Stories

Growing up in Australia, playing sport was a given, although I never dreamed that I would end up a professional athlete, and especially not a rugby union player.

Having the opportunity to take part in organised sport is not something that is available to all children as I recently saw first hand during a trip to Laos with ChildFund.

In Nonghet Province, in the country’s north, sporting facilities are few and far between. This is a region that is also still recovering from the Vietnam war, with high levels of unexploded ordnance contamination making large areas of land unsafe.

The ChildFund Pass It Back rugby for development program is giving many young people here the opportunity to take part in tag rugby. It’s often the first time they’ve had the chance to play organised sport. Not only is this rugby for good program giving vulnerable children from developing communities to chance to play, but its unique curriculum also teaches young players about planning for the future, teamwork and gender equality.

The sheer joy on the kids’ faces in Laos was infectious. It really is a universal truth that every child loves to play! I was so touched to see how much these children treasure their involvement in rugby and embrace every minute on the field and with their teammates.

The experience really drove home to me that everyone should be able to give sport a go, whether they’re growing up in Laos or Australia, and everyone should be able to try rugby, whether they’re female or male.

What’s most impressive about ChildFund Pass It Back is the fact that over 50 per cent of the participants are girls and young women. Because it’s such a new sport in Laos, there are no pre-conceptions that it’s only a game for the boys.

We’re a lucky country.

That’s the consensus of the students at Georges River Grammar in south-west Sydney.

“People in Australia have so much but we forget how little other people have,” sixth-grader Lourdes says.

“I think we should give more to charity because people in other countries aren’t as lucky as we are,” Oscar, also in Grade 6, adds.

We’re sitting under a giant fig tree in the school playground, and it’s clear the Grade 6 students we’re speaking to are wonderfully bright and compassionate. They’re also savvy and know a thing or two about the struggles their peers growing up in developing communities face.

For almost two decades staff at Georges River Grammar have taught their students about the importance of helping others.

The school, which has more than 470 students between kindergarten and Grade 6, has been sponsoring children through ChildFund since 2001 and hold regular fundraising activities each year to support disadvantaged children and communities.

Their most recent event – Helping Others Afternoon – raised $3000 for ChildFund’s Laos Nutrition Appeal and children affected by the Philippines typhoon, which killed dozens of people in September and forced more than 236,000 families to abandon their homes.

The money were raised over an afternoon in October when classes from Grade 2 to Grade 6 ran stalls and activities for students, including face painting and games, and sold cakes and second-hand books and toys.