Toukeu and his players

Toukeu lives in Xieng Khouang, Laos, and has been a Lao Rugby Federation‘s Pass It Back coach for over a year now, managing three teams. 

In August, Toukeu joined other coaches to learn how to deliver Reconnect, a new ChildFund sport for development curriculum that has been developed to support children during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Toukeu reflected on his personal experiences of the global health emergency and how it has impacted the lives of young people in his community: “Due to the country lockdown, children could not go to school or hang out with their friends for months. Our life skills and rugby training was also suspended. 

“Children started to feel depressed due to the lack of social interaction and outdoor activities. Many had to spend most of the time by themselves at home during the day, which made them feel really lonely.”

Keeping young people safe

With many restrictions lifting in May, Toukeu and other coaches got back to doing what they love most: training. But, instead of delivering the existing Pass It Back curriculum, they were introduced to Reconnect.

Toukeu explains: “Reconnect is different from what we previously taught our players. It is all about having children back together and reminding them to follow health guidance and recommendations.

“I think Reconnect is very important for children and young people during this time as it teaches them how to keep themselves safe through the pandemic. 

“For instance, I remind my players that they need to practice hygiene when they are home, by washing their hands with soap and water for 20-30 seconds. I also advise them to avoid crowded areas and to keep a safe distance, at least 1-2 meters, from other people.

“My players were really keen to get back to the pitch! They love playing sport and learning life skills. As a coach, I am so proud and happy that I could support children in my community during this challenging time.”

Toukeu’s team reconnect

The Reconnect program is not only giving Toukeu’s team vital health information and advice during the COVID-19 situation but means young players have the chance to get physically active and renew friendships.

“I felt so lonely and sad before having to stay home and not being able to go to sessions. I am very happy that now I can come out and meet with many friends at training,” says Chi Mua

“Coaches prepare hand sanitiser for us at every session and we are asked to wash our hands every time before and after the session. Coaches also remind us to keep a safe distance away from each other, at least 1 meter, during the activities.”

“I now feel fitter and healthier as I’m now to get back to the pitch and see my friends,” says Xeng Lee

His teammate Khamdee adds:I am so pleased to meet with my friends again, because we couldn’t meet each other during the COVID-19 lockdown. I missed them and we could not talk to each other at all despite being in the same village. Attending this activity helps us to reconnect with each other again.” 

Photos: Lao Rugby Federation