Lessons Learned in Colombia

by Javier Silva

This past March I had the opportunity to take a trip to Bogotá, Colombia. Our goal was to explore the potential of opening a new site in the country. Along with LtN Board Chairman Greg Bice, and two of his Resolute Lacrosse staff members, we set off to explore Bogotá for 5 days. We visited 1 school, and 3 non-profit organizations. We also ran a clinic for the Colombia Lacrosse Association (players between the ages of 15 and 40). A HUUGE thank you to Jill Byers and Mike “Peeps “ Peeples for joining us on this trip and making it a massive success.

Our objective for the week was to see if our programs would be a good fit for Bogotá, if the communities we visited would accept us and what it would cost to get us off the ground. Below are the key takeaways from that week.

  1. Every place we visited had a clear need for LtN programs. Each school/organization we visited did not have the resources to provide enough extracurricular activities or structured sports programs for all their participants. The challenges these kids face are things discussed in our Life Skills Curriculum and discussing those topics will definitely help them. If LtN can provide role models and mentors for these young people it will help them face these challenges head on.

  2. The country is hungry for lacrosse. There are over 100 lacrosse players in Bogotá and club teams across 3 other cities (Medellin, Pereira, and Tunja). Both men and women have competed in the FIL World Championships. With the right support, lacrosse will explode in Colombia. This is a huge benefit for us as it adds an element we don’t have in Nicaragua or Panama. Giving our volunteers and team trip participants the opportunity to play/coach/ref at a higher level.

  3. The only risk in Colombia is wanting to stay. Let’s face it, Colombia has a reputation for being unsafe. It was a big point of emphasis during our week. Would we feel comfortable bringing high school, college and club teams to volunteer? Can we recruit long-term program directors to dedicate 6 months or more to live in Bogotá? The answer to all of that was an emphatic, YES. Just like any other country where we operate, we have to be cognizant of our surroundings and take precautions but no more than we would travelling to NYC or London.

  4. We need to develop more partnerships and relationships. If there’s one thing we’ve learned in ten years it’s that in order to succeed we need to work together. That means partnering with like-minded organizations, building relationships in the communities and establishing our selves as a long-term ally. The only way to do that is to dedicate time and energy in those communities. If LtN is to successfully expand into Colombia this is where we will have to invest our time.

  5. Bogotá is a massive city. With 8 million residents, Bogotá, would be, by far, the biggest city we’ve brought our programs to. The opportunity to expand within Bogota and other cities is huge.

After spending time in Bogotá, we know it is the right place for LtN to expand to next. We also know that it will take a lot of time and resources to get us off the ground. We’ll need to rally the support of our community and put the time in to ensure its success. Launching programs in Colombia may take some time, but we hope that when we do, you will be ready to support us and be a part of it all.