RYAN Jones is hoping to help tackle many of Africa’s issues – with the help of rugby.
The 35-year-old, from Basildon, who works as a PE teacher at the Gateway Academy in Tilbury, will travel to 10 countries and work with 10,000 youngsters as part of the Bhubesi Pride project, which begins in January.
And the former Rochford Hundred, Thurrock and Basildon forward cannot wait to get going.
“The slogan for the initiative is unite, empower and inspire and that’s very much what we’re about so I’m excited about being a part of it all,” said Jones. “We will be working with schools and communities in the different countries we go to and rugby is very much the hook to draw people in.
“It’s an unknown sport in some of the areas we will be going to, but once we’ve got them on side we then start teaching them about other topics including racism, literacy and hygiene.
“The work that goes on is fantastic and I’m proud to be working for them, despite currently having to have seemingly every injection going!” Jones’ introduction to the scheme came when the Gateway Academy was chosen from hundreds of school to be linked up with an education centre in Uganda.
That led to the school sending out a number of goodies and many of the pupils also became pen pals before Jones was invited to step up the level of his involvement.
“I was asked to apply for one of the coaching positions but there were only seven places available for 250 applicants, so it was fantastic to get chosen,” said Jones.
“There will be a French A international, the captain of the Mexico team and top coaches from America and South Africa, so it’s a strong team we have going over.
“JPR Williams is the figurehead of the whole scheme and it’s also shown quite regularly on Sky Sports, so it’s starting to get well known.”
However, Jones will not get paid for his five-month stint in Africa, where he will be visiting Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, Rwanda, Zambia, Botswana, Tanzania, Namibia and South Africa.
And he is currently trying to raise funds to help him afford the trip.
“It’s been difficult to get financial support because people are keen to support groups rather than individuals,” said Jones.
“The school have been fantastic and have held fund raising events and the kids have been selling wristbands too.
“They’ve given me a sabbatical from my job too which I really appreciate and I’m sure the work I do over there will benefit both myself and the school when I come back.
“I’ve got to raise £8,000 and I’ve already got £4,000, so I’m getting there slowly.
“I’m prepared to put my own money in to it as well but I’m not sure what I will be coming back to.
“I’m renting out my house and my car to raise money and it’s certainly going to be an interesting few months.
“I am a little bit scared about it all but that’s only natural and I’m sure it will be a tremendous experience.
“I’m going to be coaching for five or six hours a day and that’s what I love best.”
Working with Bhubesi Pride will also complete a memorable few months for Jones, who also worked as a Games Maker during the Paralympic Games.
“That was also an unforgettable experience and I consider myself to have been very lucky to have been a part of it,” said Jones.
“I was involved in the wheelchair rugby and led the Great Britain team on to the court for one of their matches.
“The arena was packed out and the noise was amazing when we came out.
“It is something that will always stick with me and I’m sure going out to Africa will be the same.”
For further details on Jones’ African trip visit www.rugbyinafrica.org >Anyone interested in sponsoring him should also e-mail ryan.jones@ theglc.org.uk Jones is able to ensure high visibility for companies in web space and kit branding.