VUKA Rugby is a project started by the South African Rugby Legends Association (SARLA), Gavin Varejes of SARLA and Richmark together with the South African Rugby Union (SARU). The VUKA programme provides invaluable support to youths in disadvantaged communities throughout South Africa in line with the national objectives as declared by Minister of Sport Fikile Mbalula. After providing rugby jerseys to a selection of WP school teams in the past, VUKA has expanded further afield to include KwaZulu Natal in this annual venture.
In Clermont on the outskirts of Durban, young rugby players from schools like Sithengile, Wybank and Ilanga gathered to receive their jerseys for the first time. When the highly respected referee Archie Sehalko and sportsman Hector Gumede along with sponsors Smith's Manufacturing handed over the jerseys to the eager young men, they were met with a phenomenal response; the young rugby devotees even showed off their new rugby jerseys by playing a game on the same day!
The WP handover was officiated by SARLA's Jessie Claassen and Dale Santon. The two former Springboks toured around schools in the Cape Flats like Groenvlei, Spes Bona and Robinvale and handed out jerseys to young players. Although it was not the first time the WP received jerseys, this year the school colours were incorporated into the design and that was a first. The boys were delighted with this development.
Time Clothing yet again produced the top quality jerseys under their Flya Sportswear label and Smith's Manufacturing sponsored the project. Known for his philanthropic activities around South Africa and incredible love for sport, Gavin Varejes appreciates the ongoing assistance and good work from companies that played a role in this project. Their backing helps VUKA to continue making a difference in underprivileged youths' lives.
Richmark Holdings is putting its weight behind an important educational venture in Tembisa, South Africa.
The plans are underway to help improve the Sunrise Combined College with financial assistance that will provide additional educational opportunities to the local children. Until 2005, the young students of Tembisa were forced to learn in extremely overcrowded government run schools. That began to change in 2005 when the Sunrise Combined College was opened up as a private educational institution. The initiative was limited in scope due to lack of proper funding and did not adequately meet the needs of the hundreds of students who were put on waiting lists that sometimes reached up to three years. To add to the difficulties, the school was built from sheets of corrugated iron that did not keep the bitter cold or the oppressive heat out of the classrooms.
Hope for the Children
Chatz Charity has taken on the mammoth project of enlarging and improving the school in hopes of alleviating the overcrowded learning conditions while adding extra services. It oversaw changes in 2012 that included replacing the classrooms walls with wooden ones and adding chalkboards to each of the rooms. In addition, it addressed the problem of hungry children by opening an onsite kitchen. In December 2012, the kitchen began providing 560 meals consisting of mince, sandwiches, hotdogs, rice and vitamin-packed juices. Five employees were hired to distribute the food and beverage to the children beginning at 10:30 in the morning, which was sometimes the only food the children received all day. To provide a comfortable place for the children to eat outdoors, the Chatz Charity also built a sheltered area with a roof. It installed a jungle gym on the playground and is currently drawing up plans for a library. An after care centre for the young children is scheduled to be built this year to protect them from the heat and cold while waiting for siblings.
It is with heartfelt sadness that Gavin Varejes learned about his friend and rugby legend Joost van der Westhuizen’s terrible illness in 2011. The legendary scrum-half was diagnosed with the ALS and continues to fight a long and hard battle with the debilitating and, thus far, incurable disease. Joost has a strong backing from Gavin Motor Neuron Disease Varejes and SARLA (The South African Rugby Legends Association). Gavin and SARLA are helping Joost to raise funds for treatment and are giving him the emotional support of having friends that care.
After experiencing the devastating blow of his diagnosis and the gradual decline in motor functions, Joost started empathising with others with the same disease but without the same kind of support he has. He felt the urge to help those that are not receiving adequate assistance and especially those that are not receiving any form of assistance. He founded the J9 Foundation to create opportunities for people and companies to support quality of life programs available for the victims of MND and is making use of his excellent name in the SA sporting industry and his great friends to help those less fortunate than him.
Gavin Varejes & Joost van der Westhuizen
The J9 Foundation currently has eight beneficiaries, some abandoned by their families who were not able to find the strength to support them, some so debilitated that they have lost the ability to speak and some even without the ability to move at all. The main program offers direct services such as providing information, making home visits, guidance for families and counselling. The foundation also provides references to specialist services such as contractors that can assist with wheelchair access to homes once that is required, legal advice and counselling services to the beneficiary and their loved ones and, where possible, financial assistance.
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.