I have just had most amazing time in India. Dr Ravi Vadlamani of Rotary District 3150 invited me, my Poppa and my Mum to Hyderabad, Khammam, Sarapaka and Gunter. I was invited to talk to 31 schools about my project Football – Play It Forward and why I send soccer balls to kids around the world. I also spoke at four Rotary Clubs. Everyone was just so kind and welcoming. So many people looked after us in India.
Thanks so much to Rotarian Sai, Harihara and Ramesh for taking such good care of me. Also Bibo for meeting us at the airport too. You guys were great. I love your restaurant Hari and thanks for all the great food! Every school I went to there was a great big sign saying Welcome Mac. It was awesome. This picture is when we first arrived at the airport in India!
India is amazing! I loved:
- that the people are so kind, friendly and hospitable
- the cows wandering through the streets, not concerned about the cars or the beeping horns
- that cows are sacred
- that there are no road rules in India – none! Three people on one scooter with no helmets.
- the noisy streets and the beeping horns – we worked out the drivers use their horns to talk to each other and let people know what they are doing
- the buffalo, goats and monkeys everywhere
- that the people of India are very proud of their peaceful history – Mahatma Gandhi achieved India’s independence from Britain by peaceful protest.
- The Ganesha Festival – people dancing in the streets, the music and the big statues of the Elephant God.
India can be challenging
Our challenges in India included:
- it’s really hot all the time, even at night
- the food is really, really spicy
- In the areas we visited, it’s mostly vegetarian – at McDonalds there are no cheese burgers or Big Macs – just chicken burgers
- Okay, the traffic chaos can be scary – Mum didn’t enjoy that bit too much, but I thought it was kind of fun.
- You can’t drink the water. Mum and I had competitions to see who would forget to use the bottled water when brushing our teeth. Very hard to remember.
In Hyderabad we stayed at Past District Governor’s Sam’s house. We had Dosa for breakfast. It’s kind of like a crepe. We also had coconut chutney and spicy ginger chutney. Poppa loved it.
Here’s a picture of me with PDG Sam and Rotarian Sai. Rotarian Sai and Rotarian Harihara took us around to the schools and looked after us. Man, we were busy and I know it was hard work for them to get us to each school on time. Every time I visited a school, the kids had made the best gifts for me: letters, posters, a Charminar (temple near Hyderabad) souvenir, a soccer ball with the Charminar painted on it, beautiful books and plaques, flowers and a great shirt that the kids made with the flag of India, the peace dove, and drawings representing the charity work the kids do.
I spoke to 31 schools and nearly 10,000 kids. The kids were really friendly and were keen to play soccer too. I talked about my school in Australia, why I like playing soccer and why I send soccer balls to kids around the world who wouldn’t otherwise get the opportunity to play my favourite game. One student asked me ‘why soccer balls?’ I told him that just that morning, a girl my age came to visit the house where I was staying. She didn’t speak any English and I didn’t speak Telagu, so we just kicked the ball. We played for about 15 minutes. During that time we had a whole conversation and never spoke a word.
In Khammam, District Governor Vasu took care of us and took us to many schools. DG Vasu was pretty cool. We also visited the Artificial Limb Centre. Did you know it only costs AU$50 to provide an artificial leg for a person? We visited the workshop where they make the limbs. This helps them to get a job and look after their family. We stayed at John Mark’s house and we ate some great food. He has like a dormitory above his house and this is where the doctors and volunteers stay when they come to help in India. It was pretty interesting.
‘Football – Play It Forward’ and the kids of India, together sending soccer balls to Gaza!
New Vision Concept school is in Khammam. Here, I spoke to over 2000 students. The school donated 30 soccer balls. Wow! I didn’t come to India to collect donations, but I’ll never say no. The day before, a student asked me if I had sent soccer balls to Gaza. I said no I hadn’t, but those kids have had a really hard time and it was a great idea. So, these 30 soccer balls we are sending to Gaza. United Nations is helping me to do this.
This is the home town of Dr Ravi and Raji Vadlamani who brought me to India. Everyone was so kind and we had so much fun. One day we had dinner at this beautiful house. It was so big and spectacular and then there are cows that live inside the courtyard at the front of the house! It was quite an unusual sight for us.
In Guntur I loved staying at Dr Rajesh and Dr Chetu’s house. They took me out for ice cream and to the club to play ping pong. They are both Ophthalmologists and mum went to visit their hospital. On some days their team screen 750 children to check their eyesight. On the day we were there, 55 kids needed treatment and they do this for free for the families that can’t pay.
I had a great time in India and I’m really grateful to Dr Ravi for giving me the trip of a lifetime. My world is so much bigger now.
I’m off to Sydney this week to play football. A whole week with my soccer mates, playing two or three games every day and staying in a dorm. Should be pretty cool. Then on October 17 I’m off to China. I’ve been invited to speak at the Rotary Club of Shanghai by President Frank Yih. I’ll also get to meet the Rotaract and Interact Clubs too. Can’t wait.
I’ll update with where we are sending more soccer balls soon.