Series Success for UK Blind Rugby team on world stage at the Lions Tour of New Zealand 2017

Series leading points scorer (46) Jake Walker on the charge


In the first-ever international series of blind rugby, the touring party return home victorious with a 3 – 0 series win against the blind and visually impaired New Zealand team. Unlike the Lions tour there were no expectations of how the series would go due to the infancy of the game but like the Lions the tourists roared to success.

The first test took place at the QBE Stadium, North Shore with a great crowd including five Lions players; Dan Biggar, George Kruis, Peter O’Mahony, Justin Tipuric and Iain Henderson. The tourists had a strong start but went down to six players with no replacement after the first half. The defence stayed strong not letting any New Zealanders put a score on the board. The touch game based around the Rugby 7’s format saw both teams approach it with no fear but the UK blind and visually impaired team were victorious with a 31 – 0 win.

Welsh international and British and Irish Lion, Dan Biggar said:

“It’s an honour to be here on this historic occasion. The lads have done a great job with a huge win in the first-ever international game. It had everything a rugby match should; passion, fierce rivalry, great tries and some incredible kicking which was amazing to see.”

UK Blind Rugby team and coaches prior to the first test at QBE stadium


The UK blind and visually impaired team played the second and third tests with six men against seven with reduced time for each half as agreed with the New Zealand blind and visually impaired team. But the unity and excellent communication of the team saw them win the remaining two matches and they made history winning the first international blind rugby series.

Top points scorer Jake Walker, scoring 46 of the UK blind and visually impaired teams points said:

“I’m buzzing to have scored a hat trick on debut! 3 – 0 whitewash is just incredible. This is the best experience of my life with a talented group of players, all with different sight impairments. But we came together and understood how to use our sight as a team. Thank you The Change Foundation for a life changing experience.”

Jake became blind in his right eye eight years-ago after being attacked by a group of young men after a New Year’s Eve party. It was confirmed after the attack that he would never regain his sight.

Blind Sport New Zealand launched the tour with a ‘dine in the dark’ dinner experience for all players, supporters and staff. Dan Shepherd of Blind Sport New Zealand said:

“This is an exciting day for rugby and an exciting day for blind and low vision sport internationally. Today the group of players in this room launch blind rugby and make rugby accessible to a new community worldwide. At the first test, six year old Isiah will run out the ball, he is visually impaired. He attended the first blind rugby training session in New Zealand a few months ago but couldn’t play with the adults. But he left with a dream; he could one day become a blind All Black, he could one day stand in the haka and one day could wear the captain’s armband.”

The Change Foundation launched the new blind sport ahead of the third test of the Lions Tour of New Zealand. A team of blind and visually impaired players from the UK travelled to Auckland on 2 July to play the three match series against a blind and visually impaired New Zealand team with the aim of launching a new blind sport and raising awareness of the diversity and inclusivity agenda of rugby today.

Over the last 18 months UK charity The Change Foundation has been piloting the game with two youth and adult clubs in London, developing the rules, equipment and players to create a game based around the Rugby 7’s touch format. This allows the game to be safe and accessible. The game-play takes into consideration a wide range of sight conditions whilst maintaining the fundamental codes, laws and spectacle of rugby to both the players and spectators. The charity has also developed a ball that makes a sound when travelling in the hand and when in the air. Filled with ball bearings this generates the noise to help the players hear the ball when it’s moving. Whilst players are able to keep track of the location of the ball due to its sound, one of the key aims for coaches involved is to ensure there is a well-developed verbal communication system amongst players. This will allow them to fulfil their potential as players and perform at the highest possible standard.

What’s next for blind rugby?

After the tour, Andy Sellins CEO of The Change Foundation said:

“This is another step for the world of rugby, welcoming a new group to the family. The success of this series is just the start. The main plan will be to have the first blind rugby world cup four years after Japan. But we don’t underestimate the social impact; it will enable us to create much more awareness of the skills of the visually impaired community and change perceptions.”

After the Lions Tour of New Zealand, The Change Foundation will focus on developing the game in the UK working with Premiership and Championship clubs such Wasps, Harlequins, Bristol and Leicester Tigers. Alongside this the charity will be raising awareness of the game by delivering:

  • A blind rugby demonstration during the Six Nations tournament in 2018
  • A blind rugby demonstration at the World Rugby 7’s in San Francisco in 2018
  • A blind rugby conference and demonstration at the Rugby World Cup in Japan 2019
  • A blind rugby Six Nations in 2019

Thank you to our sponsors QBE, Greater London Fund for the Blind, the Blind Foundation New Zealand, Packaworld and Canterbury.

Series facts:

6 July 2017:

First blind rugby test at the QBE Stadium, North Shore, Auckland

Score: 31 – 0 to UK Blind team

8 July 2017:

Second blind rugby test at Grammar TEC Rugby Club, Auckland

Score: 17 – 7 to UK Blind team

9 July 2017:

Third blind rugby test at Grammar TEC Rugby Club, Auckland

Score: 28 – 5 to UK Blind team

Guard of honour for the test winners after their 3-0 series win


For more information contact Si Ledwith, Head of Programmes on


Netball 4 Change

Netball 4 Change is a 10-week course that uses the rules of netball to confront social and emotional issues faced by vulnerable adolescent girls and young women. 

Netball 4 Change addresses issues such as body image, social media awareness, conflict resolution, freedom of choice and peers vs gangs. The aim of the course is to raise awareness of the issues, to use netball to understand them and to provide a safe and open environment to help the group develop their knowledge of the issues, leaving them ready to make better decisions.

The course is designed to be flexible and adaptable for any group of young women (UK and internationally) so they can use the Netball 4 Change course to help address social issues suffered by women and girls in their communities.

Supported by Laureus, Netball 4 Change is currently working in deprived areas of Newcastle, working with young people suffering from depression, anxiety, loneliness and identity crisis.

Team Habana – Train to lead, lead to change

Team Habana 2017 

The Change Foundation’s newest programme Team Habana develops the next generation of young leaders through the values of rugby, using the philosophies of Rugby World Cup winning Springbok legend Bryan Habana.

70% of the Team Habana leaders are young women who have become role models for 100’s of children in their communities, breaking down stereotypes of women in leadership positions in sport.

Team Habana increases young people’s confidence and competence in a range of leadership behaviours for them to fully discover their leadership potential. This provides them with the tools to ‘give back’ 100 hours of volunteering in their communities by delivering or implementing their own leadership ideas.


Team Habana has two cohorts of 10 young leaders in London and Cape Town.


Young people aged 16-21 from disadvantaged communities.


Team Habana leaders are given group leadership training, one to one project development support, mentoring and take part in a leadership residential retreat. 

“I am a level one coach and currently play for the Brentford Ladies first team and have had the opportunity to be involved in lots of community football projects. Through this programme and being exposed to rugby I have been inspired to help get other kids from my community involved in sport and do positive things in their communities. I believe Team Habana can prepare me for a leadership role such as this. If one person can make a difference, imagine what a group of us could achieve.”

Sarah, age 17, first Team Habana recruit

Team Habana London – Year one report – November 2017


Martin Gill Fundraises for The Change Foundation

During July and August 2017, Martin Gill will be taking on an incredible fundraising challenge for the charity to help us continue our life changing work with young people. Martin was introduced to the charity by Chris Langridge-Smith from Fit8, a sport rehabilitation and fitness gym, where Martin is a member. Martin will be cycling 6,447km across Europe from Nordkapp in Norway to Tarifa in Spain to raise money for our life changing work.

Martin has said “As an individual and as a family we are always looking for ways to provide pathways for others to succeed. Every few years I have always tried to take on a new challenge that can push you to new levels. Linking this as a platform to raise funds for deserving charities has always been a key part of this. The challenges have so far been achieved but this time for me and the support crew I am concerned I might have pushed to boundaries too far! Sport and Dance provide a great foundation for young people to develop life skills that can positively impact all aspects of their lives. The Change Foundation and its team develop excellent programmes to those in need and also provide role models for young people to learn from. Awesome work guys!”

The Change Foundation CEO, Andy Sellins said “We are incredibly proud and grateful to Martin for doing this challenge; his efforts will be truly life changing for so many of our young people. I do not know anyone else that would take this on but having got to know Martin, it is clear that he has the strength, commitment and sheer desire to succeed. During his more ‘challenging’ moments on the ride he can perhaps find new reserves of energy from knowing that his efforts will enable our charity to transform the life chances of over 100 of our most vulnerable and at risk young people. Martin is what our team would call a ‘top bloke’ and we are honoured to have him as our friend.”

Martin and his wife Julie are also holding a fundraising dinner at AFC Wimbledon Football Club on Saturday 10th June with an evening of food, music and dancing. The evening will also include live and silent auctions as well as a raffle taking place.

You can support Martin through his Just Giving page and help us to continue changing the lives of marginalised and at-risk young people.

Martin’s Just Giving page

Jaime runs London Marathon to change young lives

On Sunday 23rd April 2017, our friend Jaime Ballesta Gonzalez completed the Virgin London Marathon running 26.2 miles through the streets of London in a magnificent time of 4 hours and 37 minutes. Jaime is an influential supporter of the charity, as not only has he run the London Marathon surpassing £1,000 sponsorship, he also took part in the Pedal for Podge 450 mile bike ride from Edinburgh to London back in September 2016 to raise money for The Change Foundation in memory of Graeme Porteous.

Jaime said “I really enjoyed the whole atmosphere and experience of the London Marathon, the community feel throughout with the spectacular costumes and the noise was incredible. I am so happy to have supported an amazing charity that changes the lives of so many young people from challenged backgrounds.”

The Change Foundation CEO, Andy Sellins said “We are incredibly proud and grateful to Jaime for his continued support with our life changing work with young people from marginalised and at-risk backgrounds.”

You can still donate to Jaime’s Just Giving page and help us to continue changing the lives of marginalised and at-risk young people.

Click here to visit Jaime’s official Just Giving sponsorship page

England and Arsenal Ladies Superstar Visits our Street Elite Girls Session

On Thursday 16th March 2017, England and Arsenal Ladies superstar Rachel Yankey came to visit our Street Elite girl’s session in Poplar, Tower Hamlets. Whilst the girls were aware Rachel was coming to the session, they did not know when and in between exercises, the girls kept on asking excitedly “when is she coming?”  During our game of cone rush, Rachel walked in through the studio doors and with a huge smile on her face and greeted the Street Elite girls.

Rachel sat down with the Street Elite girls and spoke openly and honestly about her football career as an England and Arsenal legend with 129 England international caps, the most capped player of all time. The girls asked Rachel a range of questions about what she was like at school, how she balanced her football career with her social life, as well as her greatest achievements and her greatest challenges both personally and professionally. The girls were surprised to learn the gender discrimination Rachel faced as a female footballer, especially the fact that she cut her hair off as a child so she could play for the boy’s football team because there were no girl’s teams! When she eventually joined a girls’ team, still rocking her short haircut, she was accused of being a boy because she was too good, alas she persisted and she said she wouldn’t change any of her experiences.

Rachel enthusiastically joined in during the activities with the girls, not surprisingly, being very competitive, her team won each round! She made the girls feel incredibly comfortable and her presence alone brought a great energy to the session. The girls left the session feeling inspired to persevere not only in fitness, but in their journey from NEET (not in education, employment or training) to EET (education, employment or training). Rachel said “Street Elite is an amazing programme and we should be proud of the work we are doing with the girls.”

Thank you to Rachel Yankey for the inspirational energy and honesty on behalf of Street Elite, The Berkeley Foundation and The Change Foundation.

To find out more about the Street Elite programme, please contact:

The Change Foundation Women and Girls Exhibition – Monday 6th March 2017


Join us to celebrate International Women’s Day 2017

Date: Monday 6 March 2017

Time: 5.30-8.30pm (key note speech at 6.30pm)

Venue: StolenSpace Gallery, 17 Osborn Street, London, E1 6TD

At the pop up exhibition you can experience The Change Foundation’s unique women and girls sport and dance programmes targeting vulnerable girls and young women in our communities. Join us to celebrate their achievements and find out more about our programmes through the form of art, blogs, vlogs, dance, spoken word and self expression.

If you are able to attend please RSVP

Refreshments and cloakroom will be available.

We look forward to seeing you there!

From The Change Foundation Women and Girls team; Nav, Hailey, Celestina, Tanya, Carol, Shedaine and Vicky


Please join us for a private screening of the film Desert Dancer in aid of Dance4Change

The Change Foundation logo_dance-4-change

Please join us for a private screening of the film Desert Dancer in aid of Dance4Change, part of The Change Foundation.

Venue Details: The Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Mall, St James, London SW1Y 5AH

Date: Monday 6th February 2017

Time: 7pm-11pm

Desert Dancer (UK15) tells the inspirational, true story of Afshin Ghaffarian, who risks everything to set up a dance company in Iran, where public dancing is strictly forbidden. Directed by Richard Raymond, starring Freida Pinto and Reece Ritchie, and choreographed by Akram Khan, this film is testament to the power of dance and the resilience of human spirit.

We really hope you can support this fundraising event and join us for a drink before and after the screening to learn about the vital work that Dance4Change does to promote positive change in the lives of young women and girls at risk of social isolation, many of whom are transitioning from the care system.

Tickets for the evening are £40 and all net proceeds will go to support the work of Dance4Change. Please use the link below to make payment. NB: Please make payments on a desktop or laptop device.

If you are unable to join us, perhaps you could make a donation to support the Dance4Change programme. Please click on the link below to make a donation.

For more information, please email