LAST SPRING, SA4D STAFF MEMBER MERET HUSY VISITED THE "HITTING A HOME RUN FOR PEACE" PROJECT IN COLOMBIA TOGETHER WITH THE PROJECT RESPONSIBLE GIOVANNA DEL DRAGO. IT WAS MERET'S FIRST PROJECT VISIT SINCE SHE STARTED WORKING FOR SA4D. SHE TELLS US FROM HER PERSPECTIVE HOW SHE EXPERIENCED IT.
The time has finally come for me to pack my bags for my first project trip. I’ve known for a month that my first project visit would take me to Colombia. It has been a wish of mine for a long time to finally see a project live, to learn more about the participants and to meet the partner organisation. Working for the projects in the office in Biel is quite different, I was told.
The next day I am flying from Zurich to Medellín via Bogotá, where Giovanna, my SA4D colleague and Colombia project responsible is awaiting me. It is late in the evening when we arrive at the hostel. After a few hours rest, the first day of our project visit is spent diving into modern Colombian life with Beatriz, the director of our local partner organisation, Grupo Internacional de Paz (GIP). We also take advantage of our first meeting with her to find out about the current status of the project’s activities and to discuss the final details of the upcoming visits.
Heading back to the airport, this time for a domestic flight to Montería, where we meet Nancy and Orlando. They work for GIP and will be our guides for the next two weeks. I don’t feel the oppressive heat of Montería in the air-conditioned hotel. I like the change between talking to the partners about how exactly we are implementing the project and working on the computer at the hotel’s business centre. Nancy and Orlando talk about their work with GIP and how they use baseball as a tool against violence and poverty. The two days of sharing our different but complementary approaches to “Sport for Development and Peace” are very enriching, for us and for GIP.
We continue to Apartadó. We meet Beatriz again and get to know her colleague Cristina. More talks about the project follow. I am amazed at how my modest knowledge of Spanish is paying off. Although I find it difficult to express myself, I can still understand it quite well. Giovanna, however, is fluent in Spanish.
We travel on to Currulao, where we watch a baseball game. We talk to various spectators about the situation in their community and the – sometimes non-existent – educational, professional and sporting prospects of the young people. The area seems so quiet to me, but the stories of the residents show us the everyday dangers of the prevalent crimes. Are the sports projects welcome in the village? Are they successful? The feedback from the interviewees clearly shows that the baseball trainings have only had a positive effect on the participants and their environment. What I already knew in theory, that sport and play are effective in overcoming various problems, I can now see one-to-one, and that is a great feeling!
Soon we will be heading to San Bernardo del Viento. Of course, I had googled our stops in Colombia beforehand, so I was particularly looking forward to this place in the Caribbean. We are greeted by a family-run guesthouse right by the sea, between palm trees and a white sandy beach. The place looks like paradise, but it hides problems similar to those in Curralao: Lack of prospects, violence and drug trafficking. The next day is a free day on our project trip. We spend time together with Beatriz and Cristina, and end it with freshly caught fried fish – delicious! The next day, Dorcas, who we met the day before, shows and explains how she teaches the young people about environmental issues.
The next day’s trip takes us to Junín, where we talk to the local people. They would like to see sports activities as a way of giving young people a good start in life. The problems in the village, apart from the lack of work and employment opportunities, are the associated very early pregnancies. The villagers are also under constant threat from guerrilla organisations. The young men could be forced to fight with them at any time. I talk to some of the young women, and my concern about the lack of prospects in the village is reinforced.
A final discussion with Beatriz and Cristina and the return journey to Medellín, followed by a dance evening, bring our impressive project visit to Colombia to an end.
The importance of our project visit – or of project visits in general – was made clear to me once again by this trip. To see how much has been achieved in the first few months of the project, despite the many challenges and the complicated context, impressed me very much. Thanks to the many discussions with GIP, we were able to create a good basis for the next steps of the project.
ABOUT THE PROJECT “HITTING A HOME RUN FOR PEACE”
Despite the 2016 peace agreement between the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and the Colombian state, the Colombian Caribbean region faces many challenges. Due to a lack of employment opportunities, two in five young people do not have access to sufficient income. Paramilitary groups and drug traffickers continue to threaten the peace and security of local communities, luring vulnerable young people into their illegal activities with easy money, an impressive materialistic lifestyle and the possibility of escaping poverty.
The joint project Hitting a Home Run for Peace of the Grupo Internacional de Paz (GIP) and the Swiss Academy for Development (SA4D) aims to provide young people with training in basic business skills, including “green skills”, tailored to their needs and the local economy. Through sport and play activities, the project supports children and young people in pursuing future-career-oriented prospects, thereby promoting sustainable development and peace. Baseball plays a central role.
More information about the project can be found here.