In less than four months, members of the Newbury RFC U16 squad will be swapping GCSE finals for favelas as they head to Brazilâ€™s largest slum as part of an ambitious social mission called â€˜Rugby Firstsâ€™.
At the end of August, 24 pupils from seven West Berkshire schools will travel to Rio De Janeiro to host a special Rugby Festival and coach youth rugby. With major sponsors secured, the team are now on a drive to fund raise and secure donations and pledges to enable them to take out kit and infrastructure to guarantee their once-in-a-lifetime trip has a lasting legacy.
Rugby in Rocinha â€“ Why?
The Rugby Firsts project is working with Rio Rugby, a local team of volunteers familiar with the challenges faced in the infamously dangerous favelas of Rio. The Newbury RFC U16 squad will be the first youth rugby team to head into Rocinha â€“ Brazilâ€™s largest favelas, home to some of the poorest children in the city.
The aim of the programme is to engage young people, using rugby as the vehicle to develop social skills, self-esteem, discipline, team spirit and positive pathways into the next stages of their lives.
The highlight of the trip will be The Rio Favela Cup, where children will be transported from the favelas to a sports facility in the suburbs of Rio, to participate in a festival of rugby, music and BBQs – for many their first experience of grass pitches.
As a result of this project, more than 100 children will learn and develop new skills â€“ an important step in their personal development. The team want to be able to leave behind as many shorts, shirts, socks, bibs, rugby balls and training equipment as possible, to ensure that the skills these youngsters learn can be practiced by those living well below the poverty line. This kit is all-important, as demonstrated by some of the children of Rocinha when the New Zealand womenâ€™s team visited the favela earlier this year.
Fundraising, Donating and Pledging Â
The Rugby Firsts Projectâ€™s next fundraising effort is the â€˜Black Hole Sportiveâ€™ â€“ a challenging road bike ride on the lanes around Newbury, Hungerford and Andover.
Taking place on Sunday 31st May, the Sportive concludes with a Brazilian BBQ. As a 50 or 20 mile bike ride on a weekend isnâ€™t for everyone, people are also able to donate directly to the Rugby Firsts Project via an online local fundraising platform: http://bit.ly/1OV9fIk
And itâ€™s not just money the Rugby Firsts Project needs â€“ second hand kit is very welcome! The team are running a â€˜kit amnestyâ€™ during May, collecting spare Rugby kit to take to the children in Rio.
â€œRugby Firsts is a unique project. Weâ€™re hoping to help nearly 100 deprived children gain social skills, self-esteem and discipline through rugby coached by their peers. If weâ€™re successful, we can keep these kids off the streets and away from illegal activities and nudge them towards a more positive future,â€ said Shelly Hambrecht, Rugby Firsts Project.
â€œWith the generous support of rugby enthusiasts throughout West Berkshire, we can create a legacy that outlives our ten day experience.â€
Rugby First Travelling Players:
Stephen Ansell, St. Bartholomewâ€™s
Callum Hambrecht, St. Bartholomewâ€™s
Oliver Hassell-Collins, St. Bartholomewâ€™s
James McFadzen, St. Bartholomewâ€™s
Luke Parkes, St. Bartholomewâ€™s
Alex Sparkes, St. Bartholomewâ€™s
Alex Zenda, St. Bartholomewâ€™s
Connor Burns, Leighton Park
Will Butcher, Kennet
Alex Crossman, Kennet
Samuel Swann, Kennet
Chris Daymond, Trinity
Luke Higgs, Park House
Ollie Jones, Pangbourne College
Ed Rimmer, Pangbourne College
Jonah Rossiter, Pangbourne College
Tom Robjohns, Downs School
Thomas Swann, Downs School
Robin Swann, Downs School
Benjamin Wickens, Downs School
David West, St. John’s (Marlborough)
For more information about the Rugby Firsts Project please visit: http://rugbyfirsts.moonfruit.com/