Murtaza Zoomkawala-The Little League

I am Murtaza Zoomkawala, a corporate lawyer by profession and co-founder of ‘The Little League’, a not-for-profit organization that works with the underprivileged children in urban areas and focuses on their holistic development, primarily through sports.

As a concept, TLL tries to create a structure similar to the IPL and EPL, where team owners (essentially companies with a large employee base) adopt and administer a football team of underprivileged children in their localities, for the duration of one season. The TLL model then involves weekly football training sessions and periodic tournaments, along with concurrent workshops and seminars.In addition to helping the development of a healthy body through our football programme, our workshop programme also focuses on educational, vocational and soft skill training. The idea is to focus the energy of these youngsters who are to form the backbone of our future society, through both our sports and educational curriculum.

The programme has been structured as an ‘interactive charity’, which recognizes the potential help that can be amassed by bringing individuals an opportunity to interact with the charity they do. The goal is to promote the culture of social responsibility within organizations (who are team owners) by providing their employees the opportunity to give back to the society by contributing their time and not necessarily ‘money’. To achieve this, it is imperative that all our team owners, managers, and mentors are allowed to participate within the localities of their residence.

The Little League – Season One, started in July 2017, a series of open trials were conducted across different pockets of the Mumbai city and over 1,000 children participated for the selection in one of the TLL’s team.Ninety-six ‘Little Leaguers’ were selected and divided into 8 football teams and their football coaching commenced in June.During each of its training sessions, TLL also provides all the young Little Leaguers with a healthy customized meal. By doing this, TLL seeks to achieve-physical development through regular exercise and nutrition support and help in psychological development through the building of character traits such as teamwork, dedication, and perseverance.While our main focus is developing life skills in our kids to sustain employability in the future, football is a vital part of our program. With the help of certified coaches working rigorously with each team, we already have identified some hidden football stars, who are given the opportunity to display their skills before their team owners, friends, and families at periodic tournaments hosted by TLL.

The TLL team also understands the necessity of educational development and vocational training in the lives of the Little Leaguers; and accordingly, has tailor-made a development programme through their workshop model, which complements the training provided for the course of the football season. Academic workshops are intended to provide tuition after the school hours; and vocational, soft-skill and fun-with-learning workshops are conducted as events, where all of the teams are gathered at a single location for a day-long activity.

‘The Child Development Team’ at TLL monitors the progress and development of each of the Little Leaguers individually. Through constant interaction with the children, working closely with coaches and mentors, reviewing academic results and analyzing behavioral trends in the children, the Child Development Team at TLL focuses on ensuring the psychological development and well-being of the Little Leaguers.

Volunteers slash mentors within the interactive charity system of TLL, have regular interactions with one child from the team, a relationship which is built on trust and common interests and is supported by TLL case-workers. The result is a life-changing experience for both the mentors and the mentees. ‘Our aim is to help bridge the socio-economic divide prevalent in our society today and believe that these interactions, though small in scale, have a great impact’.

Murtaza Zoomkawala| Co-founder The Little League

Chandni- The Goodwill Tribe

Ever since I was very young, I had this strong feeling that we were getting a lot wrong with life (I think most of us realized this as kids, but perhaps forgot along the way). I looked at people and I saw goodness, I knew there was a way of life where we could all win. I haven’t found it yet and it’s perhaps the journey of many lifetimes, but I still absolutely believe that it is possible to live in a world where everyone wins.

When I was in University of Bangalore, I volunteered with an organisation called ‘Centre for Social Action’, where I taught kids in a slum. This place and this opportunity completely transformed my life. I finally experienced what it was like to be in service of another human being, and how our efforts can really make a difference to the life of another being. I knew it then, that being in service of mankind was going to be the story of my life.

When I moved back to Dubai in 2013, a dear friend Sonia and I started what is now called ‘The Goodwill Tribe’. We were both deeply disturbed by the disconnection we were witnessing in the world – disconnection from the self, from others and from the planet. We really wanted to do something to inspire more connection, more compassion and more love in the world. And so we started to host small events in our local community that were based on these values. The journey from then on has been pure magic and The Goodwill Tribe has grown itself beautiful and powerful wings and reached 12 cities in India and around the world (London, Sydney, Dubai, Kuwait City, Munich, Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Nagpur, Goa, Chennai, Jaipur). In each of these cities, we have a group of 2 or more volunteers (in Nagpur, it’s a team of more than 30!) who have taken on the responsibility to host monthly events around the values of connection, compassion and kindness. ‘Chapter heads’ tailors their own events to express their passion and suit the rhythm of their city. We’ve found that people take an inspiring ownership of The Goodwill Tribe. We’ve collectively designed over 10 different creative and fun kindness events/projects and have together hosted more than 100 events across all the chapters. Here are the three of our most popular events:

Letter Earthlings:

We receive letter requests from individuals for their friends, family, colleagues going through a tough time. And we get together at monthly events to hand write letters of love and support to these people. The bundles of letters are sent to the recipients anonymously through snail mail. Imagine receiving a bundle of handwritten letters of love from strangers from all around the world.

Gratitude Table:

‘What are you grateful for?’ There is power and positivity in paying attention to this question. We create a space at local flea markets to inspire the attitude of gratitude through conversations and practices.

Kindness Confetti:

Kindness Confetti is about spreading smiles through random acts of kindness. We show up at busy junctions with boards that read cheerful messages, we give high fives, surprise people with flowers, post sticky notes with positive messages, anything to make people smile!

The intention behind these events is to give the community an experience of compassion. It’s a chance for them to connect and interact with each other in new and compassionate ways, making possible kinder ways of being with each other. We believe that every act of compassion and kindness creates a ripple that is impossible to measure, gently opening hearts along the way. And we hope that everyone who comes to an event leaves having experienced at least a moment where they felt moved. The question we often ask is, what would the world look like if we were all a little more compassionate

These events have created a network of change makers, who are pumped and proactive to light up this world with love and compassion. But equally (if not more) important, are the intangible elements of impact – the countless smiles created, the beautiful conversations between strangers, the powerful stories of human connection, the warm, inclusive and supportive community that all of us now feel a part of. It’s been a beautiful, powerful, organic journey, one that still has a long way to go!

Personally, the last four and half years of volunteering with ‘The Goodwill Tribe’ have truly transformed my life. It’s my channel to be true to myself, to live with the values I honor the most. It’s taught me to trust life and trust the flow. I’ve also had the gift of experiencing the best in people, and witnessing how kindness can open people up and create subtle but powerful shifts within them. It’s showed me the possibility of communities that are connected through rich values – these kind of connections allow us to thrive and express our full potential, yet remain humble and strongly connected. I’m so excited by all the possibilities of new love-filled ways of being! Right now the question that I’m working on is – how can I go beyond a project? How can my whole life be a true expression of what I believe? How can every moment be an opportunity to act centered in love? It’s going to be a fun ride ahead!

Chandni| Co-founder The Goodwill Tribe

Apoorv Om (Artist) – Ability rather than Disability

‘It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities’- Dumbledore’s golden words to teen Harry have touched and inspired everyone at one or the other point in their lives. I have my own version of this inspirational quote-‘It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities or our disabilities

I am Apoorv Om, a Deaf, 23 years old, an Artist, a student of B.Arch at School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), New Delhi, Innovator of hanging  2D/ 3D models of buildings and creative artwork and a certified yoga trainer. I got special Honors from UN Leaders and Govt. of India personalities. I am also the recipient of National Award for Persons with Disabilities, 2017 in Role Model category; National Gaurav Awards’17; National Education Leadership Awards the Asia Pacific Higher Education Summit’18, And the Global First Ever ‘Deaf’ Youth as peace leader (India) in 2nd international Volunteering conference of UNESCO. It is a long story before my identity became the one of its kind as an artist, volunteer and disability rights activist. My disabilities such as being deaf, speech impairment, retinitis pigmentosa and an eye disorder had presented insurmountable challenges and I continue to struggle to lead a normal life despite many achievements. I have not allowed hearing impediment & visual impairment to dampen my championing of UN as a global platform for an inclusive society.

India lags behind in providing support, policies, and infrastructure which promotes quality education for a person with disabilities. I completed my schooling from Navy Children’s School with the Inclusive education system in spite of great hurdles and lack of communications due to non-facilitation of modern smart classes with digitalization but the bigger troubles began when I had to pursue my higher education. I was denied admission to CIC, Delhi University and JOSAA for NIIT, despite my merit in IIT JEE because of mismanagement. Finally, they allowed me to take admission in School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi only after The Order of The Hon’ble High Court of Delhi. Even after admission, the SPA asked my father to withdraw my admission as they had no system to facilitate education to the deaf. Still, SPA has no such system in place though they extracted full fees without any concession from a disabled student. Also, I am the first deaf who successfully completed two certificate course in yoga courses from MDNIY, Delhi.

This incident was an eye-opener for me. So many meritorious students lose out on quality education and have their dreams trampled upon due to one disability. According to Census 2011, there are 2.68 crore persons with disabilities in our country who exhibit great diversity in terms of quantum of disability as well as types of disabilities.

I decided to bring respective authority’s attention to make education inclusive for disabled, so I wrote to the Union HRD ministry for two years. I was disheartened when I did not receive any response but I continued writing. This time I wrote to the UN and much to my surprise, they responded. I am now a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) Youth Volunteer and through various youth conferences and discussions in personal meetings with higher authorities of UN & India for digitization inclusive system in education and unique ID CARD, I have tried to raise awareness and bring the disabled rights issues and concerns to the table also given suggestions for solution  which were admired.

I had the honor to present portraits to many internationally and nationally acclaimed personalities like Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi on 1st International Day of Yoga; Mr. Venkaiah Naidu, Vice President of India; Mr. Kofi Annan, Former UN Secretary-General; Deputy Director-General of UNESCO; Cabinet Minister of India; 6 Chief Justice of Countries; Mr. Kailash Satyarthi, Nobel Laureate; Governors of India and  Sachin Tendulkar.

 H.E.Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations Secretary-General on 20.04.2016 honored me by receiving my artwork  and Mr. Dalveer Bhandari (Indian judge), Judge of ICJ with the Mr. Ronny Abraham, President of ICJ Invited me and received My Special Painting to The President of ICJ on the event of 70th Anniversary of the International Court of Justice (United Nations) at Peace Palace, The Hague, Netherlands in April 2016.  A painting of UNOG Building is placed in UNOG, Geneva, Switzerland in Sept 2017 by Director General of UN Office at Geneva. My 2D model of UNESCO HQ Building has been installed at the main exhibition hall at UNESCO HQ, Paris; I had presented it to Director-General of UNESCO on 20.04.2018. I also decided to use my sketching skills to gather people’s attention. I presented a 2D model of Supreme Court of India Building to Chief Justice of India H L Dattu and placed at Supreme Court Museum of India in 2015.

I give yoga as well as Art & Craft lesson on weekends to many children from underprivileged sections of society. My efforts have been helpful in bringing some attention to the matter and in one of the conventions, the HRD Minister has assured to support my admission in IIT and provide further education support.

I am still miles away from achieving my goal and receiving my basic right to education and leading a normal life. But I will continue making my efforts, through my portraits and representing the disabled class in international and national platforms.

India needs firm laws in place to support the disabled, or else let the headline (as put by one newspaper) remain true- ’No country for the Disabled’

Apoorv Om – Young Artist Working for SDG