Coronavirus is having a big impact on all business, but as the outbreak grew the Dragons Community Team were ready to meet fire with fire.
The Dragons Community team help support many across the region, with the aim to inspire the younger generation of Gwent to become proud Dragons through the delivery of a diverse range of initiatives designed to foster engagement.
Engaging with over 40,000 youngsters on an annual basis, Dragons Rugby is very much at the heart of the community. Their community team, along with the Dragons players, aim to be great role models in the Region inspiring thousands of young people and make a real positive impact on people's lives.
From Homeless Rugby to Sporting Memories for people with Alzheimer’s this truly is an inclusive venture that seeks to help and unite the young and the old with the Dragons being a springboard for positivity and action.
Sport should be inclusive and with the Dragons Community covering the whole of Gwent, which has been hit hard by Covid-19, there are opportunities for support for a community which need it now more than ever.
When asked how they have had to adapt due to the virus, Mike Sage, the Dragons Community Manager, said;
“All staff are now working from home. We use social media as a vital tool to deliver our message and Zoom to keep in contact with the team. We have always used social media quite extensively for clubs and schools and it just means it’s had to increase. The other day it was brilliant to use Zoom for a quiz for out mixed ability team, it’s great to keep that contact up for everyone’s mental health during this tough time."
Recently the Dragons have set up a new initiative called Dragons Deliver which has been supported by the charity Oddballs with the use of the community vehicle. This new venture which is operating across the whole of Gwent, aims to connect our more isolated communities through the delivery of essentials and prescriptions.
Commenting on the Dragons Deliver initiative Mike said:
“Dragons Deliver have twelve volunteers on the books plus its regular staff all aiming to keep community spirit and togetherness ticking along until hopefully we are not needed anymore. Community development is normally very hands-on, delivering inspiring initiatives and building quality working relationships to benefit our communities."
On engagement activity and the difficulties posed by social distancing rules, Mike said:
“We have adapted our activation via social media, the web and through technology to deliver new strands to keep our communities engaged, active and inspired. These include things like skill of the day, a community quiz, education tasks based around the curriculum, word searches, crosswords, colouring, word scrambles, mosaics and sporting memories. Before the virus we had mixed ability rugby, homeless rugby, sporting memories for the over ‘50s and for people with dementia all with the overarching aim to help combat depression and loneliness.
"We are constantly adapting, this is all new to us along with everyone else. Our bread and butter is visiting schools and clubs and getting that face-to-face contact with people and building up our fan base. It’s great to see Dragons players on board with us, Leon Brown (Prop for the Dragons & Wales) did a WhatsApp about our daily skill of the day and wished one of our supporters a happy birthday. Things like that can have a big impact on the community. Over the Easter period we’ve been out delivering Easter eggs to people and had players helping out with food drops.
"It is also great to see the positive impact when youngsters are posting their skills, completing our activities and we are receiving acknowledgement of our education provision from senior leaders within schools. It’s the validation we need to keep doing what we are doing.
"Technology is also being used to keep in touch with staff and our vulnerable homeless, mixed ability and sporting memories groups. Ironically, being isolated has brought communities together in supporting each other and supporting our most vulnerable in a way it just wasn’t before.
"In terms of the Community team, we are working from home but continuing to make a positive impact through numerous initiatives and interactive activities. We are continually producing inspiring content for our communication channels to engage with our supporters and community groups."
When asked if Dragons is receiving positive feedback from the community on the direction it is taking, Mike said:
“It was great motivation to receive the following email this morning from a School Senior Leader. It encapsulates everything we hope to achieve with our activities and more."
“I just wanted to say a huge thank you to you and the community team for the interactive tasks and activities for the children. They are absolutely brilliant! We will look forward to the fortnightly editions and have shared them with our parents and learners via our communication platforms. We certainly have many rugby lovers in our school who will thoroughly enjoy these and will no doubt find them very motivating. Thank you - it is really appreciated.”
– Sarah, Year 6 Teacher at High Cross Primary School.
Gwent falls into the Cardiff Capital Region and like a number of other sponsors, the CCR have agreed to support the community team this season with their inclusion work.
“CCR agreeing to sponsor us means so much," added Mike. "The inclusion space is now growing on a daily basis so this partnership will help us develop this area. At the moment we have a part-time inclusion officer and hopefully that can now change. We currently only have two fulltime members of staff and two part-time and this is fulltime work so help like this is so vital in continuing the work we are doing."
Nicola Somerville, Head of Inclusive growth for the CCR, said: “When we were approached to see if we were interested in supporting Mike we didn’t need much persuading. Both our organisations have the same value set and are committed to encouraging initiatives that enhance the wellbeing of our communities. It is fabulous to see how well the team have adapted to the change in circumstances and the impact they continue to have in the community. We are proud to be a small part of their success."
Going forward Mike said that “his Community staff, as always, have been superb and we are keeping in regular contact along with our community groups to ensure we are working well during these unprecedented times. It is nice to know whether in schools, in the community or at home, we continue to make a positive impact.
Finally, I would like to thank everyone for their continued support of our community work. Challenging times but strangely during this isolation, it’s pulling everyone together."
Follow the Dragons on Twitter: @DRA_Community @dragonsrugby or find them at: www.dragonsrugby.wales