Ish Jhaj is a kinesiology graduate in 2011 from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada. She has been playing soccer since she could walk, and continues to play on a Women’s Premier team.
As a child Ish was given the opportunity to play the game, but after realizing that not every girl gets the same chance, she decided to take matters in her own hand and start Shooting for Hope. In addition, she has been volunteering as a coach with girls youth teams in New Westminster with Royal City Youth Soccer Club for the past 3 years.
Her roots are in Punjab, India, the birthplace of her parents. She wants to give back the best way she knows how, through soccer. In partnership with Youth Football Club (YFC), in Rurka Kalan, Ish has laid the grassroots of a girls soccer academy. Although YFC is predominantly a boy’s academy, they do realize that the social impact of the game will actually come into full effect only when it is able to cut across sexes.
In the summer of 2011, she travelled with her mother Rajinder to Punjab and began a four week long soccer camp six times a week for 1.5 hours. She started with 25 girls and very quickly the numbers grew to 60 participants. The girls, ranging from ages 5-12 were provided soccer uniforms, cleats, balls and breakfast. Along with soccer, the camps included life and career-planning discussions, goal setting workshops and computer classes.
The camps continued after Ish left by YFC. In December 2011, Ish returned to run another 10-day camp, this time with her best friend Concetta D’Amato. Together they were able to expand further and work with two other local schools and setup a Physical Education (PE) program that allows girls from Grade 8 and under to play soccer. Certified female PE teachers have been provided to the school, as they work along side experienced soccer coaches.
Currently, the classes run a hour long during school time with over 60 girls participating in two local schools. Shooting for Hope aims to expand throughout India and work with the Indian government to make school-wide physical education programs for girls.
Ish and Concetta return to India in December 2012 to continue the efforts and expand the program. In addition, focus on healthy image healthy body, and give the girls a voice to and to help them develop self-esteem and leadership that they can take with them off the field.