Why rugby is worth a try for troubled youngsters

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 December, 2011, 12:00am


'That kid over there didn't get along with anyone on the team,' said Tank Lam Hip-hau.

The part-time coach for the Breakthrough rugby team nods towards a wiry boy who moments earlier was swearing he was the model of good behaviour.

'He had aggression issues, got into a lot of fights at school. Now he plays for Hong Kong on the under-19s team.'

Breakthrough is a sports programme for troubled youngsters that has been run by former and current members of the Hong Kong police since 1966.

In February it got a HK$600,000 grant from the Partnership Fund for the Disadvantaged to increase its rugby training programme to 100 students for the year, expanding to include schools with a higher percentage of minority children.

Now the fund is looking for more programmes to fund next year.

'It doesn't matter what kind of activity it is, as long as it's helping those who are disadvantaged,' said Daniel Chu Kam-sing, senior social work officer for the Social Welfare Department. 'It can be sports, arts, programmes to help the disabled.'

The HK$200 million fund was set up in 2005 as part of the government's plans to increase involvement by private companies in community welfare. It was given another HK$200 million last year. The fund matches contributions made by corporations.

In the case of Breakthrough, the government matched a HK$300,000 grant by Standard Chartered, which paid for kit, tournaments and training at Outward Bound courses.

Breakthrough's rugby director, Steve Tarrant, said: 'They learn skills while they're with us. They develop better concentration, self esteem, discipline. They do better in school.'

Applications to the Partnership Fund for the Disadvantaged close next Saturday. Programmes seeking funds should not already be supported by the government. Detailed information is available on the Social Welfare Department's website.