Looking back on my 5 years in India, I achieved already a lot and people are telling me that this is incredible and impossible, but for me every step is still like walking up a sand dune and coming down again half way – but maybe this is the charm of the whole story…
I am Andrea Thumshirn, 41 years old, German National, Hockey player, adventurer, visionary, and I am running the project Hockey Village India, which caters to the needs of underprivileged children through sports and education.
It all happened by coincident. I was running a travel agency in Germany. I was always looking for new adventurous and unique places on this planet, where I could send my clients. I was specialised in the countries India, Indonesia and the Philippines and I would say that I know these countries almost inside out from various beautiful journeys.
On one of these journeys, I went to a very classical place – Agra, to see the Taj Mahal. I was with my business partner that would take care of my clients that I would bring to India.
On the way to Jaipur, he suggested stopping by his mother’s birthplace, a little Rajasthani village half way. His cousins lived there in an old ruined Maharaja Fort, and you could easily make out the glory of once upon a time, but at the same time, you could also make out that since 1947 nobody did anything to maintain that beauty.
I was thrilled by the uniqueness and traditional flair of this village. We had a walk and lots of children were curiously looking from all corners of the narrow village road. I fell in love with that place and we decided to bring our clients here for a lunch break as we just did and so the family would have some income and the clients could see the real India.
It was me guiding the next clients to this village and we then even decided to offer English classes for the village children in the afternoons. A local teacher would do that for us. At my next visit, I brought some Hockey sticks and thought that this could be some afternoon activity to keep the children busy. It was a blast! The whole village seemed to be on their toes, and everybody was battling to get hold of one of the 60 sticks. It was a common scenario, and it literally got out of control. With the help of the family in the fort, we separated the children, and I was able to at least explain some Dos & Don’ts of the Hockey.
The next morning the whole bunch of village kids were standing in the fort, waiting for me to coach them again – and that was the beginning of what it is now. It didn’t take long until I decided to move from Germany to India and make this village my home. This was in October 2011. I sold everything and reconstructed with the money I got 2 rooms in the ruins of the fort. One was supposed to be for me and another for some German volunteers that should assist me. So it was English in the afternoon, followed by Hockey and Sundays we would almost play the full day. I had around 60 children, boys and girls. After almost a year, I managed to organise a friendly match with the DPS school in Jaipur. Most of the boys went out of the village for the first time in their life, and it was heart touching to see their curiosity and excitement. The lawn at the DPS school was so fresh and green that my whole team was just rolling on the grass, enjoying themselves.
The Hockey match was, of course, a bit unequal as the city kids were much taller and more experienced, but in another 2 years time, we will beat them (and we did). In October 2012 I started building my own school in an old temple building just near the fort. Some volunteers were helping me and in July 2013 we opened the doors of our school from LKG to Grade 10. Very soon I realised that no money was coming in from the parents of the students, and it got more and harder to pay the salary of the teacher. I had a hard time to bag everywhere for money to at least keep the school somehow running when I found out that my local partner from the fort family who called me his sister, was misusing foundation money all the time. He took school fees in his own pockets; he earlier charged me more money for the labourers that were working on the construction site and of course he was overcharging all materials like stones, sand, cement as I had no idea of the market price. I almost lost ground, and I had sleepless nights. What should I do? It was my responsibility. The children believe in me. I cannot just go back to Germany, but I can also not continue the way it was now. My English teacher Varsha offered me to move to her husband’s school in the neighbouring village, and she also offered me to shift my school there.
That was a huge decision, and I knew I would lose everything that I build here… the ground, the school, my 2 rooms… I learnt my lesson the very hard way. I shifted. I had to start everything again. Almost all of my Hockey boys but only 4 of my Hockey girls came with me to the new village. I had to buy a vehicle to pick them up every morning.
We integrated the children from grade 5-10 in the existing Hindi Medium School, and we restarted an English Medium primary school up to grade 2 in the first year. We practised on the school ground of the government school in the afternoons and many new children started. In 2014 we bought our own land which was again a lesson to learn as it was not done in 2 days as expected, but in another 2 years!!!! In 2013 I imported a second-hand Astro turf from Germany, which I wanted to lay out and donate to the community. The community thought I would take the provided government land and stopped the whole project. Since that time the Astro turf is lying behind our school, waiting for the land papers finally getting cleared and now we are raising funds to lay it out so that our children can grow and prosper and with it the whole region. Since 3 years we are sponsoring children from our project to spend 2 months in their summer holidays in Germany, play Hockey there and learn something for life. This year the 15-year-old Shivani went as the first girl. She will be the role model for all other village girls, and she will encourage them to make a difference in their lives.
90% of our funds are from Germany, but we are registered in India as well, so it would be great if Indians would also contribute to our cause in future.
I hope this story has motivated you to the bottom of the heart. This story should be shared thousands of time. We do share the posts several times. Let’s do share this amazing story with our friends, so we can bring the huge support for Andrea’s Hockey Village India Program.