their own communities and I think that is why this award is so important for us,” he said.
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Based predominantly out of Bangalore, the organisation has also been in talks with the Delhi government to implement something called the ‘Happiness Curriculum’ since 2018. This involves dedicating at least 45 minutes in a day to fun activities involving school children in order to promote mental well-being right from a very young age.
The importance of the work that they are doing can be gauged from examples like that of Pallavi, a 22-year-old girl who works as a facilitator at Dream a Dream. Her journey began in 2008 and she has since been a beneficiary of both ASLSP and the Career Connect programme, eventually going on to represent India at the Football for Hope festival in Brazil, a CSR initiative organised by FIFA. From losing her mother to a terminal illness to not being able to afford a college degree and now becoming a facilitator at Dream a Dream, life has come a full circle for Pallavi.
The award was presented to Mr Chakraborty following an interview with the co-founder of Common Goal, Jurgen Griesbeck. The duo talked about the After School Life Skills Programme and the work that is being done in India in order to better the lives of underprivileged kids. With football in India slowly gaining a strong foothold, it is stories like these that can propel our country forward and amongst the big boys, if not on the pitch then at least off it. And with the world watching, this is truly an incredible achievement at a time where humanity needs football more than ever, not just for the joy that the game brings but also for the social adhesive it can be.