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A Volunteer Speaks – Barry Cooper

I arrived in Goa at the very beginning of December, 2017.

Having travelled India for five months four years earlier, I left the country with the thought that I should coach football for young children there. While coaching the game is something I am qualified at, and have done for many years, my real passion is using the sport to help the players grow as people.

Out of the blue, earlier that year, I made contact with an organisation that introduced me to the Don Bosco Institute in Goa. That was how I arrived!

My residence for the next four months was the Margaret Bosco Bal Sadan (MBBS) shelter home for boys, at Paliem, near Mapusa.

There are about sixty boys at MBBS, between the ages of 7 and 18 years. Every evening there was a games hour, during which football was played. It was, to say the least, their passion. I worked with the younger age group.

After Christmas, I also made my way to the Don Bosco High School – Parra, coaching their 14 boarders, all in the older age bracket. This was three evenings a week, which meant my time was shared with the boys at Paliem.

At the same time, I became involved with the Don Bosco Primary School at Odxel. The advantage with this was it could take place in morning school, making it easier to fit in. I would get a 7 a.m. bus to Panjim, then the next connection to Odxel, ready to start football for standards one, two, three, and four, 120 children, boys and girls.

That said about the structure of the coaching undertaken, it tells you little of the real story. This centres around the energy, passion, friendship, and love, found with virtually every child I met.

Four months amongst the boys of MBBS was a privilege, one that left me humbled. There was talk, when I left, that I had given a lot; it was nothing compared to what I received. I gave one smile, and received sixty back! I gave one friendship, and had sixty friends in return! I gave my love, and was drowned in love!!

At Odxel, the youngsters exploded with life every time it was football. Their joy was mine.

As far as football goes, the MBBS boys have a tremendous amount of talent. This is because they use every spare minute possible kicking a ball around. It was noticeable how well they listened and learnt too, wanting to improve, which they did, to a remarkable degree.

My intention is to return: I always saw this as a long term project. The experience and understanding gained during this visit should mean even greater progress and good work can be achieved during the next one.

The difficulties of heat and conditions, as tough as they were, were overcome by the smiles on the children’s faces!

I was the one blessed.