In just a few short weeks a young Comox Valley athlete will travel half the world away to share her love of rugby and her desire to bring the healing experience of sport and the joy of play to high school youth in northern Uganda.
Georgia Bellamy, a Grade 12 student at G.P. Vanier, will be joining this year’s Gainline Africa tour as a coach. She will take her experiences from the past five years with her on this journey including playing in the front row, coaching with the Campbell River youth rugby program and winning provincial and national gold medals with her high school, regional and provincial teams.
Gainline Africa is a unique international development organization that uses rugby as a tool for re-building in post-conflict Northern Uganda. Georgia, alongside the other selected Canadians and their Ugandan partners, will provide hands-on support acting as mentors, coaches, and friends to the secondary students by offering value-based rugby programs that support a healthy lifestyle.
At the same time, the Gainline participants will learn about development issues and have the opportunity to experience a culture and community far from home.
It won’t be so strange for Georgia, however, as she is following the footsteps of her inspirational grandmother. Hilda Shilliday, 85, has just returned from her seventh trip to Uganda where she volunteers in an HIV/AIDS clinic and supports development through sponsoring education and health initiatives for young and old alike.
Hilda has educated many Canadians about the reality of life in Uganda and the significant impact of HIV and political unrest on this commonwealth nation. Georgia’s mom joined Hilda in 2010 and now, according to the young athlete, “Uganda has become much more than a country were my grandmother volunteers. It is a place where our family has built many lasting relationships and friendships. Now, following my grandmother and mother’s footsteps, it is my turn to do what I can to support Uganda in continuing to be an amazing country.”
Georgia’s trip begins in early June and she is making the final preparations while completing her school assignments a few weeks early and facing the many decisions that come along with graduation. This trip will be part of the puzzle.
“Like many teenagers my age, I am still not certain about what I aspire to do when I am older. However, I do know I would like rugby to continue to be a huge factor in my life and I also want to support others to feel the absolute happiness I feel when I play rugby. Gainline Africa allows me to do just that, so this experience is helping me take that first step to figuring out that next chapter of my life.”
Georgia will also be taking rugby items such as shoes, balls, and clothing, which will be distributed by Gainline Africa to players and teams in need. To support Georgia in her journey and the work of Gainline Africa you can visit her Canada Helps fundraising page at https://www.canadahelps.org/en/pages/georgias-coaching-tour/ or contact Georgia at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have rugby items to send along please contact Georgia before June 5 to arrange pick-up.