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Shama Rugby Foundation takes the rugby to Kibera, Mathare slums

RUGBY By By ERICK OCHIENG’ | September 9th 2013 | 3 min read


Rugby, which has for a long time been regarded as an elitist sport, is slowly gaining popularity among the poor, thanks to the Shamas Rugby Foundation (SRF).

The foundation, which is a youth rugby project based at the Kenya Harlequins grounds in Nairobi, aims to give over 200 boys and girls from Nairobi’s Mathare and Kibera slums a firmer foothold in life.

Shamas is not only giving the children, aged between five and 15, an opportunity to play the game but also to fit into society by encouraging them to channel their energies towards positive development in their communities.

Since the foundation, formerly run by the Kenya Rugby Union, was revived last year by businessman Azim Deen, the children have achieved much.

Last month, the children had a ten-day tour of Cape Town, South Africa, where they watched the rugby match between South Africa’s Springboks and Argentina.

“Free interaction with class teachers and parents has greatly enhanced the children’s self-esteem, sense of teamwork and responsibility, with a marked improvement in overall performance in school,” says Azim who fell in love with rugby during his school days in Scotland.

Develop skills

Azim, who is among the three trustees running SRF alongside his son Nadim and former KRU Chairman Richard Omwela, says the foundation gives the children opportunity to play rugby and develop life skills such as discipline, teamwork, communication, integrity and respect.

Omwela told FeverPitch that there has been positive feedback from one of the school headmasters who noticed that some of the boys who play rugby have started to concentrate more in class.

The significant growth and success at SRF has seen eight local coaches from the slums play rugby for teams in Nairobi.

Invite clubs

The coaches work with local primary schools and hold weekly training sessions.

Every month, the project holds a sevens tournament for the slum children and invite some of the local rugby clubs to bring their teams along.

“The coaches act as role models for the children; they want them to grow to be strong and play for the local rugby teams just like they (coaches) do,” says Omwela.

“We are certain that one day a child from this project will play on the national team. Through rugby, we motivate these children to be role models in their communities and work hard at school,” says coach Eric Situma.

Kenya Harlequins have made available their training grounds for the children.

Their contribution has ensured consistent weekly training for the children in a safe, exciting and supportive environment.

SRS goals are set over a six- year period. Next year, the project seeks to expand the clinics to areas such as Kawangware and Kangemi and introduce the game as a full time sport to at least 30 government schools in Nairobi with the help of the Sports ministry and KRU.

In 2015, the project hopes to expand the primary school programme to at least 100 public schools within Nairobi.

“We will help to fund and implement, together with the Government and KRU, a compulsory rugby programme for all schools in Nairobi,” said Nadim.


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