UMRio of Brazil and Kenya’s Rugby Gem have become the first joint winners of the Rhino Grassroots Rugby Award.

Now in its seventh year, this is the first time the Rhino Grassroots Rugby Award has been shared. The judges found it impossible to choose between UMRio in Brazil and Rugby Gem in Kenya, who both use rugby as a way of bringing about social change with a focus on underprivileged children, and so opted to give the award to both.

UMRio works within Rio’s Morro do Castro favela, and uses rugby as a way to provide educational support to impoverished children. As well as the rugby training, they offer additional tuition and support, and even aim to gain scholarships for the children on their programmes.

Rugby Gem works in both Mombasa and Nanyuki where organiser Dennis Gem offers rugby sessions and matches for children from local orphanages in an area of Kenya where child slavery and prostitution is rife. Not only has Rugby Gem helped boys and girls to international honours, but they’ve also helped many of their players gain scholarships to schools and universities.

“These two programmes are on a par with any nominations we have ever had,” explained Reg Clark, CEO, Rhino. “We found it impossible to decide between them, due to the invaluable work they both do for underprivileged children using rugby as a medium. What they do is simply mind-blowing. 

“Our sincere congratulations go to Robert Malengreau and Dennis Gem, and all of the people who support them, for their stellar achievements. They are truly an inspiration to the world of rugby generally.”

The Rhino Grassroots Rugby Award, now in its seventh year, recognises clubs, organisations and individuals globally who show the true spirit of rugby at community level.

Past Winners:
2016: KAMPUCHEA BALOPP (Cambodia)
2017: SKRUM (Eswatini/Swaziland)
2019: KHELO RUGBY (India) 

Alex Mead