John Worne (back row, fifth from the left) and young people taking part in community rugby with Harlequins Premiership rugby players.
John Worne, the British Council’s Director of Strategy, blogs about how a new British Council sports partnership with Premier Rugby called ‘Try Rugby SP‘ is using rugby to engage with children and young people in the state of São Paulo, Brazil, to deliver health, education and social outcomes.
To Isleworth West London, on a damp, cold Friday evening in February. After a long week it’s going to take something special to cheer me up. And as the planes for Heathrow rumble overhead and the grey evening turns to rain, I find my huddled group for tonight’s fixture.
It’s community rugby. Harlequins Premiership rugby players going our into the community – into areas where not just the sky is grey, but sometimes lives can be too. I’m meeting Premiership Rugby and a delegation from Brazil with whom we’re piloting a programme called ‘Try Rugby’ to raise kids’ aspirations in São Paulo, Brazil.
‘Try Rugby SP’ is a great example of how the British Council is using sport and the ‘Corinthian’ values of rugby to reach deprived communities, support social inclusion and encourage the educational and personal development of young people.
We’re working with Premiership Rugby, using their brand and deep expertise in community rugby programmes together with our Brazilian partner Social Services for Industry (SESI) whose on the ground experience of providing community services to young people in Brazil has proven invaluable to the success of this programme.
Rugby 7s is an Olympic sport for 2016, Brazil has a good women’s team and rugby is now getting a foothold too in football-mad Brazil. Perhaps there’ll soon be some competition for local rivals Argentina with the oval as well as the round ball.
But as Isleworth on a wet night showed, the magic of rugby can get all shapes and sizes running around and learning together. Big kids, little ones, boys, a lightning fast girl and some kids with life difficulties all playing as one happy team. Add an inspiring young coach from South Africa who throws in nutrition, self-confidence, language and life skills and you see young lives being enriched; and maybe hopes and opportunities changed.
It’s a small thing – we all have limited resources – but it’s a good thing. Rugby – and sport more generally – brings young people together like nothing else. And it teaches them life skills which help navigate the favelas of Brazil or the estates of Isleworth.
The closest most of Friday’s kids may ever get to Brazil is the planes roaring over their heads. But thanks to Harlequins and Premiership Rugby they met some real Brazilians on Friday. And their example might yet inspire hope and opportunity for kids thousands of miles away on the streets of Brazil – thanks to our great partners there and here.