One day when Richard Bennett is old and greying and watching Zambia make their debut in the 2039 World Cup he will sit back and reflect on how his Bhubesi Pride Foundation really did make a difference to African rugby after all.
Bhubesi Pride is the initiative Bennett started in 2010 to bring together rural communities, NGOs and government departments in Africa with lovers of rugby union. It’s basically a charitable initiative that selects volunteers from all over the world to help develop rugby and harness its benefits for society in general.
According to Bennett, Bhubesi Pride has three main objectives: “To unite communities through rugby, promoting the sport’s values and life skills; empower and up-skill local staff, nurturing community leaders, male and female, in a way that maximises sustainability; and to inspire long-term developmental outcomes via tangible legacy projects, alongside in-country partners.”
The current expedition, which began at the end of January, is travelling through Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa and the 25-strong team of volunteers is drawn from 11 different countries.
The charity has reached over 10 000 children since 2012 and the likes of Ethiopia and Rwanda have also featured on the itinerary.
The key goal for Bennett is sustainability and the synergies between Bhubesi Pride and WorldRugby’s own Get Into Rugby initiatives in Africa are obvious.
“We do overlap with Get Into Rugby, we have the same basic premise, which is to offer rugby as a means of bringing communities together, to give youngsters life skills and to promote the values of WorldRugby. There’s a synergy between us and we like to support those efforts.
“Ideally, we want to up-skill local teachers, show them how to teach and coach rugby. Bhubesi Pride is a legacy program and we want to inspire the people we work with. If we just coach rugby and bugger off five days later, then there’s very little sustainability, which is the key. The important thing is we see a lot of kids come back to our sessions and we can see the improvement in them,” Bennett says.
Building a new netball court at the Emzomncane Primary School in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, and opening a new computer room, complete with 25 computers, in the rural Nahumba Basic School in Choma, Zambia, are just a couple of the legacy projects Bhubesi Pride have implemented.
And it’s not as if Bhubesi Pride arrive and sweep through villages with all the subtlety of Schalk Burger entering a ruck either. They are sensitive to the needs of local communities and Bennett says the volunteers only arrive in a village after the foundation’s management have met with all the key stakeholders to nail down their plans. The places to visit are suggested by the NGOs, government departments and rugby structures in the host country.
G4S Africa have signed on as the foundation’s lead partner due to their success thus far.
“Bhubesi Pride is really making a significant difference to the lives of children, teachers and the community around us. We definitely see opportunities to expand the programme and we are on board all the way. We’re also keen to get involved in community legacy projects that make a difference to the youth,” Elanie Kruger, the Regional HR Director of G4S Africa, says.
Wordsworth Rashid, a 43-year-old from Lilongwe, Malawi, is a prime example of the difference Bhubesi Pride is making in the lives of people.
“Wordsworth e-mailed me out of the blue in 2010 and has been involved in every expedition since 2011. He’s a special needs co-ordinator, he’s passionate about education and providing for the needs of people.
“Bhubesi Pride has taken Wordsworth out of Malawi for the first time in his life and he’s now our project manager in Lilongwe, he organises everything for us. With the support of the expat community in Lilongwe, we’re hoping to be able to employ Wordsworth for the whole year and he can set up sport and educational programs,” Bennett says.
With the support of G4S, the Bill McLaren Foundation, Inmarsat, Flya Sportswear, DHL, Investec and Norton Rose Fulbright, Bhubesi Pride were able to set off on their latest expedition in a brilliantly branded combi. They will be bringing rugby gear and equipment with them – they have provided over 20 000 euros worth of resources over the last three years – and they plan to expand operations in Africa over the next three years, with Mozambique being added this year. They are hoping to reach 70 schools and communities by 2017 and accredit 250 locals as coaches or referees.
Building and stocking libraries and classrooms, or providing desks are also in the plans, as is establishing rugby academies.
Oregan Hoskins, the vice-chairman of WorldRugby, is a supporter of the foundation.
“I’m really happy to see Bhubesi Pride continue doing what they do so well: Spreading the game at grassroots level, transporting kids to tournament days and delivering life skills talks,” Hoskins says.
Bhubesi Pride is now accepting volunteer applications from all over the world and, thanks to further sponsorship, has been able to significantly decrease its volunteer fees for 2016.