Two of Australia’s top rugby players headed to Vietnam last week to coach and support children from some of the poorest communities in Southeast Asia, as part of an innovative sport for development program managed by ChildFund Australia, implemented in partnership with Women Win, Asia Rugby and World Rugby.
During the three-day visit, Australian Women’s Rugby Sevens Olympic gold medallist Nicole Beck and Australian Men’s Rugby Sevens Captain Lewis Holland travelled to Kim Boi district in northern Vietnam to run coach and referee clinics, and supported a team competition involving more than 160 young players and coaches from remote communities of Laos and Vietnam.
The visit has been arranged under ChildFund’s Pass it Back program, which promotes the right to play in communities where children have little or no access to organised sport. Using a fully integrated rugby and life-skills curriculum, Pass it Back not only supports young people’s health and wellbeing but provides important learning opportunities around leadership, life skills and gender equality to help them overcome challenges, inspire positive change and ‘pass it back’ to their communities.
The program is supported by the Australian Government’s aid program through its Asia Sports Partnerships (ASP) initiative, which was established to foster links between Australia and Asia that promote community health, disability inclusion, gender equality and social cohesion.
To date, more than 2,500 children and youth in some of the poorest communities in Laos and Vietnam have benefitted from participation in the program, with girls making up over 50 per cent of the players and coaches.
“ChildFund’s Pass it Back program was set up for children living in rural and remote villages of Laos and Vietnam, who face significant challenges around poverty and inequality,” said ChildFund Australia CEO Nigel Spence.
“As the program develops, it is wonderful to have the support of Australian Rugby to further build the knowledge and skills of our young players and coaches, and to inspire them to be strong leaders and role models within their communities.”
“I can’t wait to get these kids excited about playing rugby,” said Aussie Sevens star Nicole Beck.
“It is a privilege to be able to travel to these communities and support the development of new talent. I am particularly impressed that in Laos and Vietnam, where rugby is a relatively new sport, so many girls and young women are jumping in and giving it a go. It’s really fantastic.”
Matt Oakley, Asia Rugby’s representative at the event said, “it was great to see so many young players out enjoying themselves. Asia Rugby is excited to be a Pass It Back partner, as we work to ensure that the 2019 Rugby World Cup has a social as well as Rugby development impact across our region, which helps to grow the sport.”
Photos and Story: Chris Mastaglio (Pass It Back – Director)