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Vietnam rugby trip inspires Sydney family to level the field for children

Rugby fan and father-of-two Chris never thought a raffle ticket he bought at a ChildFund fundraising lunch three years ago would lead to an eye-opening and rewarding journey through Vietnam for him and his family.

Chris, his wife Natalie, and their two sons, Harry and Jamie, travelled to Vietnam in October 2022 to see ChildFund Rugby’s sport for development Pass It Back program in action. The Sydney family met and heard from children and rugby coaches, mostly girls and young women, from disadvantaged backgrounds about how the programs had helped to change their lives.

“The program presents a tremendous opportunity for both coaches and players alike,” Chris says. “It was incredibly powerful to see the huge positive impact that ChildFund is having on these disadvantaged communities in Vietnam. Many of the coaches and players come from families who are living on less than 1,000 US dollars a year and the program provides them with life-changing opportunities as paid rugby coaches on the Pass It Back program, and leadership and life skills for the young players.

“What is even more remarkable is that coaches and players, supported by ChildFund, are given the rarest of opportunities to travel overseas and play in international tournaments. It is hard to imagine how incredible that experience must be; coming from small, rural villages and then suddenly being able to travel to other parts of the world to play rugby under the ChildFund program.”

“It was superb to see the program in action and its values and life skills being brought to life during a training session that we were lucky enough to participate in.  What made it even more special was seeing first-hand the passion and joy of all the players and coaches during the session.”

Chris and his partner Natalie, and sons Harry, age 7, and Jamie, age 4, visiting a ChildFund-supported primary school in rural Vietnam.

Chris and his family also visited a primary school where ChildFund and community members had worked together to build toilets and a clean water system for local students. Harry, age 7, and Jamie, age 4, introduced themselves to a class and joined in with games during the lunch break. “The children didn’t speak one another’s languages, but they shared a common language of play and laughter and quickly headed off to the makeshift cubbyhouse in the playground,” Chris says.

Four-year-old Jamie joins in the fun and games with ChildFund Rugby’s sport for development program in Vietnam. “I can’t think of anything more rewarding than giving my kids the experiences they got from the trip,” his father, Chris, says.

It was Harry and Jamie’s first time in Vietnam and visiting developing communities. Adapting to a new cuisine was sometimes challenging but the boys welcomed most of their experiences in Vietnam with a sense of curiosity and enthusiasm. 

“I can’t think of anything more rewarding than giving my kids the experiences they got from the trip,” Chris says. “We wanted to give Harry and Jamie a perspective that was different to their privileged and comparatively sheltered life on the beaches of Sydney and to help them develop an appreciation of what they have and a greater perspective on life.”

“Now that we’re back in Australia, we reflect on these things almost daily.”

The trip has inspired Chris and his family to continue giving back and supporting children in need. “We have been asking ourselves how we can do more work with charities that are really making a positive impact like ChildFund,” Chris says.

They are already planning their next trip with a focus on how they can visit another ChildFund community again, roll up their sleeves and make a positive contribution.

“I’m so grateful that it was my family that was given the opportunity to spend time with so many of the inspirational ChildFund team members and the amazing children who benefit from the program every day,” Chris says. “For the whole family it was an eye-opening experience, especially for the kids, and has only inspired us all to do more and continue to pass it back.”

Chris and his sons experiencing ChildFund Rugby’s Pass It Back program first-hand with a game of tag rugby. “The program presents a tremendous opportunity for both coaches and players alike,” Chris says.

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