Bath Rugby Foundation enjoyed a visit from two inspirational figures after they arrived to talk about a Palestinian community project focused on social inclusion.
Jalal Khudairy, headteacher at a large boys primary school, and youth and community sports leader Abedalraziq Ezzat set up the Al Okhuwa organisation as a means of instilling children with trust and self-esteem through sport.
As part of their time in the UK, the pair spent a day with the Aviva Premiership Rugby club’s foundation, visiting the HITZ and Something to Chew On programmes before spending some time at an inclusion club for children with physical and learning difficulties.
Jalal and Abed’s primary aim was to share ideas with similar initiatives and develop cross-cultural understanding – and Education Manager Vicky Heslop insists the Bath Rugby Foundation it was an experience that benefited all involved.
"The first time we had spoken to Jalal and Abed was when they arrived at Bath, but they immediately captivated us with their story and I think they really enjoyed being here," she said.
"Everyone I have spoken to found them completely inspirational. People said how they were awe-struck by the situation and what they are doing to help disadvantaged children to gain confidence and self-worth.
"Their work does have its similarities with ours, although they are in starkly different circumstances – their focus is on building strong communities."
Despite spending much of the day learning about the club’s own community programmes and answering questions from the enthusiastic children, the Palestinian visitors did have time to take in their first ever rugby match – a Bath United A League clash at the Rec – as well as running into Bath No.8 Leroy Houston.
"They seemed to love watching the game and we discussed the values of rugby that they have a lot of belief in," Vicky added.
"They talked about the importance of everyone working for each other and protecting their teammates, looking out for one another.
"Rugby is a place for everybody and it is very inclusive – that is how sport works in general and that is what their scheme focuses on.
"When they met Leroy he was a fantastic ambassador for the club and he spoke about how he found rugby to be such a supportive community when he moved to a new area – it’s the power of rugby."