Launched in June 2011, the John Smit Foundation was established by former Springbok rugby captain and world cup winning John Smit. Also known as “Barney’s Army”, the John Smit Foundation provides a platform for John to use his success and popularity among rugby lovers and sports fans alike in an effort to raise funds for charity.
The John Smit World Invitational XV was the first major event organised by the John Smit Foundation, which was held at Kings Park in June 2011. Many current and retired players participated in the match, and it was the first of many events organised by Barney’s Army for a charitable cause. This was done in conjunction with the South African Rugby Legends Association, started by Richmark's CEO Gavin Varejes and John Allen, former Springbok and Natal Sharks hooker. The South African Rugby Legends Association has made many charitable contributions over the years, and aims to being rugby to the under privilegedcommunities of South Africa. In partnership with retired and current player, these amateur matches attract large crowds and donations, all of which go to a good cause.
There are three charities the John Smit Foundation focuses on. The Chris Burger Petro Jackson fund is very well known both in South Africa and abroad. Originally formed by the previous South African administrative union, this organisation raises money and awareness for sport stars who have suffered life changing injuries. They also train medics for the schools and clubs, while mentoring school and club coaches to ensure the game is played and enjoyed safely and responsibly. Named in memory of Chris Burger and Petro Jackson, both who died playing the game they loved; the fund continues to draw massive support.
The Liv Village and Operation BobbiBear charities focus on children who have suffered either abandonment or sexual abuse. Providing care, education and opportunity for these disadvantaged children, both charities have John’s support. In conjunction with Gavin Varejes’ contributions, these worthy causes are certain to get the attention they deserve.
When Gavin Varejes first established the South African Rugby Legends Association, his intention was to use the unifying nature of sport to raise funding and awareness for charitable causes in South Africa. In partnership with many of the current and retired great rugby players produced by South Africa over the years, SARLA has promoted and coordinated many successful events and matches that have generated a substantial amount in donations for the various organisations that they support. Gavin Varejes has also partnered with many of the foundations established by former players, including the John Smit Foundation otherwise known as Barney’s Army.
Always looking to maximise the contributions made, Gavin Varejes has recently overseen a partnership with Joint Aid Management, a South African based Christian humanitarian charity focussed on various projects and programs throughout Africa. Established in 1984, Peter Pretorius has spent the last 25 years fighting poverty and underdevelopment throughout Africa. Active in over 7 countries, including Angola, Rwanda, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Sudan, JAM’s programs provide immense relief to those suffering hunger and limited opportunity
One of the major programs operated by JAM is a food program that feeds hundreds of thousands of people every day. Providing a highly nutritious porridge that provides about 75% of a child’s daily calorific needs, the program feeds children through their schools and in many cases supplies food to malnutrition clinics too.
The partnership between JAM and the South African Rugby Legends Association will aim to bring food to over 25,000 children who participate in the various rugby clinics conducted by SARLA in under privileged communities. With many children surviving on less than a meal a day, SARLA hopes that they can bring more than just rugby to the poorer communities they serve.