Despite a notable layoff since our last blog post, Sports for Development continues to thrive and grow. Beyond continuing our work within the 4 communities in Santa Marta under regional director Adam Catterton, we have now expanded to a community on the fringe of Colombia’s capital city, Bogota. Additionally we have partnered with a growing national sport, and have upcoming projects and expansions on the horizon. In short, Sports for Development continues to grow thanks in large part to donations and support contributed by our wonderful long and short term volunteers, blog readers, and casual supporters!
After the Gaira sports day in Santa Marta (see previous blog post below), I moved to Bogota, Colombia after securing a work visa that allowed me to stay in Colombia. This was obviously exciting for me on a personal level as I was not going to be kicked out of the country I love, but also for Sports for Development as it gave us the opportunity to expand to another city within Colombia for the first time in our programs history.
Bogota is not just any city, by the way. With nearly 10 million inhabitants it is one of the largest cities in Latin America and as it contains a plethora of foreign businesses, recognizable public figures (shakira?), emerging markets, and rich and active political and cultural history, is also considered as a significant global city.Since Sports for Development first began to initiate operations in Bogota in October we have successfully linked ourselves with an incredible organization, Healing Colombia (check link for website), which works in the community of Calera.
Calera sits on top of a mini-mountain that hovers over the eastern side of Bogota and is yet another one of Colombia’s “displaced zones”, which means although it functions and appears as a normal town (shops, restaurants, schools, houses…etc), they are not recognized by the government as an official town and therefore receive only minimal governmental support. This results in the town of Calera, which sports breathtaking views of the capital city, facing severe poverty and the many issues that accompany it such as lack of quality education, health and employment services, proper infrastructure and extra-curricular activity opportunities.
Before partnering with Sports for Development, Healing Colombia (HC) offered classes in music, dance and english to a group of more than 60 kids every saturday. Additionally, HC offers classes in financial management to adults within the community every tuesday night. HC has been doing amazing work in and around Bogota for over a decade, however despite originally having a sports program has not been able to offer sports activities to kids in Calera for more than 3 years. This is where our program has been able to form a thriving partnership with HC and make a positive impact on their already successful program. The kids of Healing Colombia range from 5-14 in age and despite their often difficult conditions maintain a genuine and positive outlook on life and have the energy, smiles and personality to make even the coldest hearts chuckle…and the unlimited potential that makes this work worth it.
In addition to our work in Calera with Healing Colombia, SFD has become an official partner with the Colombian National Lacrosse Team (check link for facebook page). The team was formed only 4 months ago, but is growing quickly and the players are committed to SFD’s mission of providing educational sports opportunities to kids…allowing us to offer the kids we work with another new sport, new role models, and new opportunities.
Our first “lacrosse day” with the kids took place 10 days ago when we bussed all 60 kids down to a park located in one of the nicer areas of the city. Many of these kids had never been within the city of Bogota and you could see from their wide eyes and big smiles just how impacted they were by the experience. With the help of 2 professional coaches/players from the United States, myself and the 30 men and women of the Colombian National Team, we led a clinic for the kids which included teaching fundamentals of lacrosse, playing a game with the kids, and having the national team play a scrimmage to show the kids what the sport was about. At the end of the day many of the kids were looking up to the National Team players as superheroes and many wanted to keep training with lacrosse so they could one day play on the national team as well.
Working in Bogota has brought new opportunities, as well as challenges, as SFD adjusts to the culture of a big city. There are more opportunities for partnerships, sponsors, and in country support, however basic logistics in a large city can prove to be difficult. Either way, SFD is committed to its mission and there are plenty of youth that crave the opportunity for organized sport here in Bogota. As usual, the amount that we can provide and expand relies heavily on the amount of support we receive. So, if you are reading this and believe in what we do, please think about making a donation to SFD or becoming a volunteer.
On behalf of all the staff and students of Sports for Development, THANK YOU!