The Atlas Foundation | Projects
The Atlas Foundation is a charity founded by Jason Leonard and other rugby and corporate heavyweights to raise people out of disadvantage around the world.
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ATLAS Projects
Alex Murphy and Jason Leonard with Delhi Hurricanes kids - July 2018

Alex Murphy and Jason Leonard with Delhi Hurricanes kids - July 2018

In Delhi and Calcutta, Atlas projects spread the values of rugby through thousands of kids from the poorest parts of India. They in turn make substantial life-changing decisions and actions that better themselves, and those around them.

Very few will be rugby superstars, but the vast majority will be better educated, better nourished, and better able to find and keep work.

Thanks to our generous sponsor Alex Murphy; our All Schools Ambassadors Steve James, Mark Phillips and Richard Allen-Williams, and the Indian Angel Network we will be growing and strengthening our rugby work across India in the coming years.

See the Atlas album here: Photo Album

And professional photos from acclaimed photographer Shantanu Biswas on the Delhi Hurricanes FB page here

England players visit Atlas projects in advance of the final South Africa Test - June 2018

England players visit Atlas projects in advance of the final South Africa Test - June 2018

England Rugby team players visited our projects the day before the final test in Cape Town. The High Commissioner and British Consul joined us too – both great rugby players.

A planned walk through the kids township was cancelled because of a shooting – a pretty ‘normal’ occurrence for the kids, but a security step too far for the RFU and Atlas.

Thanks to the RFU and High Commission for wonderful support – donating balls, tops and socks as well as their time and skills. The kids and coaches loved it.

See the album here: Photo Album

Atlas All Schools showcase in South Africa

Atlas All Schools showcase in South Africa

Jason Leonard and Paul Rendall visited several Atlas Projects around Cape Town in South Africa in January 2018.

Our partnership with the South Africa Rugby Legends Association to trial an Atlas All Schools programme shows great promise. The young men and women have found a new purpose in life and this translates into school and better opportunities in life.

See the gallery here:

City of Joy and the Joy of Rugby

City of Joy and the Joy of Rugby

Sally Pettipher visited the Khelo Programme in Kolkata – City of Joy – and a rural outreach programme in the north of Bengal over Christmas.

For 1,000 children and 120 youth coaches, this is the culmination of a year’s hard work in their separate projects around Kolkata, drawing kids out of the slums and off the streets, to find new paths to a better life through the joy of rugby.

See the Gallery here:

Atlas All Schools launches in Israel

Atlas All Schools launches in Israel

Chaired by Neil Blair, Championed by Maro Itoje, the Atlas All Schools programme takes the success of the CBRE All Schools in England with the RFU and spreads it around the globe.

Working in poor and divided communities, it introduces rugby to senior schools as a development project to improve behaviour and academic attainment. Offering the values of rugby to kids around the world brings a new future of hope, health and opportunity.

The project started in partnership with Rugby Israel in September 2017. There are already trial programmes in India, Argentina and South Africa with promising early results.

The kids featured here are Eritrean refugees at their first Atlas All Schools session.



Champion: Philippe Sella

ATLAS is collaborating with Les Enfants de L’Ovale to train 100 teachers over three years to coach rugby, teach academic and creative subjects, and to instruct on good nutrition and disease prevention. These teachers will be trained at the EDO ATLAS centre in Agadir in Morocco and from there will go back to schools across Africa, to help improve the lives and prospects of thousands of children.

EDO was established by Philippe Sella and for more than ten years has built education centres across France and Africa. It is hoped that through rugby, children will engage with each other across language and cultural boundaries to build trust, respect and understanding. Jason Leonard and Philippe Sella are great examples of this, and will champion this project in the UK, France and Africa.

Champion: Don James Jr

The Memphis Inner City Rugby project has gained international acclaim for the quality of the its work with children from the worst area for poverty in the US. 80% of children in the programme cannot afford $3 for lunch. This programme uses rugby to turn around their futures, with 100% now graduating from college and assured of an academic and athletic future, with the binding support structure that is so uniquely rugby.

Atlas has pledged a three year core grant to give critical funding relief to the exceptional volunteer leadership team. It has raised two years worth already from the US rugby community and has permanent US 510c3 platform to allow tax breaks for US donors HERE.


Now that schools in Memphis have closed, we’ve entered our summer programming which is going great!  Our kids are currently engaged in: tutoring for state-mandate testing; professional CrossFit training; high performance rugby camps around the country.

During this time, we’ve had the opportunity to analyse and reflect upon quantitative by-products of our work throughout the school year.  Although so much of our impact is personal and intangible, we believe in consciously tracking success numerically wherever feasible. Thus, I hope you enjoy our newly published 2017 Annual Report.

As is mentioned in the report, the Atlas Foundation is a monumental addition to our impact, operation, capacity, and sustained service to children living in the deepest levels of American poverty.  Furthermore, your partnership lends international friendship and credibility to our leadership- which helps push us through the difficult work we do.

All the funds MICR has received from the Atlas Foundation will be utilized in the 2017-2018 fiscal year which begins in August. We promise to deliver on our mission using these funds, and we hope the 2017 report will show you how important that mission is for our student-athletes.

Champion: Thinus Delaport

ATLAS is collaborating with Project Zulu to provide a rugby pitch, changing rooms and toilets for Sithobelumthetho Primary School in the Madadeni Township in KwaZulu-Natal. This will also provide a pitch for the local village club allowing them to host home games for the first time. To date the school and the village have had to use a piece of waste ground where animals graze and leave their waste.

Jason Leonard and Atlas supporter Chris Neal visited the project earlier this year. Good progress is being made and the new pitch, and Atlas and Chris have made a further funding commitment to enable the project to be completed.

At the invitation of the McGreevy family, ATLAS Foundation Chairman, Jason Leonard and CEO, Sally Pettipher, attended the launch of the Kings Rugby Development Academy in April 2017.

This project works exclusively with children from the Kibera Slum, the largest slum in Africa, giving them hope for a future beyond their current existence.

We were delighted to be able to make contact with the British High Commission and the Kenya Rugby Union to help raise the profile of this wonderful project that kits out, trains and feeds over 200 boys and girls every week.

The success of the KRDA is targeted to grow with 10 centres planned in the next 3 years.

For more info visit the KRDA website

See the photo-log of our visit in the Galleries

Champion: Thinus Delaport

ATLAS is collaborating with Project Zulu to provide a rugby pitch, changing rooms and toilets for Sithobelumthetho Primary School in the Madadeni Township in KwaZulu-Natal. This will also provide a pitch for the local village club allowing them to host home games for the first time. To date the school and the village have had to use a piece of waste ground where animals graze and leave their waste.

Progress is good, Atlas’s initial funding is buying the 2.5 acre plot of land in Area 25 Lilongwe, very close to the schools and community where current programmes are running. Once this is completed Atlas has committed a second tranche of funding to build a perimeter wall and secure the site.

Champion: Maggie Alphonsi

Nyumbani Village offers education, support and shelter to 1000 children orphaned or otherwise affected by HIV and aids.

Nyumbani Village has recently established a boy’s rugby team but does not have any provision to support girls who want to play. Whilst the boys are coached a vast number of girls look on in interest, keen to get involved but not sure how. Thanks to Maggie Alphonsi and the ATLAS Foundation, funding is now found for a small project to develop over three years. This could be bigger with more funding, but ATLAS has ensured that it can start and is supported by qualified coaches.

We were delighted to visit this project in April 2017 along with other projects in Kenya. Check this out in the Galleries.


Champion: Maro Itoje

The power of rugby to transform the lives of young people has been proved through the CBRE All Schools Programme run in England. As a founder of that programme Jason Leonard wanted to extend social and educational benefits of working in cluster of schools to other parts of the world. Atlas already has school work across the globe, but this is the first programme in partnership with a National Union: Rugby Israeli, that ties together club support with schools in disadvantaged areas.

This programme started with 8 schools in three clusters, reaching 8,500 pupils between 12 and 18yrs, providing rugby coaching and links to rugby beyond the school gate, with the express ambition of raising kids academic achievement, reducing anti-social behaviour and reducing truancy and exclusions.


Champion: Pepsii Dagar (India team Captain)

ATLAS, in partnership with Sliders-UK, pay for a full time coach to be based at the Delhi Hurricanes. He works with 800 children in 16 government and charity schools, and directly in the slums of Delhi. For many children this is the only chance that they have to play. The children from the slums are not even allowed into the public park where the weekend sessions are run, except as kids in the Hurricanes programme.

Media and gallery

🔉Listen here to the Sabena Moylan interview about this project

🎦 Watch the kids and coaches in action from July 2016 here

📲 See the picture gallery here

💰 You can donate to this project here

All India travel bursary

Thanks to the generosity of a Scotsman, members of the Delhi Hurricanes who could not afford to travel to the All India national championship, were able to go. Both teams, men’s and women’s made it to the final. They were runners’ up, making then #2 in the country. A brilliant result that would not have been possible without the whole team, and without the travel bursary.

Champions: Philippe Sella and Jason Leonard

The ATLAS Foundation is working with Les Enfants de L’Ovale to provide the same kind of opportunities to kids in Africa that Jason Leonard and Philippe Sella found through rugby.

This year we raised the €50k needed to build a school, sports pitch and changing rooms in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.  €100k has been raised already by Philippe Sella’s charity Les Enfants de L’Ovale and the land has been donated by the Abidjan government.

200 children currently get rugby coaching and educational support in Abidjan, Ivory Coast through the EDO programme. Yet they play on a muddy strip of land, and they have no electric lighting or dedicated school. They come from a slum in Abidjan called “Biafra” because they were refugees from the Biafran conflict and famine.

These children love their rugby and are dedicated academically, but their ability to succeed is being held back.

We want to give these children a proper place to learn and to play.

  • Two classrooms for their education
  • A kitchen to feed them
  • Changing rooms for both boys and girls
  • Hot running water so they can stay clean
  • Electricity so they can do homework after school
  • A pitch available for everyone, putting the school at the heart of the community

Champion: Thinus Delport

ATLAS is working with the School of Hard Knocks charity to establish itself in South Africa, developing a broadcast documentary and a range of charitable projects to help young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. The support of the ATLAS Foundation in SOHK’s first year allowed the fundamental early work of establishing the charity and its first staff member in South Africa.
Since then it’s been quite exciting, SOHK has secured the commitment of rugby legends Jean De Villers and John Robbie to appear on the show. They have added two new Directors to the Board and nailed down a TV channel and a production company. Atlas has committed to a further year’s support to see the project onto a firm financing footing – and looking forward to supporting the first cohort of unemployed people through the project.


Champion: Matt Hampson

ATLAS is supporting the Matt Hampson Foundation to help establish a Get Busy Living centre. This will let people with critical injuries rehabilitate through physiotherapy and social interaction, as well as providing a gym and rehab centre with specialist equipment. This provides people with the chance to use equipment that is too expensive to have at home, and to test equipment which they are thinking of buying to see how useful it may be to them.


Champion: Catherine Spencer

ATLAS is supporting the Tag Rugby Trust to help women and girls in some of the poorest parts of Zimbabwe. By introducing Tag Rugby girls are inspired to play sport and to establish strong supportive team bonds. The confidence this gives them allows them to take on board the additional teaching of the programme, specifically in sexual health and careers guidance, and to share this teaching back in their communities. This in turn reduces teenage pregnancy, HIV and school drop outs. It increases the number of girls with better jobs and healthier futures.


Champion: South Africa Rugby Legends

Atlantis in Boland, South Africa. Working in partnership with the SARLA, the South Africa Rugby Legends Association, to tackle the issues facing kids in this area. Atlas funding will employ two coaches per school, in four schools around two clubs ensuring strong continuing between school and out-of-school support. Plus equipment and kit to ensure the kids bond together as a team.

Our Chairman Jason Leonard and Trustee Paul (the Judge) Rendall will visit the project next January to provide an update to our supporters.


Champion: Nick Popplewell

ATLAS supported Wooden Spoon to give special needs children the chance to train and play at the annual UK Tag Rugby championships held in Limerick, Ireland. The Garryowen Club has its own special needs team, the “Garryowen Lions” who hosted this important national event. While para sport is now widely recognised and supported, people with special needs have fewer opportunities for team sport. For a full report and gallery link here

Champion: Neil Blewitt

Atlas’s Golf and Cycling supremo Neil Blewitt has won a prestigious award from the London Stock Exchange Group in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the community. For Atlas Neil is a complete hero, creating and building two of our key events each year, and trekking across continents on our annual challenges. He has been awarded a £1,000 prize which he is using to buy rugby boots for children in projects in Botswana.

In April 2018 Neil, Jason, and a bunch of other Atlas supporters will drive across Botswana handing out these boots to kids who have none.

Future projects

The ATLAS team are currently discussing the provision of the first dedicated rugby pitch, clubhouse and stand in Delhi. Rugby is played on grounds owned by the cricket clubs and the children in our projects are sometimes turned away when the pitch is needed. While we are great supporters of cricket, we feel that rugby needs a home of its own.

We are also liaising with a number of projects proposed by our Champions including in the favelas of Uruguay, and isolated communities in Africa, Asia and the Pacific Rim.

Please note that ATLAS does not consider unsolicited applications. ATLAS projects are all developed in consultation with known partners. 

Project Map