How Do You Reduce Drug Usage In Slums?
Drug addiction is a major problem in the slums of Mumbai. Children start at a young age
and suffer huge consequences because of it. An article in the Mumbai Mirror had this to say about the scale of the problem:
A team of 12 doctors from civic hospitals interviewed 1,500 children from around 300 families. Almost every kid indulged in substance abuse, and suffered various ailments.
Dr Ravikant Singh, who led the team of doctors, said: “More than 80 per cent kids smoked and consumed alcohol, while the percentage of those sniffing glue to get a high was almost 90 per cent. Most of these kids are pushed into crime by the time they are 10.
Ashok Rathod was a young man in one of those slums. He knew that it was easy for his peers to earn small amounts of money by working in a dock nearby, and then spend the money buying drugs or alcohol. He also knew that the older kids who did this were the cool guys in the neighbourhood and were seen as role models. He wanted to find a way to save him, his siblings and his friends from going down this route.
Thus was born the idea of the Oscar Foundation. The idea is simple. One way to fight drugs is to create new role models. Make young people ‘cool’ by doing something other than drugs. So Ashok decided to teach these children football.
Today, Oscar Foundation runs football coaching centers in numerous slums in Mumbai, Delhi, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand. Over the nine years of its existence, more than 12,000 children have been through its programs.
Oscar received recognition from the global football association, FIFA, early in its journey and has been receiving support from the FIFA Foundation for the last 7 years. It also receives support from numerous other foundations and corporations.
It’s teams have toured abroad to play in school level tournaments and some of their alums have been recruited to play for teams in India’s professional football league.
Oscar has a ‘No school, No football’ policy that ensures children take their school work as seriously as they take their football. Oscar uses football to educate children and teach them life skills.
I have known Ashok almost from the time he first started Oscar Foundation. He hails from a slum in the Cuffe Parade area of Mumbai and I am amazed at what this young man has been able to achieve based on his own drive and initiative. When I first met him, he was a young man with an idea and a mission. Today he is one of the stars of the Indian social sector.
India needs more heroes like him.
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Mishra, Lata. “1,500 Kids in Mankhurd, Govandi Slums Are Drug Addicts.” Mumbai Mirror, Mumbai Mirror, 28 Apr. 2011, mumbaimirror.indiatimes.com/mumbai/other/1500-kids-in-mankhurd-govandi-slums-are-drug-addicts/articleshow/16122295.cms.
Image courtesy: Oscar Foundation