Growing up as one of the first Cambodian refugees in the United States, I was teased at school for looking different. But that didn’t stop me, and I channelled my energy toward sports and recreation.
Playing sports made me feel as part of a family, and I never received negative comments from my team-mates, despite not being a good player. Sport is a universal language that can bring people together, and we need to continue to implement sports programs in Cambodia.
The Cambodian Federation Rugby (CFR) works with schools such as Krousar Thmey, a charity school for the hearing impaired, supporting them with not just the basic necessities of food and medical care, but promoting a healthy lifestyle and teaching them the values of strength, teamwork, health, discipline and respect.
“Many of our players come from low socio-economic backgrounds, and we want to provide opportunity for something for them to look forward to every week,” said Dan Wetherall, Rugby Development Officer and coach. “We believe rugby builds character and self-esteem. We want to empower our players to see the opportunities that rugby can create for them.”
Established in 2001 by Madam Theany Than, (UNESCO secretary-general of Cambodia), the Cambodian Federation Rugby’s goal is to promote sport as a medium for healthy lifestyle and social interaction. In 2005, as recognition for its social responsibility and outreach programs, CFR was honoured with the International Rugby Board Development Award.
Another one of CFR’s grassroots programs is the Good Men in Rugby project, a nationwide campaign to raise awareness about domestic violence. With support from Spanish NGO Paz Y Desarrollo, the campaign includes short lesson videos (in Khmer language) that disseminate the important message about gender equality to the young men in Cambodia.
“The Good Men in Rugby is an education campaign which focuses on men, and that the women are their equal and violent behaviour towards women is not acceptable,” said Sophoan, a staff member and trainer at CFR. “We hope our players will be able to be role models as well as participants in this important campaign.”
With more than 700 children benefitting from CFR’s programs, it also gives them a sense of belonging, as many are orphans and vulnerable children. “Rugby is a fraternity around the world and we all share a similar mentality. Most of all, we want the kids to enjoy what is known as the game they play in heaven,” added Wetherall, also a rugby player on the national team.
The kids can dream to one day become great rugby players like Australian’s Simon Poidevin and George Smith, or Cambodia’s Vannak Vong and Vannak Vireak, but as for now, their greatest gift is the smiles they bring when they play the sport of rugby.
CFR and Innov8 International Group, (who handles the strategic and operational management and public and donor relations for CFR), will be hosting the Cambodia Rugby Charity Gala on June 8, 2013, at Raffles Hotel Le Royal in Phnom Penh. Proceeds will go to support grassroots rugby development in Cambodia.
For information, contact: [email protected]