Conversion to rugby overcomes migrants’ language barrier

posted : 8th December 2015

Jas in action for Canterbury Rugby Club

Picture by Paul Crowther

Child migrants settling in Kent are being encouraged to meet and make friends with other children by involving themselves in sport thanks to a pilot project between Canterbury Rugby Club and Migrant Help UK.

Families who come to Britain often find it is difficult for their children to integrate and get to know local children, particularly when English is not their first language.

The partnership between the rugby club and Migrant Help recognises that sport can overcome language barriers.

Using the momentum gained from England hosting the Rugby World Cup they are launching a pilot initiative to convert recently-arrived migrants to the sport – boys and girls.

Canterbury operates teams for every youth age group from Under-6 upwards and has players of several nationalities. One of the first youngsters to join under the Migrant Help scheme is Jas, eight, whose parents, Marta & Dawid, arrived from Poland in 2005. He is playing in the Under-9 team.

Marta said: “We much appreciate Migrant Help’s generous sponsorship of Jas. He is enjoying his rugby and learning many valuable life lessons by being a member of the friendly team and community at Canterbury Rugby Club.

“By supporting Jas, Migrant Help will open many new opportunities for him. He’ll develop his skills, make new friends and be able to participate in tournaments.”

Graham Dunkerley, one of the club’s youth team managers, said: “We recognise the need to integrate migrant children into the community and want the club to be a focal point for them. Apart from helping them to make friends, it provides them with physical exercise and keeps them healthy.”

Robert McCrea, CEO of Migrant Help, said: “We are delighted to be involved in this pilot project which we hope will be taken up by other clubs in Kent and across the country. Migrant Help offers assistance to families settling in the UK and that includes helping them become active members of their new communities.”

It is the first such community partnership, though the Rugby Football Union’s Premiership clubs run an educational and ethical project, On the Front Foot, teaching respect, teamwork, discipline and sportsmanship to girls, ethnic minorities and inner-city children.