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Thursday, February 02, 2006

 

General Discussions: The Boots For All Project




Logo: Joy Rhodes; Picture: Matthew Kirk

It can be easy to get caught up in the turmoil of board level politics within South African rugby and get blinded by the fact that there are many fine people at operational level, doing their utmost to spread the game and assist those less priviledged.

Rugga World urges you to read this story of passionate dedication, sparked by two young English boys who, having met young poverty stricken boys from the South African townships, couldn't forget the experience and decided to do something positive to make a difference.

The day after Christmas

It was Boxing Day, 1999, when two young English lads, George and Matthew Kirk, accompanied by their Dad, Andy, and South African members of their family went down to the local rubbish dump to deposit Christmas wrapping and boxes.

It wasn't long before George and Matthew were involved in a full contact, impromptu rugby game with local barefoot boys. As George says, "We had been playing for approximately twenty minutes when I stood on one of the boy’s feet. I decided that the game was unfair and took off my boots. When we had finished playing I placed my right foot in the sand and said that if one of the boys had a foot that matched my footprint then he could have my boots."

What George doesn't mention is that those boots were the Christmas present he'd received the day before.

For the rest of the trip the boys couldn't forget that contact with local lads who were impoverished, unable to afford even the rudimentaries of rugby, yet fired with the spirit of the game.

Luctonians lend a helping hand

On their return to the United Kingdom the lads, with more than a little help from their Dad one suspects, determined to do something about it. They roped in the more than willing local club they had joined, Luctonians Rugby Football club in Kingsland, Herefordshire ( www.luctonians.co.uk ) and Boots For All was born.

To borrow a quote from the Boots For All website, www.bootsforall.co.uk *, “all great journeys must start with one small step” and boy, has this journey turned into a great one!

Director Corporate and Special Projects speaks to Rugga World

Speaking to Rugga World, Simon Davies, Director Corporate and Special Projects - Luctonians Sports Club say's, "They identified that in the UK most children who played rugby or football had new boots at the start of each season, whilst the old boots that they had grown out of or were no longer the latest style were left to gather dust in garages and understairs cupboards. They challenged me to look in my garage and I found 6 pairs of serviceable boots neglected because my two sons had grown out of them.

George and Matthew proposed to collect these unwanted boots, refurbish them and send to South Africa to be used to give other children the chance of continuing in the sport that they loved so much.

South African Rugby Union step in

With the help and support of their parents and Luctonians they approached the South African Rugby Football Union (SARFU) and set up a partnership with them and their project called Boots For All. The aims of the project were simple: to collect and refurbish old rugby and football boots and then to deliver them to SARFU for distribution to young players in the deprived and rural areas through SARFU’s development officers and development programme ‘Make it Your Game’".

The idea has proved to be such a success that thousands of boots have been collected - cleaned, restored or repaired in the Kirk, and no doubt other Luctonian garages, and shipped to the South African Rugby Union for distribution to needy children, who would otherwise have given up the game for the lack of the basic essentials.

The 'Bish' Tutu gets involved

It comes as no surprise then that Archbishop Desmond Tutu is the honorary patron of the Project and has given his personal support and blessings to young George and Matthew.

Recently SA Rugby received communication from Springbok fans in France and the Netherlands, indicating they are initiating similar programmes in their countries. They will also ship sporting equipment to South Africa.

Springbok wing Breyton Paulse is a keen supporter of the programme, and will be playing a vital role with the representatives in the two European countries.

Frank Verdonk of the Netherlands says his country's project will be managed by his under 17 boys team, with the help of himself and Paulse.

"We will launch the project in February 2006," says Verdonk. "Although we are now in the phase of planning, getting sponsors for marketing and publicity, we have already made a breakthrough. In one week we collected over 100 pair of boots. Our target will be 1000 a season."

Kirk says he is thrilled that the project is expanding into Europe.

Rugga World would like to urge all readers to vist the Luctonians and Boots For All Project sites and then consider how you could involve yourself, either in this very worthy cause or with similar iniatives. Are you currently living in a country that hasn't yet started such a Project? If so, and you'd like advice, Simon has kindly extended an invitation to contact him.

Simon Davies extends an invitation to Rugga World readers

As he say's, "On a personal note I would like to extend an invitation to any of your readers who feels that they are able to help this project in any way to contact me via my email address simon@bootsforall.co.uk .

Best wishes to you and thank you for offering your support of the Boots for All Project."

In turn, Rugga World would like to extend our hearty congratulations to the kindness and empathy of the Kirk boys, George and Matthew, and the energy and commitment of their Dad, Andy, Simon, Luctonians, SARU and all who have made this initiative the success it is.

There will be a follow-up article in the future on Luctonian and Boots For All's plans for a reciprocal tour involving English boys, who are already hard at work raising funds, and underpriviledged young South African lads.

* The Boots For All website has some old articles because as Simon points out, the pressures of work and the project don't always allow the time for updating.
Comments:
DOWN WITH THE CLOWN

A BETTER GAME FOR ALL

BOOTS FOR ALL

Hey is seems that there is an abundance of slogans at least

Well done to all involved- it is a very socially responsible project.
 
great stuff - this is why i love this game.  
Absolutely fantastic heart warming story guys.

Well done to them.
 
DOWN WITH THE CLOWN DOWN I SAY!!!!  
Brilliant project! Congrats to all.  
Very Impressed with these boys, i think they are absolutely wonderful for what they are doing, its a good idea, and a really great cause.

"George n Matt u guys rule keep it up luv Rach ( AUS )
 
Cracking project - why stop at South Africa? - why only rugby? This could be mega.  
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