My game, my rules…and it’s a goal!

A proud Gulafsha

A proud Gulafsha – lovely photo taken by Mansi Midha

In action - lets play ball

In action – lets play ball

In a one room slum in the degenerating settlements of Bhalswa, one of the Indian national capital’s largest dumping grounds, lives a source of true inspiration. Despite living in extreme poverty (her entire family comprising seven members lives huddled together in a single small room) Gulafsha Khan, all of 19 years old, has not only secured herself a college education but is also working as a Community Youth Leader in a non-government organization (NGO) with a single-minded purpose of uplifting the lives of children who cohabit the slum with her.

And she knows just how to motivate them! She builds skill and awareness in them through sports and games sessions conducted a few times every week (using the NGOs researched curriculum of ‘Development through Sports’).  So, in each session, she organizes her little friends in a circle and briefs them, initiates a rigorous game of football or cricket right after, and ends with a debriefing of all the lessons learnt in personal hygiene, environment preservation, regular schooling etc!

In the face of extreme financial constraints, Gulafsha’s parents did the best they could to provide a semblance of education to their five children.  But when she managed to clear high school and expressed a desire to join college, her parents were very reluctant. They did not have the means to support her education, and could not justify it set against a context where marriage is the natural step for a girl her age.

But Gulafsha is no ordinary girl and she believes in carving her own path where there is none!  In order to raise money to pay for her education she began running tuition classes for younger children who needed extra help with their school work. She charged a small amount for assisting them and soon began to earn modestly enough to join college. Simultaneously she also joined the cadres of an NGO working in the area who gave her access to free courses in computer literacy and functional English. Now she could take on the world.

She continues to work relentlessly to break barriers within her community where dropping out, early child marriage and domestic violence are a norm. Often she faces challenges, having to repeatedly cajole parents to allow their children, specially girls, to participate in community sports and to stay in school, but she knows that it is only through continued effort that she can influence the community children and make their lives better. For Gulafsha, no mountain is too high to climb.