The Atlas Foundation: Reaching Kids Through Rugby

Thu, Dec 22, 2022, 3:29 AM
Rebels Media
by Rebels Media

Earlier this year, Melbourne Rebels and Rugby Victoria Director, Neil Hay, climbed Kenya’s third highest mountain, Mount Satima, in an effort to raise much-needed funds and awareness for The Atlas Foundation, which seeks to help deprived children work towards a better future through rugby communities. 

The foundation, established by Rugby World Cup Champion, Jason Leonard OBE, is a launchpad for good and provides a platform that partners with local organisations that have a tangible impact on the daily lives of deprived young people. 

Rebels Media recently spoke to Neil, looking back on his incredible journey and how the Melbourne Rebels helped support this important cause.  

RM: Neil, take us through your unbelievable climb up one of Kenya's largest mountains to raise funds for The Atlas Foundation?

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to embark on a tricky mountain hike of over 4,000 metres trying to raise money for the rugby connected Atlas Foundation with former British and Irish Lion, Jason Leonard OBE, who set up this foundation to try and raise money for the poor and needy around the world.

They’ve raised millions so far and asked me if I would be interested in climbing up Mount Satima (Kenya), where I’ve been already involved with foundations and where there’s some of the biggest slums in the world with extreme poverty.

As soon as he asked me if I would join him on this hike, I said yes. I’m still trying to raise as much money as I can before I close the book and send the money over to the worthy cause at King Edwards School in Kibera slum in Nairobi.

We'll then be helping run some of their projects where they help children by taking them out of the slums vis the school, three days a week, so they can see a better life, even if that’s just for the short term.

It’s a great cause and all rugby related - we went out to the school and ran rugby programs for both the boys and the girls and I’ve never seen such happiness on their faces when they have a few rugby balls. 

RM: You’ve got a unique connection to this part of the world; just explain your relationship with the people of Africa and their connection to rugby?

After doing some work in the slums in Kenya, the Ngong Warriors reached out to me after noticing I was connected to the Melbourne Rebels, and cheekily asked if they could please have some kit.

This was a few years ago, so I said okay, let’s have a look. They players at the time all got behind it, gave me some boots and the Club donated some kit, and I tell you what - when the Warriors received the gifts, you’ve never seen a bunch of prouder players in the world. Just so happy to be the smartest looking rugby team in Kenya, supported by the Melbourne Rebels. 

RM: What has it meant to the Foundation, to receive such phenomenal support from Melbourne Rebels players and staff?  

The Rebels support is very important to me in my ventures across Africa - I’m so grateful. Even individual players have gotten behind the project, donating personal gear.

Matt Gibbon gave away his singed Australia A shirt and Wallabies gear, which was the Warriors first piece of memorabilia they’ll be able to put up on their wall.

It was like all their Christmases had come at once. I can’t express just how special it was for them. 

Having the backing from the Melbourne Rebels and our Club's individual players, makes them know they’re not fighting these challenges alone and that they have a voice. We're helping their cause, by telling their stories and letting people know what they’re living through. 

To support Neil and The Atlas Foundation's mission in providing safety, education, food, sport, guidance and community to thousands of children across Kenya, click here.