England’s Men may have fallen just short in their quest for Rugby League World Cup glory, but they remain heroes in the eyes of people supported by leading social care charity Community Integrated Care.
They visited the England training camp in Wigan last week to meet the players and showcase the volunteering work they have been doing throughout the tournament as part of Community Integrated Care’s groundbreaking partnership with the RLWC2021, the Rugby Football League and Sport England. The Inclusive Volunteering Programme engages more than 350 people who require care and support in their daily lives.
England stars such as Dom Young, George Williams and Ryan Hall took time to meet and chat with volunteers, giving special recognition for their extraordinary work throughout the tournament. A short video recording capturing the session is available on YouTube.
Players led engaging and inclusive rugby ball throwing activities, and even presented volunteers with special collaboration England and Community Integrated Care shirts. The shirts, co-designed by people with learning disabilities and autism, are branded with the unique educational inclusion campaign ‘On The Same Team’, created by the charity to teach primary school children about the value of inclusion, kindness and respect.
This education campaign has received incredible backing from all three England Rugby League squads – Men’s, Women’s and Wheelchair – who have all worn the ‘On The Same Team’ shirts during their match warm-ups.
Providing inspirational lesson plans inspired by players in the Community Integrated Care Learning Disability Super League, an adapted form of rugby league pioneered by the charity and RFL, along with examples of how England’s Rugby League stars support each other, it helps young people to see the best in every person.
Matt Price, Sports Inclusion Specialist at Community Integrated Care and RLWC2021 Inclusive Volunteer said: “It’s not every day you can get to say that you’ve not only met the England team, but had a chat with them and talked about your volunteering work. It feels incredible to know that the players believe in ‘On The Same Team’ and want to tackle bullying just like us.
“This amazing inclusive volunteering programme helps people who may not be able to access traditional volunteering roles find more fulfilling experiences. It’s helping people develop their skills, passions and interests inspired by this tournament, with projects that are designed around us. We pick what we’re passionate about, and Community Integrated Care develop the pathway for that.”
Abbey Jenkins, Advanced Support Worker at Community Integrated Care added: “All of our Inclusive Volunteers who attended today are non-verbal, many are also deaf and partially sighted. They sometimes find it difficult at events that aren’t inclusive, but everyone was made to feel so welcome by the England team. Straight away, players where over saying hello, breaking down the nervousness and getting people we support involved in different rugby drills. They seem to have really enjoyed this new environment and have absolutely loved the experience. We can’t thank them enough for making this possible.”
John Hughes, Director of Partnerships and Communities says: “Many of the inclusive volunteers in attendance are passionate about disability rights and inclusion and have had lived experiences of discrimination. They have shared their talents and experiences to co-design vital campaigns such as ‘On The Same Team’ that support a more inclusive society. We’re proud of this campaign and hope that more schools activate the free classroom activities and get involved in tackling discrimination before prejudices are formed.”
Almost 15,000 children are already signed up for the ‘On the Same Team’ programme, which is free to all primary schools, and tackles bullying and building positive attitudes in future generations. Schools can access the free education pack, which includes a range of exclusive Rugby League World Cup rewards and prizes at www.TheSameTeam.co.uk