Maria Elana Martinez Quinto (18) and Christian David Rodallegos Valencio (17) pictured with Ambassador Mauricio Gonzalez Lopez of Colombia.
It takes Maria Elana Martinez Quinto (18) and Christian David Rodallegos Valencio (17) of Apartado, Colombia to remind South Africans of the achievements they have made in reconciliation from a brutal, violent, divided past and not to allow anybody to divide and exploit them ever again.
Maria and Christian are youth rugby players from Colombia who are in South Africa for a Rugby Life Skills program. The Comprehensive Plan for Prevention 20+ (PIPO20+) is an initiative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Colombia under the leadership of Minister Maria Angela Holguin Cuellar.
Rugby was found to be an effective mechanism to transform these vulnerable young lives affected by violence. Rugby through exchanges of best practice, visits and conferences brought about opportunities for their human and sporting development.
South Africa, arguably the best rugby playing nation in the world, was chosen by the Colombian government as a starting point to build a sustainable strategic cooperation partnership with South African Rugby Institutions.
The group of 18, 9 girls and 9 boys, attended training programs at the High Performance Centre (HPC) at the University of Pretoria (UP) with collaboration from Stefan Terblanche of the South African Rugby Legends.
The group of 18 Colombian youth rugby players at a training programs at the High Performance Centre (HPC) at the University of Pretoria (UP) with Stefan Terblanche of the South African Rugby Legends. Photo: Embassy of Colombia
Ambassador Mauricio Gonzalez Lopez of Colombia to South Africa outlined the skills and knowledge transfer of the program recognizing South Africa’s strong rugby heritage and reconciliation that’s taking place in the country.
He explained that the group had visited Soweto, the Apartheid Museum and had met the Blue Bulls and Western Force rugby players before their Super 14 match in Pretoria. He also made mention of the Toucans, the Colombian National Rugby team.
Both Maria and Christian were grateful for the opportunity to travel to South Africa and were inspired by the harmony and the friendliness of South Africans despite the difficult years of Apartheid and urged South Africans to continue the dialogue.
They were also confident that continuation of the PIPO20+ has been beneficial to them and the continuation of the plan would also benefit other young vulnerable youth in Colombia.
Ambassador Lopez indicated that this kind of sporting interaction between the countries could lead to exchanges in other sporting codes.