Cambridge to host inaugural Street Child Cricket World Cup on Parker's Piece
John Wroe seems remarkably relaxed considering the month that lies ahead.
When we meet, it is difficult to imagine that he is organising an inaugural global event.
The co-founder and CEO of Street Child United is overseeing the launch of the Street Child Cricket World Cup, the group phases of which are to be held in Cambridge.
Our choice of venue is no coincidence either, the coffee shop is close to Parker’s Piece which on May 4 and 5 will be host to 10 teams from nine different countries.
“Cambridge is where I’m from, I’ve lived here for nearly 40 years,” says John, a Homerton College graduate.
“The idea of a street child world cup came from Cambridge and we’ve got a huge number of supporters in this city.
“The ICC World Cup is in England and Wales, and Cambridge is the easiest location because we know so many people here and there are so many people on our side.
“Cambridge is a unique place. Walter Herriot, who set up the St John’s Innovation Centre, a man of ideas and innovation and at the heart of many successful Cambridge businesses, very kindly said that the Street Child World Cup was one of the best ideas to come out of Cambridge in the last 800 years.
“As a city it is really good at fostering ideas about supporting people that take risks.”
Street Child United have run football world cups to run parallel with the last three tournaments – in Durban (South Africa), Rio (Brazil) and Moscow (Russia) – and also a Street Child Games in Rio in 2016.
The idea for the events was born from a visit John made to South Africa in 2007.
He volunteered with a few other Cambridge families at a street child organisation, and they had 10 children with them – aged between seven and 17 – to introduce them to issues around international development.
The youngsters came from schools such as St Matthew’s, Parkside, St John’s and Hills Road Sixth Form College.
It was one meeting that alerted John to the possibilities of using sport to change the way that street children were seen, which in turn could begin to change the way they are treated.
“I met a boy called Andilile who said ‘when people see me in the streets they say I’m a street child but when they see me playing football, they say I’m a person’,” he explained.
On their return, it was further crystalised as the youngsters who had gone on the trip did talks and presentations on their experiences at school assemblies.
“At one assembly, an eight-year-old girl put her hand up and said ‘there’s a first world cup happening in Africa, why can’t street children have a world cup?’,” says John, a lifelong Swansea City supporter.
“As a football fan, when we heard that idea we thought that is a brilliant way of keeping the issues that are important to these young people in the spotlight.”
John puts the concept of the world cups quite simply.
“It’s about creating a global platform for street children’s voices to be heard.”
The key demands are birth registration, access to education and protection from violence, and the Street Child Cricket World Cup is aimed at getting the countries of the participants on their side and have pride in them for wearing the national colours.
It is hoped this then encourages the nations to take responsibility for the street children.
The participants are selected by projects currently working with street children, such as the Hope Foundation and Save the Children for Team India North.
“The projects have to demonstrate to us that they can support the young people before, during and after,” said John.
“Virtually all the children that are coming have been with an exceptional project for at least a year.
“Each will have an individual learning plan and this will be a really good experience for them as an individual in terms of their personal development going forward.
“We use street children as quite a broad term for children that have a relationship with the street.”
The ultimate goal is to bring about lasting change for street children in the countries that participate in the events.
“It has a huge impact with the young people that take part, and also on their projects,” said John. “A lot of the projects we’ve been working with over a number of years are much more sustainable now, able to support many more young people because they’ve grown stronger.
“But also, it’s about political change within that country.”
He used the example of the Pakistan team that took part in the last Street Child Football World Cup.
There were 7,000 people to meet them at the airport on their return – no doubt fuelled by their victory over India in the group stages – as the media latched on to their story.
Subsequently, a first census of street children was carried out in Pakistan and, in three of their five provinces, funding has now been provided for the police to have training delivered jointly by the police and street child organisations on child protection.
Another example was Tanzania, who won the second world cup and were treated as heroes, featuring on the news every night, getting an open top bus ride round Dar Es Salaam and being welcomed at the national assembly in the capital Dodoma.
The impact of the first Street Child Cricket World Cup is already being felt by some of its participants, even before a ball has been bowled.
A young boy called Irfan lives on one of the biggest slums in Mumbai, and will play for one of the two India teams at the tournament.
“I met Irfan and his mum and said to her ‘how do you feel about Irfan representing India at the Street Child World Cup at Lord’s?’,” said John.
“She said ‘in India, cricket is our religion and Lord’s is our temple’. She then went over and got a passport and said ‘he’s the first person in our family ever to have a passport and because he’s now got a passport, I’ve now got a birth certificate and his brothers and sisters have also got birth certificates’.
“In a way that sums it up, that’s what it’s about. We say our campaign message is ‘I am somebody’, and to get young people and families that are completely off the radar and don’t officially exist, on the radar.
“Therefore, they are able to access education and healthcare, able to work in something other than the informal economy – it is a brilliant win in itself.
“To be able to do that for millions of street children in those countries is the goal.”
So it means a lot for John to be able to bring the tournament to his home city.
“I think there is an openness to Cambridge,” he said. “It’s a very international city, it’s a very generous city, it’s a very welcoming city, so it’s the perfect place to host the Street Child Cricket World Cup.”
Sourav Ganguly gives support to Indian teams
Two teams from India will be taking part in the Street Child Cricket World Cup.
Former India captain Sourav Ganguly has signed up as an ambassador of the sides, which will be Team India North and Team India South.
Team India North are represented by HOPE Foundation, which was set up in the late 1990s to ensure basic human rights for street-connected children in Kolkata and currently run 12 protection homes, and Save the Children India, where they work across 20 states in the country.
Fifteen-year-old Soni will be playing for Team India North.
She lives in the EJC Durgapur Dock Junction of Kolkata, and after dropping out of school at a young age, now attends Save the Children’s mobile learning centre.
With the help of Save the Children, Soni has become a youth activist in her local community, campaigning for clean water and secure electricity in the settlement which primarily occupies workers from the surrounding garages and transport industry.
When she is older, Soni wants to become a social worker to support children, particularly young women, growing up in under-served communities.
One of her team-mates at the Street Child Cricket World Cup will be 12-year-old Waris.
He is originally from Kolkata and lives with his mother, father and two siblings in a one-room settlement, with both parents working as labourers.
Waris dropped out of school to work in a cap manufacturing factory to provide further for his family, but has recently re-enrolled at school.
He has been involved in a community child health and hygiene club through the work of Save the Children, and also a play called ‘Jalkatha’ which was showcased to audiences during World Water Day.
City to host World Cup group stages
Parker’s Piece was used for first-class cricket matches for almost 50 years in the 19th century, and in May will again play a pivotal role for the sport.
The Street Child Cricket World Cup group stages will be coming to the heart of Cambridge on May 4 and 5, before the semi-finals and finals take place at Lord’s on May 7.
Mixed teams of four boys and four girls will represent Bangladesh, India, Mauritius, Tanzania, Nepal, West Indies, Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo and England at the inaugural event.
An opening ceremony, including a band performance and singing of anthems will be held on Saturday, May 4, with the event running from 11am to 4pm on both days.
It is aimed at being a day for the family, as there will be cricket skills games run by Northamptonshire County Cricket Club, arts activities, live music and there will be the chance to face deliveries from former England spinner and Ashes bowler Monty Panesar on the Sunday (May 5).
Cambridge Assessment and the Howard Group have provided sponsorship for the Street Child Cricket World Cup, while many Cambridge residents will be volunteering at the event.
There are some fantastic items available to raise money for Street Child United at the online auction at charitystars.com/event/street-child-united-gala
More by this authorMark Taylor