On Friday 18 January 2019 the Chris Burger Petro Jackson Players’ Fund hosted long standing friend in rugby, Matt Hampson from the Matt Hampson Foundation in the UK, as well as five of his travelling companions at a lunch at Yonder Hill Wine Farm in Stellenbosch. Matt Hampson was seriously injured in a rugby training session in 2005 whilst playing for England U21. This left him paralysed from the neck down, reliant on a ventilator for breathing and requiring 24-hour care. Despite serious barriers to travel and true to his foundation’s slogan, Matt has made the trip to South Africa to do just that – GET BUSY LIVING. The event was attended by newly elected Chairman of the Players’ Fund, Jean de Villiers as well as other members of the board, recipients and staff of the Players’ Fund, friends and representatives from SA Rugby.
Since Matt’s tragic injury in 2005, he has been determined to live as normal a life as possible, encouraging all in similar circumstances to his and whom make use of the services of the Matt Hampson Foundation, to GET BUSY LIVING. An overseas trip to South Africa has been testament to this motto. Matt’s first visit to South Africa kicked off with a bush and wildlife safari experience in the Eastern Cape which was followed by a road trip along the magnificent garden route to Cape Town. The Players’ Fund saw his visit to South Africa, as a great opportunity to show him and his travelling companions some true local hospitality, good food and wine and introduce him to all those who play the role of Rugby’s Caring Hands in South Africa.
The love of rugby transcends national borders and so do the relationships made as a result of international collaboration efforts over many years. The Players’ Fund has crossed paths with the Matt Hampson Foundation on two occasions in the past. The first was in 2011 when young Herve Iradukunda (16), who had spent 14 years in exile in SA suffered a spinal cord injury in an accident just two days before he was due to join his family who were emigrating to France. The Matt Hampson Foundation with support from the Players’ Fund were able to reunite the family in France and have since been kept updated on Herve’s positive and uplifting story.
The two organisations again worked together in 2015 when George Robinson (17) sustained a spinal cord injury while playing rugby in Cape Town during a school rugby tour from Stamford, England. Once medically stable after care in an intensive care unit in Belville, a medical flight was arranged and George returned home to his family thanks collaboration in the field of care across borders.
The afternoon was graciously hosted by former deputy chairman of the Players’ Fund – Fikkie Naude at Yonder Hill Wine Farm on Friday and was an informal and heart-warming get together where those close to the Players’ Fund had the chance to meet Matt and hear about the fundraising success of the Get Busy Living Rehabilitation Centre. In 2018 the Matt Hampson Foundation was able to construct a world-class rehabilitation centre in Burrough on the Hill, Leicestershire. Matt describes the centre as “a place for our beneficiaries to visit and receive physical rehabilitation, peer support but more importantly emotional support and a place to call home.”
New chairman of the Players’ Fund, Jean de Villiers first met Matt when he played for the Leicester Tigers in 2015. He relayed how momentous it was meeting up with Matt again; “Having taken up the chair at the Players’ Fund it is even more obvious to me how rugby has a duty of care for those whose lives are changed on the field. Matt has not only extended this duty to fellow rugby players, but also to sportsmen and women from other sporting codes after life-changing injury. Matt’s tangible love for “Getting Busy Living”, for people, coupled with his determined spirit is truly remarkable. We are proud to have this association and have formally recognise this relationship by making Matt an official Friend of the Players’ Fund.”
To further imprint this memorable afternoon into everyone’s memories Matt handed over a cheque of £5000 to the Players’ Fund which will be used to assist the 108 recipients of the Players’ Fund with mobility equipment and other necessities to improve their quality of life.
Summed up by General Manager of the Players’ Fund, Gail Baerecke; “In the year of a Rugby World Cup, this event illustrates the global link that a sport can create with the foundations being firmly rooted in honest friendships, care and the ethos of camaraderie so evident in those involved in rugby. We are lucky to be able to call this work.”