This International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, Australian Rugby Union (ARU) and ChildFund Australia are highlighting the importance of sport in a unique partnership.
The ARU and ChildFund have been working together to give children from some of the poorest regions in Asia the chance to take part in an innovative sport for development program: Pass It Back.
With funding support from the Australian Government, the ARU and ChildFund have been working with non-government organisations and national rugby federations in Laos, Vietnam and the Philippines to grow and expand ChildFund’s successful Pass it Back program.
Using a fully integrated rugby and life-skills curriculum, ChildFund Pass it Back not only promotes the right to play in communities where children have little or no access to organised sport, but provides important learning opportunities around leadership, life skills and gender equality.
Earlier this year, two of Australia’s top Sevens players, Lewis Holland and Nicole Beck, spent three days in Kim Boi, northern Vietnam running coaching and referee clinics and supporting a team competition involving more than 160 young players and coaches from remote communities of Laos and Vietnam.
Gold medallist Nicole Beck said of the experience: “It was a privilege to be able to travel to these communities and support the development of new talent. I was 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.”
ChildFund’s Pass it Back program was set up for children in rural and remote communities of Laos and Vietnam, who face significant challenges around poverty and inequality. Now, working in partnership with the ARU, Pass It Back will be expanded to marginalised communities in the Philippines, ensuring even more children will be able to overcome challenges, inspire positive change and ‘pass it back’ to their communities.
ChildFund Australia CEO Nigel Spence said: “The knowledge, skills and attitudes built through this program will support young people to overcome these challenges, and be strong leaders and role models within their communities.
“We are very excited to be partnering with the ARU, one of the world’s leading national governing bodies for rugby, to expand the Pass it Back program to more children in Asia.”
To date, more than 2,500 children and youth in some of the remotest and poorest communities in Laos and Vietnam have benefitted from participation in the program, with girls making up more than 50 per cent of the players and coaches.
Adam Thomas, Head of Community & Pacific Partnerships at Australian Rugby Union, said: “The ARU has significant experience in implementing sport for development programs in the Pacific and we’re looking forward to building on that work in Asia through this partnership with ChildFund.
“One of the most remarkable achievements of Pass it Back has been its success in attracting girls and young women to the game of rugby. As we work with ChildFund to extend the program, we hope more women and girls are just as eager to try it out.”