Sportspeople urged to join special trek to help in India  

IT will be much more than the average end-of-season footy trip when Bendigo chaplain Bruce Claridge leads a mission to India in November.

The Bendigo Gold and Golden Square footy clubs chaplain is heading a week-long “Kolkata Aid” trip to help people in the Indian city’s slums.

And he hopes Bendigo sportspeople join him for a life-changing experience.

“I always felt like I would love to give guys something like the AFL does,” Claridge said.

“The West Coast Eagles’ chaplain regularly takes their guys over to Cambodia to build orphanages.

“It’s bonding, unity and also it’s a help to that community.

“The concept is to take a regional representative trip to India for a week to work at the slums there and for the guys to bond, build unity in the clubs and to further build the relationship between say Bendigo Gold and other regional teams.

“When I spoke to (Gold coach) Aussie (Jones) and Tim Dickson (chairman) earlier in the year, they were right behind it, which was a great encouragement to me.

“(Former BFNL chief) Steven Oliver got right behind it and, even though he’s moved on from that role, the Bendigo league is right behind it and Golden Square is right behind it.”

A team in Kolkata will facilitate the work week, which involves activities such as teaching children in a mobile classroom and providing the children with a nutritious meal.

Organised sports events, medical camps and evening tuition are also part of the program.

“The footballers, or netballers, would go together as a group, to work in a structured way, from hands-on stuff, to relating to young people, to being ambassadors for Aussie Rules,” Claridge said.

The Gold has committed members of its leadership group to the trip and will fund-raise to cover the $2400 per-person costs.

“It’s just a great way for us to be across all things in the community and help these kids in life and not only on the footy field,” Gold coach Jones said.

“We just see it the full picture of our footy club we need to offer that experience and something a little bit different from every other club.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Jones will help Claridge launch the “Kolkata Aid” program at the GPO Restaurant in Pall Mall tomorrow from 8pm.

Claridge hopes to turn the program into an annual trip, with many clubs represented.

“My goal is for organisations to sponsor some of the quality guys who put in at their club to go and have this experience,” he said.

“The committed ones are the Bendigo Gold’s leadership group, ideally I’d love a representative from each Bendigo club.

“I’m hoping as this unfolds Bendigo will adopt this area of the slums of Calcutta and go back each year and build relationships – some businesses may help.

“I’m just hoping it snowballs from here.”

For information about the trip contact Bruce Claridge on 0412 478 744

ON A MISSION: Pastor Bruce Claridge, Bendigo Gold Football Club coach Aussie Jones and Golden Square Football Club senior coach Rick Ladson at the QEO. Picture: BRENDAN McCARTHY

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