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Charitable Challenge for Portobello Sports Therapy Students

On a recent Society of Sports Therapist’s liaison visit to Portobello Institute Dublin, Vice Chairman Keith Waldon was in conversation with Denise Flood, the Institute’s Head of Early Years and Registrar for Portobello. He uncovered some wonderful facts about Denise and her international charitable work in India and Belarus, including a charity she has set up  called ‘Dochas Leanai’ which has a literal translation of “hope for children” in Gaeilge (Gaelic). Denise has also inspired some of the Institute’s Sports Therapy students to lend a hand.
We spoke to Denise about her work and the efforts of the Sports Therapy students overseas.

How did your charity work in India and Belarus come about?
‘In 2007 I travelled with another charity to Belarus delivering Christmas shoe boxes. We visited 6 orphanages handing out gifts and we ran art and craft camps. I travelled on many more trips with them and in 2010 I had the opportunity to travel to India. After this time, I realised my vision for travelling was changing and a team of us from here at Portobello Institute decided to travel to India independently and work with an orphanage called Bharatiya Samaj Seva Kendra (BSSK). One of the lecturers here sits on their Board.

We delivered training for the teachers in Montessori education and we also opened a Montessori school in the orphanage. We expanded our remit and began running sports, self –defence and beauty workshops in the community outreach programmes, run by the orphanage’s patronage.

Can you tell us about BSSK and the children in the orphanage?
BSSK in Pune, Maharashtra began by taking orphaned children in, to what was just a small hut. They now have a number of centres and community projects doing similar work with the poorest of families living in the slums of Pune. They also run a school sponsorship programme for children in whole families. We have trained the teachers and assisted them in the setting up of an outreach Montessori school in a community centre attached to one of the slums and the local children come to preschool every day in the newly refurbished building, with materials that we purchased locally.

In 2015 you first took Sports Therapy students on a trip to Pune – how did this come about and how did they get involved?
There was a need for self-defence training to be delivered and I thought that they would benefit enormously from such a trip. I took 8 Year 2 students. They conducted the self-defence training each morning with local children in the community centre in Pune. They also carried out sports, arts and crafts activities for children in the BSSK orphanage. They have also delivered sports camps both in a slum school and in a school for sight impaired children.

How do you think the students benefitted from a trip of this nature?
I believe that by planning the trip in advance but also by having to think on their feet, they learned how to keep very large groups occupied and make the events fun. The heat was quite intense and they needed stamina, so they also learned to go into a group ‘cold’ and keep them and the teachers up on their feet and involved. And of course, they were able to realise how very lucky they are in their own lives.

How can Society Members find out more about the work your charity does?
If you’d like to find out more, please contact me on

Editor’s Note
What a wonderful opportunity and learning experience for the students and what fantastic work you are doing, Denise. We wish you continued success.

Images Source: Thanks to Ujjwwal Photography for allowing us to reprint his pictures 

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