For Van, aged 13 years from Vietnam, the chance to visit Japan earlier this year, to take part in the first ChildFund Pass It Back Cup Delivered by DHL, was the opportunity of a lifetime. She shares her story – of new sights and sounds, new friends, and learning new skills through rugby.

Visiting Tokyo in March couldn’t have been better timed for Van. “We went to Japan during the cherry blossoms season. The Sakura flowers were in full bloom and it made the city look magnificent!

Leaving her country for the first time, to take part in the inaugural ChildFund Pass It Back Cup Delivered by DHL, turned out to be a journey of discovery for Van. “Besides wonderful experiences like seeing the Sakura with my own eyes, I also learned lots of valuable new things about Japan.

ChildFund Pass It Back player Van (second from left)

Van (second from left) says: “In Japan, I learned that Japanese people are famous for being self-disciplined and well-organised. I think this helps their country be beautiful, clean, and developed.”

“For me, the most important thing I learned about is the quality of Japanese people. They are not only hospitable, but also very disciplined and resilient. They are serious and careful in each and every task.

“For example, the streets are so clean, and everything is well-organised. Everyone has a routine for putting their own rubbish into garbage bins.

“I want people in Vietnam to practice this so Vietnam can be clean like Japan.”

Exploring a new culture

During her time in Tokyo, Van also had the opportunity to get involved in Japanese traditional customs. This included wearing a kimono and learning how to write Japanese calligraphy.

She says: “I feel that all the qualities of Japanese people come from the way they draw calligraphy. It requires you to pay lots of attention to what you are writing.”

The chance to connect with her rugby-playing peers in another country was another highlight of the Cup. Learning about the Sustainable Development Goals together – gender equality, reducing inequality, and peace for all – meant bonds were forged between players of different nations.

Friendships across borders

For Van, it is Karen, Nowaka, Kano and Soma who will be most remembered – for their kindness, and use of body language to overcome language barriers. She says: “We promised that we will become well-organised and be ‘green’ players who clean up after ourselves; after each training we hope to keep our pitch as clean as we can.”

Van adds: “In Japan, I learned that Japanese people are famous for being self-disciplined and well-organised. I think this helps their country be beautiful, clean, and developed.

“We have been learning and practicing discipline ever since we became ChildFund Pass It Back players, but going to Japan and seeing how disciplined people are made me truly understand the benefits.

“My Japanese friends also have their own boundaries and respect each other. If we can have discipline and routines for ourselves, we can manage all the challenges that we might face in our lives. I think this is an important factor for success in our futures.”

A local leader

Van’s father is also impressed with the changes he sees in his daughter since her trip overseas. He says: “We are thrilled that our girl had the opportunity to go to Japan.

“Since she came back, she seems more focused on her tasks. She folds her clothes tidily, puts her books away more orderly, and cleans our garden every morning. She also tells everyone is the family to help keep the house clean and organised!”

For Van’s coach it has been wonderful to see her player change and grow through her involvement with ChildFund Pass It Back. She says: “I am so happy that she has become a leader in our team, supporting others to be more disciplined and practice good routines.

“Van belongs to the future generation, and I believe she will be able to bring about the changes she wants to see in the world!