Several rugby clubs and their members across Ulster are providing assistance to those in need in their local communities during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. City of Derry Rugby club has set up a team of volunteers to provide support to shielding and vulnerable people across the city.
Paul O’Kane, the club’s Director of Rugby said, “I love the social involvement that rugby brings and how important the club is to people: I wanted to give something back to the community so we put out an offer of help on social media.
“We’re so widely spread as a rugby community; it’s one standalone rugby club covering a whole city. Not only that but City of Derry RFC has players from Strabane, Coleraine and across the border as well. We wanted people in the area to know that no matter how big or small the task might be, we would do our best to help.
“It was quite simple for us to get started. I’m the central point of contact and we receive requests from members and people in the area through messages and phone calls. I would either run the errand myself or co-ordinate a team of volunteers from the club to help.
“We’ve had contacts from people currently living abroad asking us to make sure their relatives living in the area are keeping safe. Our club President, Mike Poole has been very active calling people, which has been really well received.
“City of Derry RFC offered the use of its grounds as a COVID-19 testing centre for key workers, and that offer has been taken up. It’s an ideal location as you can drive in and out safely and it’s just outside the city. It has worked really well so far and hopefully it will be used more as testing increases.
“The club’s U18 coach, Adam Kyle set up a fund-raising page for materials that Strabane Academy’s technology department and fellow U18 coach and teacher, Aaron McIvor, would use to manufacture PPE visors, along with one of our ex-players, Adam Bratton, for the local hospital and nursing homes. That initiative has raised around £1200 so far.
“For the members at the club, we try to keep the group chats active so that everyone feels engaged. There are body conditioning videos for both the club and Foyle College players to keep some kind of a structure for our members during lockdown.
“In terms of the reaction we’ve received, the first family we helped were so overwhelmed, it still sticks out in my memory. They were so grateful for just a simple phone call. Rugby is a cross-community game and it enables us to help all sections of the city.
“It’s massively important for rugby clubs to give back. You can’t put any financial value on just making someone feel safe or helping them out. If you can do something positive during these times, it can only be a good thing for your club. A lot of us have more spare time to help now, so we should put it to good use.”
If clubs wish to get involved, please check with your local council to find out what help is required in your area.