Charity work is at the core of the RAF Spitfires 7s ethos. Since our inception in 2008 we have supported the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund (RAFBF), Help for Heroes (H4H) and the RAF Ex Prisoner of War (PoW) Association. In September 2011 the team embarked on a trip to Kolkata (Calcutta), India to deliver tag rugby coaching to poverty stricken children living in various slum areas of the city. This work was carried out through an outreach programme run by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and introduced us to the charity Khelo Rugby, a subsidiary of the Rugby Uncle Charity. The team was deeply moved by the children and the Khelo Rugby charity. As a result we decided to support them further.
The Spitfires wear and retail some superb shirt designs sporting the RAFBF, H4H and Khelo Rugby logos. Each shirt sold donates £5.00 to these charities. Shirts can be bought on-line, at various retailers (including the Twickenham shop) and for Service personnel, via Sgt Scott Garrett at RAF Brize Norton. In the last 12 months we have sold over 4,000 shirts. Our new design will be available for Christmas.
The Spitfires have carried out several charity events including running the Bristol Half Marathon, organizing a charity 7s tournament, hosting teams such as Wales, Afghanistan, Oxford and Cambridge and in May held a charity dinner and auction for over 100 guests at the RAF Club. These events and our shirt sales have helped to raise significant amounts of money for the four charities the Spitfires support.
We have raised £10,000 for the RAF PoW Association. This money will be spent on enhancing a museum and education centre at the Great Escape Camp, Stalag Luft III in Zagan, Poland and to build memorials along the ‘Long March’ route which prisoners at the camp were forced to march along at the end of WW2. Air Commodore (retired) Charles Clarke, President of the RAF PoW Association was one of the PoWs who was marched on this route.
Khelo Rugby is a charity the Spitfires have vowed to support for the foreseeable future. The Spitfires have recently purchased and transported a scrum machine to India for Khelo rugby. In addition, £5,800 has been donated to help purchase kit, vehicles and support equipment for Khelo Rugby. The Spitfires also sponsor the founder of Khelo Rugby, Zaffar Khan, who is currently studying in the UK. Zaffar is also the Afghanistan 7s Team Coach!
The RAFBF is arguably the RAF’s most valuable charity. It supports families of serving and ex-serving RAF personnel. The Spitfires donated £6,000 in 2011, $14,000 in 2012 and have several large cheques still to come! It is our ambition to raise £20,000 for the RAFBF each year and to contribute directly to the RAFBF’s AIRPLAY scheme. Over the next few years the Spitfires hope to pay for the training and hiring of youth workers for the scheme.
The RAF Spitfires present 3 cheques to Khelo Rugby (£5,800), RAFBF (£20,000) & The RAF Ex PoW Association (£10,000). Left to Right Squadron Leader Tim Barlow, Spitfires Director & Coach, Richard Bradbury (Canterbury), Ryan Llewellyn-Pace (Canterbury), Seth Wise (Canterbury), Rachel Huxford (RAFBF), Flt Lt Rory Wood (Spitfires Captain), Mark Miller (Shepherd-Neame), Air Commodore (retired) Charles Clarke OBE, Monika Parker, Lt Col (retired) Phil Westwood all RAF Ex POW Association.