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Rugby for Peace In Colombia

24 August 2022

Rugby for Peace - cover photo

When you think of Rugby, visions of Murrayfield, the Six Nations, or the Calcutta Cup probably spring to mind. You don’t imagine young people throwing rugby balls around on the beaches of Colombia...until now, that is!

For the first time ever, we are using rugby as the main tool in one of our overseas development projects. Working with our local partner FDP (Fundación Buen Punto) along the Pacific Coast of Colombia, we are harnessing the power of sport to transform the lives of young people and their families. And the funny-shaped ball – which is rarely ever seen there – is starting to make waves!

Rugby for Peace - Colombia 1

Challenges in Colombia

Chocó is one of the poorest regions in Colombia, and opportunities for young people are extremely limited. Climate change is making livelihoods like fishing and farming impossible, and the impacts of coronavirus are forcing people deeper into poverty. Food is short, education is poor and healthcare is limited.

Young people feel like they have no future – that they have no way out. And, as a result, many get caught up in the illegal drug trade. It is a way to earn money; a way to climb out of poverty. But it drives uncertainty, criminality and conflict.

So where does rugby come in?

As specialists in sports development, our partner uses rugby to provide a novel and engaging way of educating young people who might not be learning the skills they need to thrive.

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Their training sessions help instil critical values like resilience, teamwork, commitment, leadership, playing fair, and having the courage to take on life’s challenges.

Carolina, Head Coach for the project explains:

In rugby, as in life, one of the first lessons is, when we fall we have to get up. In life, there will be situations that will tackle us, that will knock us down. Our strength will run out, but we have to get up. Because we are strong, because we can, because this situation is not going to defeat us.

Camilo’s Story

10-year-old Camilo from Chambacú is part of the project. As a young boy, he was diagnosed with learning difficulties, and today requires additional medical support. But his family cannot afford to pay for this care.

Camilo - Rugby for Peace - Colombia

Camilo's grandmother, Margarita explains,

We don’t have the money to get treatment on our own, his father is a fisherman and the only thing he has money for is food.

Because Camilo doesn’t have the support he requires in school, he becomes distracted and sometimes angry – the teachers struggle to engage him like the other boys.

I suffer a lot; I worry a lot about the challenges he faces, and about the decisions he makes.

An inner peace

Since Rugby For Peace arrived, however, Margarita’s worries have started to ease. Camilo has found a new inner peace, and a more engaging way to learn.

Margarita - Rugby for Peace - Colombia
He likes the game very much. If it were up to him he would take rugby classes every day. I really like it because I can see the changes in his mentality.

Margarita Camilo's grandmother

Coach Carolina agrees,

Camilo has difficulty processing or always remembering rules – certain norms that, due to his learning difficulties, he is not able to grasp as easily as the other boys.

But when he is playing, those limitations do not exist. He gets in, he plays, he communicates, accommodates his teammates, and motivates them. He is always there waiting when I arrive. The kids of Chambacú have had difficult lives, but they benefit a lot from the programme.

A bright future

Camilo and the young people of Chocó have had difficult starts to their lives, struggling to see a better future in communities ripped apart by conflict, climate change and coronavirus. But thanks to yoursupport – and a funny-shaped ball – things are slowly starting to change, one pass at a time!