Lapasset: Rugby is a school of life
By Frankie Deges
The legacy programme from the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy 2009 continued on Friday when some 450 children, boys and girls, from the Kibera township in Kenya enjoyed rugby for three hours.
IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset was present, along with representatives from the International Rugby Board, the Kenya Rugby Football Union (KRFU) and Chile's Under 20 team, and spent time with some of the poorest children in the region.
Kibera is the largest slum in Africa with more than one million inhabitants. For many years now, under the leadership of KRFU Development Manager Fred Ollows and Eric Situma, school children have been taught rugby.
One hundred and 50 children in the rugby programme received t-shirts with the message "Rudge Imekam mtaani" (Rugby comes to our hood) and mini-rugby balls.
"The values of our games fit everyone. Passing the ball is sharing," said Lapasset after playing touch rugby with 10 year olds.
"Rugby is a school of life and what we did with these children shows that our Game is not only about competitions and Test matches. Once we enter a rugby field, we are all equal."
Ten thousand children
The Kenya Rugby Football Union have had a development programme with children in Kibera and the surrounding area since 2002 and all of the ball boys at the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy live in Kibera.
"Probably 10,000 kids have already come in contact with the game through our Sunday informal programme. We also have a formal programme by which we go to schools every day," said Ollows.
"Rugby is probably the one structured environment they are involved in besides school. They come from very disadvantaged backgrounds and many of them have strained and dysfunctional families.
"For many of these kids, Eric Situma is their father figure."
Thanks to this programme, the children are fully fed during competition days and get snacks and drinks on training days. The Rugby Patrons play an important role.
"We are already seeing some players coming through the rugby system and playing for clubs," revealed Ollows. "Those kids actually play serious rugby."
The same model of programme is run at another slum in Nairobi.