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Inspirational Dawda Darboe Scoops HITZ Award

An impressive young achiever who has gained full-time employment as an IT apprentice has won the Physical Activity Award at this year’s HITZ Awards.

HITZ is Premiership Rugby’s award-winning education and employability programme, supported by the CVC Foundation and Wooden Spoon, and delivered with official education partner SCL Education Group, which works with more than 2,000 14–23-year-olds across England every year. The programme is delivered nationally by England’s top rugby clubs. 

Using rugby’s core values of teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline and sportsmanship, 

HITZ works to get young people back into education, training, apprenticeships and/or employment.

HITZ Physical Activity Award recognises a young person for their progress and development in sport and physical activity, rewarding progress in both their physical fitness and towards living a healthier lifestyle. It also looks at how being active has supported them to overcome a range of challenges and progress on their journey back to education, training or employment.

The winner of this year's award is Dawda Darboe, of Bristol Bears, narrowly edging out Lion McDonald of Gloucester Rugby and Jack Gollop of Exeter Chiefs to claim the prize.

Dawda, who returned from Gambia aged 15 after both of his parents sadly passed away, joined HITZ in March 2018. 

Until he joined HITZ, he was not in education, and was a shy individual who was struggling with loneliness and poor mental health. But after taking part in the programme, he has developed the necessary skills to progress in employment and life in general. 

Darboe is now playing rugby for Avonmouth RFC 1st XV, while working in full-time employment for Molson Group as an IT apprentice.

Craig Capel, Bears Community Development Manager, said: “We’re unbelievably proud of Dawda and the progress he has made on HITZ.  The challenges he has faced in life for many of us are incomprehensible, but Dawda has always been such a gentleman. He has such a high moral compass and his behaviour endeared him to many of us on the programme.

“Dawda is now fully engaged within the rugby community, he’s playing regular rugby and is part of a team, a club and the rugby family, and it’s improved every aspect of his life including his mental wellbeing.” 

Wayne Morris, Premiership Rugby Community and Corporate Responsibility Director, said: “He’s a young person who has had a really challenging upbringing. His story really demonstrates the power of sport and physical activity, showing that involvement can support building friendships and improving the mental health of young people. It provides an outlet for the challenges they face in other parts of their lives.

“Coming into the country and not knowing anybody, having lost his parents, that social isolation is really difficult. I think one thing that is special about rugby is that once you walk into the changing room, you’ve instantly found a new family.  

“Your teammates become your best friends, and your social network and Dawda has really embraced that aspect. He’s done incredibly well, and I think this gives him a fantastic platform to go on in life and be successful in his future endeavours.” 

HITZ is Premiership Rugby’s flagship employability and education programme, supporting young people to make positive changes in their life. Working with more than 2,000 14-23 year-olds across England every year, the programme uses rugby’s core values to develop the personal, life and employability skills of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET).  Supported by the CVC Foundation and Wooden Spoon, and delivered with official education partner SCL Education Group, HITZ is delivered nationally by Premiership Rugby’s 13 shareholder clubs and has supported nearly 20,000 young people since it started in 2008.


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