A self-proclaimed environmentalist, a human rights activist, and an accomplished entrepreneur, Jill Ferguson is an expat extraordinaire who was given the wonderful opportunity of setting up and managing the Forca Goa Foundation.
The foundation is made up of 17 homegrown Goans along with Adrienne Thadani who is half-Indian, half-American, Joanna Pyres who is half-Goan, half-British, and Jill herself.
Together, the team of dedicated football fanatics and activists work with the children and youth from all corners of the state to connect the community through the common culture of football, and aim to create a positive change in Goa — a state they’ve all grown to love.
We sat down with Jill to learn more about her move to India, the Goan culture, and of course, the Forca Goa Foundation.
IB: Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m from a small suburb just north of Seattle in Washington. Prior to moving to Goa, I lived in San Diego for University.
I moved to Goa five years ago after completing my Masters in Peace and Justice Studies. After working as a kitesurfing co-instructor, my partner Rahul Malaney and I set up and eco-conscious guest house, restaurant, and water sports centre on Ashwem Beach.
My friend Akshay Tandon, who is the President of FC Goa, approached me in October of 2016 with the idea of starting the Forca Goa Foundation.
IB: What is Forca Goa’s mission?
The Forca Goa Foundation is an NGO that aims to use football to mobilise, empower, and connect communities for the positive development of individuals and of our state, Goa.
We believe that football has a huge potential as a tool for social development due to a large number of people from diverse backgrounds that it appeals to.
We currently provide free training to over 1,500 children (6-14 years) from low-income backgrounds. Besides football training, the foundation also provides them with equipment and nutrition, and hosts workshops on issues relevant to these children and their surroundings such as waste management and gender equality.
When all is said and done we work with about 5,000 children and youth throughout the year.
IB: What has your Goan experience been like so far?
Even though I have lived in Goa for over five years now, it was really only after starting my job at the foundation that I felt more deeply ingrained in the local culture.
Many foreigners only see one side of Goa that is marketed to the rest of the world — beautiful beaches, relaxed atmosphere, cheap beer, and lots of parties. But Goa is so much more than that.
If you were to go to a beach shack for dinner, chances are there might not be a single Goan dish on the menu. That’s sad, because Goans are incredibly proud of their heritage — they know it’s a special place and they want it to stay beautiful.
When I think of Goan culture, four main things come mind immediately: football, thetri (local theatre), music, and the local cuisine.
Working with the locals and especially the kids has honestly made me feel an even deeper appreciation for this place that I now call home.
IB: What’s your take on the attitude people in this country have towards philanthropy?
More and more organisations are finding funding from within India — this is shifting the way people relate to philanthropy.
While it might be easier to get funding within India, I think the volunteer culture is still developing. We work with Chowgule College in South Goa and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that every one of their students is required to complete 120 volunteer hours a year as part of the college’s requirements.
I think we, as organisations, need to help empower the youth to feel confident in their ability to affect change within their community.
IB: What can we expect from Forca Goa in the near future?
The Forca Goa Foundation has publicly launched itself at the last home game of FC Goa on Feb 28. Now, we will be looking to expand our #TackleTrashTogether initiative by increasing the number of regular clean-ups we do.
Then we will more formally launch our #Football4All program in which we will be actively trying to increase the opportunities for both women and girls in football.
Lastly, we’ll continue our active citizenship program by creating a thorough Active Citizens Handbook that helps educate the local community about their rights and responsibilities as citizens.
Image Credit: Forca Goa Foundation