John Jones

London Youth supports and challenges young people to become the best they can be – through hundreds of diverse community youth organisations – and I first met with the Tag Rugby Trust in 2010, to explore how we could develop a programme of activities as part of our Getting Ready Sports Programme.

What started as a series of tag rugby festivals and activator courses, quickly developed into a commitment to support two of our youth organisations to visit and volunteer in Zambia during October 2012.

Throughout an intensive 18 month development programme – of delivery, fundraising, planning and youth leadership – I saw first-hand the impact on young people when good youth work is combined with strong community sports leadership. Tag Rugby quickly became the tool that we used to build futures – both for the young people and the local communities they represented in Camden and Hackney.

I still enjoy looking back through my tour diary, even though it’s almost 5 years since our first trip to Zambia. Standout memories for me include:

  • Two pre-tour residentials – where the young people and youth workers grew their relationships, from project colleagues into friendships. This bond kept everyone strong, regardless of any situation that presented itself.
  • Sitting in a London hospital, a week before flying to Zambia, with a young man who’d dedicated so much time and energy, but was on the verge of missing the tour itself due to an injury sustained whilst volunteering. The relief and emotional release when he was given the all-clear (by us and the medical team), was up there with one of the most satisfying moments I’ve had in my working life.
  • Strolling through the compounds around Lusaka, delivering the tag rugby sessions in the schools, and the walks in between the villages each day. The smiles, the laughter and determination of the Zambian young people, who take every opportunity – despite the real life challenges faced – was infectious. For our group, it shaped all of our perspectives, and provided a steely resolve that we can all work harder, do more and make a success of our own lives. Unlike the young people in Zambia (or the vast majority that we met), our starting point in life didn’t have to dictate where we ended up.
  • The final night, whilst sitting around the BBQ, the 13 young people in our group reflecting – not just on the previous two weeks, but the past 18 months. They shared their individual journeys, what they’d learnt, and most importantly how positive they all felt about their futures. Quite literally, there’d been a transformation – from a group of young people to 13 confident, well-rounded young adults.

Our relationship with the Tag Rugby Trust remains strong, and two tour parties have since gone back to Zambia and also, more recently, to Uganda. I would have no hesitation in recommending any organisation to work with Trevor Martingell, Tony Oulton and the Tag Rugby Trust team. They’re no longer just colleagues, they’ve become friends. If you want to broaden young people’s horizons, challenge them to grow, and make a contribution to their general well-being, then a Tag Rugby Trust youth leadership programme/tour is the perfect solution.

If you want to get in-touch, please do feel free to contact me: OR via twitter @JustJohnJones.

Also, to find out more, please do follow us: #GoodYouthWorkWorks
We believe that young people are able to thrive when supported by positive adults, in places they trust and, when provided with a broad range of opportunities, to develop their confidence, become more resilient and forge new and meaningful relationships.

Lwiindi Muleya

Lwiindi lives in Linda Compound – a community 20km south west of the Zambian capital Lusaka – where the population, of approximately 35,000 people, are challenged by a lack of basic services such as health care, education and access to clean water.

Becoming Young Leaders

We first met Lwiindi in 2011, when she was 14 years old. Greatly inspired by competing in a TRT tournament, she asked us if we would donate kit so that she could initiate regular sessions and, in 2013 she recruited some of her school friends to become a Young Leaders group.

A Talented Peer Mentor

In the years that followed, Lwiindi has helped to train many other coaches, and has helped us to develop the Tag Centre, where she now runs a community programme that boasts 14 Young Leaders, and over 120 children who turn up every Saturday morning to be coached, and to play the game.

You people have changed my life and introduced me to a wider World.
Lwiindi Muleya

Her dedication and enthusiasm is boundless, and her skill in helping others with cultural sensitivities and traditions, and with the local Tongan language, is invaluable to our cause.

Tinashe Shamu

A life-changing experience

As a young man in March 2008, meeting with Tag Rugby Development Trust (now Tag Rugby Trust) marked the beginning of a journey. This journey has shaped my personal values, brought a sense of belonging and, above all, given me a tangible path of endless possibilities with each step taken on the way.

The first step of was a big step. For four years – having been convinced by the man who introduced me to the programme Mr Tony Thompson – I worked as a volunteer. There are many lessons one can learn from volunteering, but for me this was an unforgettable, life-changing experience, which is still reflected today, and follows a consistent pattern… each time I have taken part in a tour or a programme for Tag Rugby Trust, it leaves me with an appetite to come back and do more.

A wealth of knowledge

Some key people played a role in this first big step, teaching me valuable lessons that have seen me grow from a schoolboy at 18, to a young man of 22. These people – Trevor Martingell, Chris Tapper, Dylan Reynold, John Turner and Chris Mwamba – treated me as their own son, with no shortage of love and unconditional care. They never shied away from an opportunity to mentor me when making decisions, not only to do with tag, but in all sorts of areas – imparting a wealth of knowledge to guide me as I grew.

What else did I learn? Well, here are a few life lessons… With Big Trev (Trevor Martingell) – it’s always buy biscuits, and have a latté, every second hour of the day from the time you wake up. With Taps (Chris Tapper) – never pack more than 2 sets of clothes when going on a Tag Rugby Trip, and wear the same shorts for 4 years! With Dylan Reynold – how to keep calm when your Dad, at 60, outshines you in warm-up exercises for the kids. With John Turner – how to lock your guests in the bedroom, so that they have to break down your door to get out. Finally, with Chris Mwamba – how to talk for a whole weekend with a beer in your hand and not lose your voice.

My list goes on and on, but these gentlemen not only taught me these priceless life skills… along with them there was endless laughter, happiness and joy, and these wonderful qualities have become a common denominator on my journey.

Launching the programme in Zimbabwe

Over time as a volunteer my passion for Tag Rugby grew, and in my distant thoughts I realised that what I really wanted was to have this programme in Zimbabwe. Taking my next big step, my thoughts became a reality, so that in the fifth year of my involvement with Tag Rugby Trust, the process of launching the programme here in Zimbabwe began to take shape.

When I look back, the preparation for launching the programme, on a personal level, had been constructed by my own range of experiences. In the last four years, through volunteering in various different countries, I have learnt how the programme works – how to relate to different types of people that we come across; building confidence over the years; acquiring the planning and organisation skills through being part of tours, as well as through leading tours; and how to conduct myself as leader. All of these lessons that have been learnt over the years as a volunteer have ultimately geared me for the challenges that I am experiencing now, as a member of the Tag Rugby Trust Zimbabwe leadership team.

When I joined Tag Rugby Development Trust there was no strapline across tour T-Shirts, there was just a number that signified which tour it was. This has changed over time, and now the strapline Building Futures through Rugby appears on every T-Shirt. This concept can sometimes harder to quantify than the numbers we used to have – it’s not always easy to explain what it actually means.

Influence the lives of others

For me it makes total sense because, from the first step I took, the four years of volunteering has built a career for me, with the opportunity to influence others’ lives through rugby. I am a testament to that strapline – the Tag Rugby Trust has shaped me from my first year out of school, and it continues to do so. Of course, I now get some remuneration for my work, but what is by far most valuable to me are the skills I have learnt within the programme – skills that have helped me to develop a fast-growing and successful Tag Rugby Zimbabwe. I have also grown as an individual, creating my own sets of values to guide me day-by-day, and Tag Rugby Trust has played a huge part in this.

Over my almost 10 years involvement with the Trust, there have been a lot of challenges that have found me operating out of my comfort zone. The change in my role over the years has meant that I’ve had to give up one aspect that brought me to the programme in the first place – coaching tag rugby. But now I get to “create” the coaches!

Personal development

I’ve gone from enjoying simply going on tours, tournaments and coaching courses, to being the one who has to organise them all! This has not been easy, but with wonderful guidance locally from Ed Whitfield, Nikki Lashbrook, and from long hours on the phone with Tony Oulton, Martin Hansford and Rob Newman, I feel like I’m doing a good job. All these people have contributed immensely to my personal development as a manager for Tag Rugby in Zimbabwe, especially the Chairman who in the last couple of years has taken over the baton from the Zambia mentors I talked about above.

Each year a different challenge has presented itself, and Martin has become a front-runner in imparting the skills, techniques and mind-set needed to continue to develop me, from that schoolboy at 18 to a man of 28 – still young at heart, with a perpetual appetite to do more and more within the Tag Rugby Trust programme.

See what TRT are doing in Zimbabwe…

Tate Oulton

Take on a significant challenge

I first got involved with the Tag Rugby Trust in 2011. My A-level year was drawing to a close and, although I had secured a place at university, I knew that I wanted to take a year out of education before beginning my degree. To some people, taking a ‘gap-yah’ provokes images of teenagers drifting around, often abroad, taking life as easy as possible. In my mind, there’s nothing wrong with that if that’s what you want to do, however, what I really wanted to get out of my 12 months ‘off’, was the opportunity to take on a significant challenge – one where I could put myself to good use by helping others – if that could include time overseas, then all the better. As I began to put together a provisional itinerary with the guys at the TRT, I realised that I would be able to tick all of these boxes and more.

Out of my comfort zone

The five months I spent in Eastern and Southern Africa are some of the most memorable of my life. To be completely honest about it, the experience was initially quite overwhelming! Being a fresh-faced, 19-year-old stranger in a land that contrasted starkly with the UK was a lot to take in – I’m happy to admit that in some ways I was well outside of my comfort zone. But that was what I wanted my experience to be about – it was supposed to be challenging, and a little bit scary!

I soon settled in to the pace and way of life, closely supported by the TRT volunteers and contacts on the ground in each of the countries I was visiting. I was also lucky enough to be joined by another UK volunteer, who was working with the TRT as part of his degree course. Needless to say, we quickly became very good mates, and it was fantastic to be working and travelling together.

Incredible experiences

We spent time in Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and had some incredible experiences. We snorkelled in Zanzibar, bungee jumped at Victoria falls, travelled for three days by train – passing though national parks and game reserves from Tanzania into Zambia and, of course, took time to see some of Africa’s most iconic wildlife.

Even with the excitement of all these new experiences, in truth, the most memorable part of the whole trip has to be the people who we met and worked with. We coached hundreds of children, trained numerous young leaders & teachers, and were supported by the kindest and most dedicated TRT volunteers. Without meaning to sound patronising, many of these people are really up against it, but I had never before met so many happy, passionate and generous individuals.

Make a difference to people’s lives

I began to see with great clarity how a game as simple as tag rugby can make such a difference to people’s lives. It was fantastic to see girls at school come out of their shells, putting the boisterous, rowdy boys in their place on the pitch! To see young leaders shouldering responsibility, learning transferable skills and becoming role models for the younger children. To see the often overworked and underpaid teachers laughing and smiling with the kids during the tag sessions, and to witness their instant enthusiasm to continue to build and develop tag programmes at their schools.

Tag rugby is a fun game to play, but the way in which the TRT uses it as a vehicle for so much more than that is astounding. During my trip, my eyes were opened to some very harsh realities, but I also clearly saw how a small amount of work could make such a huge difference.

Lifelong friends

I learned some valuable personal lessons along the way – how to think on my feet, how to live and work in new and unfamiliar environments, and the best ways to get out of ‘a sticky situation (or two…)’. I made lifelong friends and experienced things I will remember forever – I have, and will continue to work with TRT, both in the UK and abroad, whenever I can, and encourage others to join in… it’s so worthwhile and utterly life-changing.

Alice Burton

Do something different

I first got involved with the Tag Rugby Trust after finishing my undergraduate degree. I had a few months before I started postgraduate study, and was keen to spend that time seeing more of the world and doing something a bit different. Having heard so many good things about the Tag Rugby Trust, and taking part in of some of their amazing work in the UK, I quickly signed up for a tour to Zimbabwe along with three close friends from university.

Team spirit

The four of us joined as part of a larger group of UK and local volunteers, and we quickly developed a real team spirit. We stayed in the most fantastic place, with the most welcoming and genuine hosts. The setting was stunning, out in the rural countryside, visiting schools seemingly in the middle of nowhere. A day spent coaching can be tiring, but an evening sat out by the fire under the incredible southern stars, with great food and good company is an excellent way to wind down before a good nights sleep.

Girls getting involved

Despite only being away for two weeks, my time spent in Zimbabwe was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life to date. Not only was it incredibly good fun, it was very gratifying to see what an impact that getting everyone together to play a simple game such as tag rugby can have on children’s lives. It was particularly fulfilling for me on a personal level to see many of the girls, who are so often overlooked, getting involved; they really relished the opportunity to join in with the boys and show them how it’s done!

A sense of fun and happiness

On my return, I was ready to start the next phase of my education, equipped with a confidence boost and a reawakened awareness of the world outside academia, and indeed outside of the UK.

What I love about the Tag Rugby Trust is the fun and happiness it enthuses in everyone – from the passion of the volunteers, to the excitement of the children. It really is a very inclusive and personal charity to get involved with, and I would thoroughly recommend a tour for everyone.

Naz Deen

Exhilarating, challenging and fun

I have worked in partnership with the Tag Rugby Trust (TRT) for over 7 years, dating back to 2010, and it has honestly become the most exhilarating, challenging and fun aspect of my entire life. I have learnt many skills that have enhanced my personal and social development, giving me the courage to conquer many new things. I now have the confidence and the ability to let go of preconceived fears and overcome all sorts of challenges – from speaking to over 200 Senior Chief Executives in central London in order to raise money, to coordinating a tag rugby tournament for hundreds of children in Zambia.

Whilst in Lusaka, Zambia, (in over a 100 degrees heat), although I was severely dehydrated due to food poisoning, I still managed to work with over three hundred and fifty children at a tag rugby tournament. My determination was fuelled by the fact that these were some of the happiest and most appreciative children that I’ve ever met – it was a privilege to spend time with them.

Amazing role models

I feel very honoured and proud to say that I have been on two separate Tag Rugby Tours to Africa. The memories that I’m now able to share with the young leaders from the UK who assisted me, make the whole experience even more worthwhile. To watch these young people surpass all the objectives set – such as fundraising, delivering tag rugby in their community, public speaking and presenting to corporate organisations – not to mention being amazing role models to children, both at home in London and in Africa, is the true essence of what this unique project is all about.

Friendships for life

Unexpectedly, I have also formed new friendships for life with my ‘rugby brothers’ and ‘TRT Mentors’ – Trevor Martingell and Tony Oulton. Both of these gentlemen have unlocked a section of my brain that I hadn’t been using for the first 30 years of my life. Their dedication and hard work is unparalleled, and the advice and guidance they offer throughout all projects is of an exceptionally high standard.

An enduring legacy

There is seriously no other sporting project that can offer such a wide range of experiences and emotions, and the bespoke nature of this particular TRT sports initiative means that it never truly ends. Once you come back from a tour, its’ enduring legacy leads to an enthusiasm to look for further opportunities, for yourself and for others, to be part of such a wonderful adventure again and again.

Catherine Spencer

The biggest impact on my rugby life

I have played rugby for near on thirty years at every level – from Sunday morning mini-rugby, to World Cup finals. I captained my country for over three years, and have been to countless events; appeared on television and radio programmes; collected awards, and so on, but I had no idea that in 2007, when I was asked to become involved with the Tag Rugby Trust, that this would become the biggest impact of rugby on my life.

I have talked passionately for years about the fact that rugby is inclusive, because it is a game for all shapes and sizes. TRT goes a few steps beyond this – using a version of the sport that is inclusive for all communities – people who would not previously have enjoyed the benefits of involvement in sport at all. I have been very fortunate to have travelled with TRT to Uganda, Zambia, Ghana, Kenya, India and Mexico – I have seen first-hand the positive impact on communities, on schools, on community clubs and on individuals.

Lasting friendships around the world

There are so many things I could share regarding my own personal experiences – playing with the nursery-aged children at my first ever school in Uganda, the Army School; the feeling of immense pride in the first team that I coached in the schools tournament; the look of pride on the children’s faces when they were able to parade their school flag through the streets before a tournament; the wave of emotion coaching a group of mixed-ability children in Mexico; the lasting friendships made around the world; the complete sense of awe when attending an assembly in the biggest school I have ever been to, in India; being invited to an evening dinner put on by a community school in Zambia; listening to children joining together to sing at the end of a rugby session; parading round the pitch at the end of a tour tournament in India, in front of a huge crowd dressed as the London Irish Wolfhound mascot, chased by hundreds of excited children; playing a test match against Uganda Women; witnessing the successful integration of a deaf child from an isolated island to a specialist school, with similar children, and trained staff on the mainland…and the list goes on.

Rugby as the catalyst in life…

There is one story that I would like to share in more detail, a story that motivates me every day to continue to actively support and promote TRT…

In 2015 we took a playing group out to Uganda, which included a number of different rugby players from the UK as well as World Cup Winner Claire Purdy. At the end of our time there we played a full test match against Uganda Women, but during the week our invitation team, and many of the Uganda team, joined forces to deliver our community programme. In the mornings, we headed out in small groups to the community schools and, in the afternoons, Claire and I delivered some skills-coaching sessions to the Uganda Women.

One of the Uganda team was 25-year-old Nakayiza Christine, and I was able to have a long chat with Christine one evening during the week that we were spending together. I always knew that rugby had a positive impact on my life, but what Christine said to me really brought home the immense power that it really does have.

She told me that rugby gave her the reason to live her life in a different way, and to make different choices. She told me that rugby gave her the courage to put her hand up, and to state that she is not becoming a young mum like countless others before her. To Christine, Rugby is not just a sport, not just a bit of fun on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Sport, and rugby specifically, is her reason, her courage – the catalyst in her life to do something different. Without the influence of rugby on her life I would have been speaking to a very different Christine, and that thought stays with me every single day.

Catherine talks about TRT…

See how they got on in Uganda…