The British filmmaker Michael Apted has a continuing series of documentaries called The Up Series. It started in 1964 when Paul Almond filmed 14 British 7-year-olds from different socio-economic backgrounds. Seven years later Apted, who had been a researcher on 7 Up, looked up those same kids for a second documentary called 7 Plus 7. Since then he’s produced a new film every 7 years, featuring as many of the original 14 participants as he can get. The latest one, 56 Up, is expected this year.
It occurred to me during the recent Bahay Bata children’s centre tour of the UK that the Up series would be a good model for covering my subjects. Clifton College, Touraid and the Philippine Rugby Union through Coach Cullen took 15 Filipino children, aged 8 to 15, from disadvantaged backgrounds, and brought them to England where for ten days they lived with affluent British families and experienced a lifestyle completely different from their own.
This wasn’t just a charity project, it was a social experiment.
1. The Tour
“This is a hope story,” says Andy Berry, CEO of the UK charity Touraid, which arrranged the Bahay Bata Tour for Clifton College. “Touraid organizes rugby tours for disadvantaged kids, but it’s not about rugby.
“Rugby is the catalyst,” he declares. “We’ve had kids come over from Kenya, Uganda, Botswana. The tours ask the question, What do you want to do with your life? We want to change their view of the world. We’re saying, If you work hard, you can do what you want.”
The Bahay Bata tour is the fiftieth for Touraid, and hopefully the start of many such tours for Filipino children. Planning for the Bahay Bata trip started in 2008, when Clifton College headmaster John Milne contacted Berry. “They had just lost a pupil in a plane crash, and the tour would’ve been a memorial for him. However the boy’s parents decided that they would prefer to move on from the tragedy.”
Touraid acted as the conduit between Clifton and Bahay Bata, providing help with insurance, visas (a hairy process as we well know) and travel arrangements. Before this one they put together rugby tours for Banunule school in Kampala, Uganda, Tiamelo Project Botswana and Jambo Konya in Mombasa, Kenya. (If you think getting visas in the Philippines is tough, Berry had to charter a plane to fly to Africa to help obtain the documents for their kids.)
“Rugby in Kenya was an elitist sport, played only in an exclusive sports club. We have set up rugby clubs outside of the members-only facility. We’re creating social capital.”
The rugby ethos is particularly suited to Touraid’s purposes. “In rugby we don’t care what you believe in, just play. I can walk into any rugby club in the world and get a drink, a bed, and in 24 hours, a job.”
Berry likes to tell the story of a rugby match in the slums of Nairobi, officiated by a five-foot-tall woman named Adelaide. “These two players were fighting and Adelaide sent them both off the pitch. They both complied.” He takes his phone and shows us a picture. “These are the two players after the game, walking off arm in arm.
“I’ve seen kids who have never even been on a bus win a national rugby tournament. And imagine the impact in Africa (where women don’t have equal rights as men) of girls playing rugby.
“The Bahay Bata kids,” he adds, “will be friends for life. See how the British parents have fallen in love with them. We’ve changed the way they see the world. Kid need aspirations.”
2. The Kids