Sports student Kyran Thomson (centre) with children and adults in the Gambia who are now able to play rugby thanks to his support.A sports student has helped mastermind a campaign enabling children living in poverty in the Gambia to play rugby.Kyran Thomson (16), who is taking a BTEC Extended Diploma in Sport at Uxbridge College, has helped collect and send
A sports student has helped mastermind a campaign enabling children living in poverty in the Gambia to play rugby.
Kyran Thomson (16), who is taking a BTEC Extended Diploma in Sport at Uxbridge College, has helped collect and send new and second-hand sports kit, make the ‘pitches’ safer, arrange coaching and set up a website.
Kyran, of Brearley Close, Uxbridge, and his parents Bruce and Liz, got involved after visiting the country on holiday in December 2010.
Kyran, who plays for the Ealing Trailfinders Under-17s, said: “Rugby is my game and I was interested in what the game was like out there. A friend of my dad’s who lives out there introduced us to the adult team the Gambia Rugby Rhinos, who I played with.
“They were literally playing with an old ball on a sandy pitch which had glass, rocks and stones on it, wearing only shorts and nothing on their feet.”
Once the family returned home, they kept in touch with the team’s coaches Billy and Bayo, and helped the team expand. Between them they also came up with the idea of the Rhinos teaching tag rugby (a non-contact version of the sport) to boys and girls in schools in the area.
Kyran and his parents then canvassed donations at home of new and second hand kit. Liz put up a poster at Curves Gym in Uxbridge, which she is a Director of, and members donated socks, trainers and other kit – four or five pairs of socks help protect players’ feet if they do not have shoes. The Old Abbotstonians from Hayes donated old tag belts and broken tackle shields (which can be mended in the Gambia), and Kyran and Bruce set up a website for them and funded gum shields and t-shirts for the two coaches.
Gambia Rugby Rhinos have gone from 13 players to 29, and there are six schools now playing when previously no schools played rugby, and there was no girls’ sport at all.
Kyran returned to the Gambia at the end of last year and was guest referee in an under-12 tag rugby development session - including a girls versus boys game which the girls won.
Efforts to collect kit and support the teams are continuing, and a shipment is due out in February.
Kyran, who would like to be a professional rugby player or a sports coach, said: “Our garage is full of socks and shoes, it is incredible how many people have got behind us and how much stuff we have collected.
“It’s an ongoing project - there’s lots to do and I don’t intend to stop until it’s done. I do what I can when I can.
“The average wage out there is £35-40 a month and you have to buy your family food for that and pay to go to school, so something like this really makes a difference. It was nice to do something for someone else.
“We are also very grateful to our friend Noeline Ambrose who introduced us to the Rhinos and has also played a huge part in getting the kit to the players, and helping make everything a success.”
Martina Aston, Kyran’s tutor at Uxbridge College, said: “Kyran is a well-motivated student who has a passion for sport and the drive to do well in all aspects of his course. He works hard on achieving good grades and enjoys taking part in all sports even though he is a rugby fanatic.
“I think it’s great to see a student involved in such a project - Kyran should hold his head up high as being a leader amongst his peers in what we all should be doing to help others”.