THE Welsh Rugby Union is setting new standards within world sport with its recently launched rugby-themed “Fit, Fed, Fun” camps to support children and families throughout Wales during the school holidays.
This new initiative is being run in partnership with WE Soda, the world’s largest producer of natural soda ash which is an essential ingredient used in the manufacture of many everyday sustainable products such as glass, detergents and electric vehicle batteries.
The WRU “Fit, Fed, Fun” camps are free to attend and are running throughout Wales this summer during the school holidays, feeding thousands of children in some of the nation’s most under-resourced areas.
The camps are open to all children, but will specifically target children who will benefit from free meals as well as the fun activities on offer.
The programme will be gradually expanded over the next three years and has the objective of reaching all areas of Wales by 2025, providing around 600 camps each year. In this first year, the camps are already on target to support more than 8,000 children across 165 camps already planned in Pembrokeshire, Bridgend, Newport, Conwy, Powys, Gwynedd, and the South Wales valleys.
Feeding the children a hearty breakfast and lunch is a key focus of the camps, with rugby coaching and fun activities for children of all ages and abilities hosted by experienced WRU-trained staff. As part of the programme, the children will also learn about the benefits of looking after their community and the environment.
The initiative is only able to work on such a large scale due to close collaboration with local authorities and regional community foundations and with funding provided by WE Soda, the community partner of the WRU.
Princes Gate Mineral Water, the official water supplier to Welsh rugby, are providing natural mineral water and all food at the camps is sourced locally.
“Our first priority is to ensure no child attending goes hungry or thirsty,” said WRU community director Geraint John.
“From our experience with the first camps trialled this Easter, we noticed some children were arriving hungry and so we have now introduced a hearty breakfast to start the day. Feeding the children is very important to us and we have worked hard to provide quality healthy meals that all the children enjoy.
“The children will learn about looking after their community and the environment, with a focus on recycling and reducing waste.
“And of course there is a strong rugby element too.”
The camps are aiming to reach a more diverse group of children than ever before, groups which rugby may not have previously touched.
Learning whilst having fun is also a key element of the programme.
“The response to WRU “Fit, Fed, Fun” has been hugely successful so far and we could fill the places on our camps many times over, but our primary ambition is to provide support to those who need it most,” said John.
The “Fit, Fed, Fun” camps will be run at rugby clubs, sports centres, schools and local authority venues across Wales, with each event specifically targeting those children and groups who will most benefit from the programme.
The camps run alongside a separate provision for children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) being delivered as part of the WRU’s broader community rugby initiatives and inclusion strategy which forms a key part of the WRU ‘Jersey for All’ campaign to make rugby more accessible for all. This initiative is also funded and supported by WE Soda.
John added: “We talk about there being a ‘Jersey for All’ in Welsh rugby and this programme is about making that statement a reality for children of all abilities across our nation, ensuring that the opportunity to get involved with the game really is there for everybody.
“We are hugely grateful to WE Soda in particular for their support and partnership in this incredibly important initiative. I would also like to expressly thank our regional community foundations for their continued help and support in in our delivering this programme.”
WE Soda, headquartered in the UK, became the community partner of the WRU in March 2022. Commenting on the various community initiatives being supported by WE Soda, Alasdair Warren, Chief Executive Officer, said: “We are providing fun rugby-based activity camps and community support to some of the most underrepresented groups in Wales.
“Welsh rugby’s values are a perfect fit for our business and together we are using rugby as the vehicle to make positive social change in Wales.
“This is much more than just a participation initiative, it’s about getting involved and really supporting the community. Alongside important educational messaging about environmental responsibility, recycling and waste reduction, we are delighted to be involved in an initiative which is having such a directly positive impact on the lives of children throughout the country.
“This programme puts food directly into the mouths of the children who need it most, aiming to ensure that no child goes hungry during the school holidays.”