M.L. rugby player thankful for Colombia sports and charity trip

By Kathy Gallant
November 8, 2017 - 11:55am

Sitting in the Calgary airport waiting for her flight home, Meadow Lake’s Skyla Russell is tired, but one word keeps repeating in her head: grateful.   

She just returned from a week-long rugby trip to Medellin, Colombia, but this wasn’t just any sporting event, she said. It was a special opportunity to help the impoverished community there, play the sport, and connect with one another.  

She travelled as a part of the Dog River Howlers Rugby Club based out of Regina for a project the organization has been doing for a number of years, where they bring along rugby gear and items like toothbrushes, clothing and shoes, and school supplies to donate to some of the most poverty-stricken regions of the country as a part of the Life for Life Foundation. This year’s trip took place from Oct. 29 to Nov. 6.

“Seeing the kids’ faces light up was unreal,” she said. “It was a big eye-opening experience. It really makes me super grateful for what I have at home. I realized that you don’t need money to be happy, as long as you have passion, and love and sympathy that’s all you really need. All these kids, they barely have a roof over their head and they’re so happy.”

Each day was filled with day trips to various communities, as well as two-hour long rugby practices. Russell was part of the U17 girls’ team, and the week was capped off with a tournament. The Colombian team won the tournament. Russell said even though her team didn’t win, it was a joyful experience.

“The kids that were there watching, we told them that their team won,” she said. “Them knowing that their country won, they were so happy.”

To prepare for the trip, Russell asked people from school and the greater community if they had any donations of equipment or supplies. She said she feels fortunate for the unique opportunity rugby brought her, and appreciates the support of her coach Rufas Crawford, her family, and her Meadow Lake SheDevils teammates.

“The fact that I was able to go to another country and play the exact same sport and the same rules, it was amazing,” she said. “They had the same love and passion for the sport. I’m definitely coming back with a lot more skills and I’m super excited to share them with the SheDevils.”

“At the end of the day, we went there to play rugby and promote rugby, but it was about connecting with people and helping others,” Russell said.

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