“I left my home and came here. My mother told me ‘Even if you’re ice, never melt.” 

Chanting a popular Turkish song about triumphing over adversity, the young players of Pass It Back in Adıyaman, Türkiye held each other and danced with their Coach Ümmü after a day of rugby and life skills learning. Their parents, who had earlier cheered them on during a game of tag rugby, watched the children jump up and down, moving to the beat of their own song. In that minute, no one would have guessed that this is a community continuing to overcome adversity.

It was early this year when they survived a 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck the southern and central parts of the country, affecting millions of people. “People went through a lot of hardships during that period. They left their homes. Sports and education were then distant memories for us,” said Pass It Back Coach Ümmü.

Months after the powerful earthquake and even before its debris had been cleared out, the people of Adıyaman began to rebuild their lives. Supporting community recovery is the Türkiye Ragbi Federasyonu which partnered with ChildFund Rugby to deliver Pass It Back in southeastern Türkiye. In consultation with the Ministry of Youth and Sport, Adıyaman was identified as a location where children would benefit from structured, play-based learning during the recovery phase of the earthquake.

Recently, Pass It Back in Türkiye finished its first season with 16 Coaches and 381 players (half of them female). Aside from rugby training, the season offered life skills learning that focussed on building safe and supportive networks, as well as skills to plan for the future. With a total of 290 sessions delivered in less than 3 months, 77% of players demonstrated improved learning connected to the development of building supportive networks at a time of individual and community recovery. 

“We are using rugby as a tool to help young people and children affected by the earthquake to overcome their traumas, rediscover themselves, and decide what they want to do in their lives,” said Hatice Kubra Yilmaz, Türkiye Rugby representative and a Grassroots to Global Türkiye leader. 

“They are discovering a new sports discipline, and in this regard, this work is very important. Additionally, our young coaches gain a wonderful opportunity to work with the children. They are trying to heal their own wounds, as well as the wounds of those children – it’s a truly beautiful thing,” Hatice added.

In Adıyaman, rugby has taken a lead role in supporting community recovery from the disaster, and this in turn has created strong community and Government visibility and support. Hülya Taşçi of the Tûrkiye Women’s National Team highlighted how important this is as the community in Adıyaman continues their recovery. 

“When we visited Adıyaman, one of the children asked us: Have you ever thought about giving up? I think that’s a very important question,” said  Hülya. “I told them, yes, there are times in life when things get tough, but when everything else has become difficult, and you’re left with sports, one of the greatest lessons that sports teach is to never give up.”

For all media enquiries, please contact Rhea Catada on rhea@childfundrugby.org

Pass It Back Recovery – Türkiye has been generously supported by World Rugby and Beyond Sport, together with W Rugby and DHL, as well as by ChildFund Rugby supporters from across the world.

Pass It Back Recovery – Türkiye is delivered by The Turkish Rugby Federation and ChildFund Rugby.

ChildFund Rugby partners to provide children and young people with opportunities to play, learn and lead. Using integrated rugby and life skills learning, young people from vulnerable communities are equipped to overcome challenges, inspire positive social change, and take active leadership roles within their communities.

ChildFund and World Rugby have partnered for 4 Rugby World Cups and continue to work closely to deliver social impact and game growth.

ChildFund Rugby is led by ChildFund Australia – an independent international development organisation that works to reduce poverty for children in many of the world’s most disadvantaged communities. ChildFund Australia is a member of the ChildFund Alliance – one of the world’s oldest and most experienced child-focused development agencies. With a global network of 12 organisations, the ChildFund Alliance assists almost 23 million children and families in 70 countries.