Though it lags far behind football (soccer) in almost every metric apart from hospitalizations, rugby is on even footing with the world’s most popular sport when it comes to simplicity. Certainly both sports have their fair share of obscure rules – ‘off side’ and the dangerous theatrics of the scrum come to mind – but in the end all they require is a ball, a field and a dozen friends. For this reason rugby is the game of choice for many communities in Eastern and Southern Africa.
The Bhubesi Pride Foundation is one of many organizations using rugby’s popularity to uplift students and communities, teaching them everything from basic hygiene to gender equality. Born out of a string of youth and community sport projects, BPF Is now a formally recognized in 9 African countries, stretching from South Africa in the south to Kenya and Uganda in the north.
The Bhubesi Pride Foundation has two main activities. It organizes annual coaching expeditions. And it works to improve and update public, academic and sport infrastructure and facilities through what they call ‘Legacy Projects’.
BPF brings together NGOs, national rugby unions, government departments, international schools and local businesses to support and expand their programs. Volunteer coaches are well qualified rugby players and coaches from Europe, North America and other parts of Africa. Each participant brings a different approach to the sport but shares the same enthusiasm for the game. “To use sport, exercise and, for the next few months, rugby, as a medium for development is a thrill and a privilege,” writes Jacob Hiscock, a 2015 volunteer.
Both the annual coaching missions and BPF’s Legacy Projects leave lasting impressions on the communities they serve. Since 2013, BPF has helped create sports spaces in South Africa, including the installation of two dozen computers and environmental restoration efforts. This year, BPF completed improvements to school facilities and libraries in Botswana and Gabrone.
There is much to be learned from what has been called “a hooligan’s game played by gentlemen.” Whether it’s the subtle rules or the not so subtle experience of being knocked down and getting back up for 80 minutes, rugby is a good source of life lessons for those who love or play it. The Bhubesi Pride Foundation believes everyone deserves the opportunity to do so.
By Ben Young