Champions of Change visit to Colombia kicks off

Chelsea Ladies star Claire Rafferty touched down in Colombia yesterday (Tuesday) to begin a two-day trip to visit some of the areas benefitting from Chelsea’s global partnership with Plan International.

Women in Colombia face many social problems with girls often expected to stay at home or marry early, while boys are not always educated about gender equality and violence and aggressive behaviour remains an issue. 

Together, Plan and Chelsea have been working to change this through our Champions of Change programme, which aims to break down gender stereotypes and tackle gender-based discrimination, enabling boys and girls to fulfil their potential. Football is helping Chelsea and Plan International to do this by engaging the most hard to reach and teaching them about equality, respect and tolerance.

The first stop on the visit was the rural community of Clemencia where Plan and Chelsea have been working with 270 boys and girls on the Champions of Change project for the past 18 months.

An action-packed afternoon followed with Rafferty, who has been joined on the trip by the head of the Chelsea Foundation Simon Taylor, sitting down for a discussion with 33 of the participants who have excelled on the programme before the Chelsea defender joined Foundation coaches for a 90-minute coaching session.

At the conclusion of the session each of the players involved also received a medal from Plan along with a Chelsea kit as a reward for their participation on the programme.

Rafferty said: ‘I am incredibly proud to be part of this trip and help raise awareness for the work being done by Plan and Chelsea.

‘It has been a whirlwind afternoon, which even included a song about the programme! Hearing the way the girls and boys talk about the benefits of the programme was very eye opening and highlighted the importance of programmes like this.

‘Of course I enjoyed getting involved in the football, but the parts about equality, respect and understanding are more important to improve lives in this part of the world. Before the game we all made a pact to respect and honour each other.

‘It has been a fantastic day as part of a long-term commitment from Plan and Chelsea and I can’t wait for day two!’

The England international also took time out to meet 14-year-old Juliana and her mother after the youngster was nominated for the one-on-one opportunity after excelling on the Champions of Change programme.

Since joining Champions of Change, Juliana has been working with Plan to become a community news reporter and engage with the local community on important issues. This has included a regular radio show on Clemencia Stereo.

Upon meeting the Chelsea Ladies star, Juliana commented: ‘Champions of Change has changed my life and the lives of many others. I now have trust in myself to challenge stereotypes.

‘No words can express how honoured and happy I am, to have a role model like Claire in my home.  Thank you Chelsea and Plan for supporting us.’

For further updates on the visit stay tuned to or follow @ChelseaFC @PlanUK on Twitter.