Changing inmates lives through rugby

This month The Change Foundation welcomed Alex Porteous, Iain Kennedy and Mark Ransford into HMP Belmarsh to visit our Rugby 4 Change programme which they generously raised money for the in memory of close friend and an invaluable supporter of the charity, Graeme Porteous. Iain gives us his account from the visit…

I was privileged to be part of the group that visited HMP Belmarsh to meet staff and the people involved with the Rugby 4 Change programme there. It was my first chance to see Rugby 4 Change in action and my first visit to a prison. Thanks to Andy and Bassie for making it possible.

On a bitterly cold day, I came dressed in my kit hoping for a run-around. I wasn’t disappointed. Bassie, Andy and I persuaded everyone to break off contact for a bit of touch and we joined the regulars for a 20 minute game. Bassie and Andy proved that class is permanent: an inspiration for larger athletes everywhere, they lit up the game with their silky skills.

It’s sometimes useful for an outsider to give their perspective. Here is mine:

” I came away with renewed admiration for the prison staff that helps The Change Foundation deliver the programme. It takes a special vocation to want to work in a high security prison, risk assault and abuse for a prison officer’s salary. The people we met, led by the amazing Dean, just get on with it – helping people to turnaround their lives. They are the true heroes.
” Some of my team mates had done very bad things. It’s a cliché, but none of that matters when the game is on. Without knowing their pasts, we had some great chats about what we had in common – most importantly, how to beat the staff team in the upcoming big game!
” Rugby 4 Change is a clear highlight of the week; a chance to get some exercise, reflect, plan and have some fun.
” The affection for Dan and Bassie of The Change Foundation team is clearly genuine. It must be hard to win that trust, but they are superb at it.
” Picking up a ball again was a chance to re-live my playing days and remember what I got out of playing sport; fitness, discipline, a channel for my everyday frustrations, a sense of team and, above all, great friends I see to this day. I know much of this is at the centre of the Rugby 4 Change programme.

Now I’m hooked. I’ve signed up to go back for the big game next Tuesday. Come on the Rugby 4 Change team. Let’s hope you stuff the officers!

For more information on how to support Rugby 4 Change contact Alex Bassan.