Barbarians kick off 2021 with £10,000 grant for Friends of Rwandan Rugby


The Barbarians Rugby Charitable Trust has donated £10,000 to Rwandan rugby charity Friends of Rwandan Rugby in a further commitment to supporting the development of community rugby around the world. 

Friends of Rwandan Rugby work to support the growth of participation and encourage a healthy, active lifestyle for children in Rwanda in partnership with the Rwanda Rugby Federation. 

The goal is not only to create a sustainable model for the continued growth of rugby in Rwanda, but also to promote core values central to the Barbarians’ ethos: fair play, respect, friendship and fun.  

Set up in 2004 by former VSO volunteer in Rwanda Emma Rees and fellow rugby player Deena Aitken, the charity employs ten Rwandan Rugby Development Officers who work full-time delivering rugby coaching in primary and secondary schools across the country, reaching around 1,000 children a month.

As well as the schools rugby programme – which introduces primary school pupils to tag and secondary school pupils to 7s – the RDOs are all involved with local club sides, as coaches and/or players, and contribute to the Rwandan national rugby league. 

The FoRR Trustees intend to increase the number of RDOs and number of women’s and girls’ teams in the national league sides. Rugby is becoming increasingly popular with women and girls in Rwanda and Friends are proud to encourage and support this growth.

Each year, FoRR runs at least one tour to Rwanda consisting of coaches and players from the UK, taking the group to an area of Rwanda where rugby is not yet established. On the tour, the group teaches tag rugby to four primary schools culminating in a tag tournament for the children to practice their new skills. Secondary schools experience rugby taster sessions and, where possible, the group will work with a local rugby club to run training sessions and friendlies. Not only does the tour group bring skills and experience, every participant brings donated kit from team shirts to boots and balls to clubs around the country, meaning there are dozens of Rwandan off-shoots of British rugby clubs!

Covid has put a hold on the great work Friends of Rwandan Rugby have been able to do in the country. 2019’s tours – running two for the first time – were the biggest and most successful yet, even featuring in ITV’s Rugby World Cup 2019 footage, and 2020’s tours were set to be even bigger. Sadly, the pandemic led to May’s tour being postponed and lockdown restrictions have curtailed the playing of sport in Rwanda. However, despite the pandemic producing ever-increasing challenges, the charity is working hard to organise tours again and resume rugby programmes in Rwanda.

With the help of the Barbarians Rugby Charitable Trust, Friends of Rwandan Rugby will be able to reach thousands more children across Rwanda, bringing to them the values of rugby and benefits of organised sport. There is virtually no regular organised sport in primary schools, and the Rwandan RDOs are charged with supporting the development of rugby programmes in each region. The Barbarians grant will enable two more full-time RDOs for two years delivering rugby in two new districts, as well as funding a brand-new tag rugby course to introduce teachers to tag rugby coaching and equip schools with the necessary kit. FoRR will also be working with teacher training colleges to train the students to teach tag rugby when they graduate and become primary school teachers.

John Spencer, President of Barbarian F.C., said: “We are very proud to make such a significant contribution to Friends of Rwandan Rugby and thrilled at how far this grant will go to introducing more youngsters and coaches in the country to our very special sport.

“In the midst of the pandemic, the creation of a foundation for the reintroduction of organised sport and community initiatives is more important than ever. At the Barbarians, we are deeply committed to supporting the community game around the world and we want to see our support survive, thrive and grow. The Friends of Rwandan Rugby provide wonderful opportunities to realising this in Rwanda and we look forward to seeing their continued success with our support.”

Mary Watkins, FoRR Trustee, added: “We are delighted to have been awarded this grant from the Barbarians. It will make a huge difference to the development of rugby and organised sport in schools in a sustainable way. Working directly with schools to train teachers and student teachers at colleges is a new and exciting approach, which will allow the sport to reach many more schools and thousands of children across the country. Having additional RDOs to introduce rugby into new areas is also vital for the growth of our charity’s work. At FoRR we are very proud of our efficient use of funds. As just £1 pays for 1 child to receive regular rugby coaching for 1 year, this grant will go a very long way indeed! #1for1for1. Murakoze cyane [Thank you very much]!”


Read more about Friends of Rwandan Rugby

Read more about the Barbarians Rugby Charitable Trust