What is the Oscar Foundation?
The OSCAR Foundation (Organization for Social Change, Awareness and Responsibility) is a non-profit organization that, through football, instills the value of education and empowers underprivileged children and youth with life skills to take responsibility for the development of their community.
The founder of OSCAR, Ashok Rathod, first came across EkhartYoga in the UK. It might seem strange for an Indian to travel to Europe to start their yogic journey … until you learn a little more about life in the slums.
Who set it up and why?
Ashok set up the OSCAR Foundation when he was just 18 years old. He was raised and still lives with seven members of his family in the Ambedkar Nagar slum community, in the heart of Mumbai. His uneducated parents work hard in the nearby Colaba fishing market to provide for the family, life is very tough. The slum house, nestled in the bustling, narrow alleyways is approximately the size of four or five yoga mats side by side. There is little wonder Ashok did not start practising yoga at home.
Ashok’s parents insisted he went to school; meanwhile his friends, aged only 10 or 11 were drinking, smoking and gambling. Ashok was miserable; he felt left out and resented his parents for making him get an education.
By the time he was 18 he began to realise how lucky he was. He could see his friends self-destructing and those that were not addicts were getting married and having children. His own good fortune and education highlighted the plight of the younger kids in his community. It was clear that most parents neither understood nor valued education, particularly for girls. The boys were expected to go out to work and the girls to cook, clean and learn skills for an illegally early marriage.
Noticing a group of very young children hanging about smoking, Ashok asked why they were not at school. The response was ‘there was no point’. He asked if they would like to play football and was surprised when so many turned up at the allotted time. Ashok did not own a football, so he played games to keep them entertained and promised to buy a ball for the following week. Ashok’s football team grew in popularity, enabling him to set out some rules. Quite simply, if you want to be part of OSCAR you had to enroll and attend school: No school, no football.
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The OSCAR Foundation today
In the ten years since the OSCAR Foundation was founded, they have been on an incredible journey. From starting with just 18 children they now work with over 3,000 children across India.
Half are girls, which is a truly remarkable result for OSCAR and testament to the life-changing opportunities they provide. Girls, who were too shy to leave their homes, are now studying at school, with ambition and confidence and of course playing football. OSCAR holds regular mother’s matches; women in beautiful saris running after the ball is a sight to behold. Recently a young OSCAR girl has been selected for the Homeless World Cup, this is one of countless OSCAR accolades.
Ashok and EkhartYoga
On a recent trip to the UK promoting the forthcoming ‘OSCAR U14 UK Schools Tour 17’, Ashok had his first experience of an online yoga practice with Esther Ekhart and it was this experience which gave him the idea to approach fellow Indian, Aziz Currim to join with him and offer a charity Yoga Nidra:
Aziz lives with his wife Misbah in Mumbai. Together they hold workshops and retreats in the UK, France and across India. Aziz and Misbah trained at the Bihar School of Yoga, the birthplace of the deeply relaxing and powerful practice of Yoga Nidra.
“EkhartYoga provides an amazing selection of online yoga practices with inspiring teachers for yogis all over the world. I am thankful to have discovered my own yoga practice through EkhartYoga and I am very grateful to Aziz Currim for providing a special OSCAR Yoga Nidra recording. It is lovely to share some authentic Indian Yoga Nidra with you.” ~ Ashok Rathod.
Please consider making a donation to the OSCAR Foundation