Chelsea Ladies defender Claire Rafferty has been having a kick-around in Colombia as she visits areas benefitting from Chelsea FC and Plan International Champions of Change programme.

Claire, who was born in Orpington, met with young people in Clemencia and Nelson Mandela, communities near Cartagena where gangs and guns blight the lives of many young people.

The defender took part in training sessions for the young people led by Chelsea Foundation coaches.

The Champions of Change programme is using the power and popularity of football to break down gender stereotypes and tackle gender based discrimination in one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman.

Claire Rafferty said “This trip has left a lasting impression on me for sure. You can understand how, without real role models or resources and education, it’s easy for these young people to get stuck in an ugly cycle.

This programme is incredibly important to these communities – it has been amazing to see how these resources and an investment of time can open up doors for these children who are talented and have so much potential.”

As part of the programme, Champions of Change has trained young people as community reporters, equipping them with the skills to create a social movement of change. Community reporters had the opportunity to interview Claire about her trip and the challenges she has faced as a female footballer.

Claire said “When I was growing up the boys used to say that girls can’t play football, boys wouldn’t let me join in at Primary school. Things are changing now.

Football is an incredible tool because everyone is equal on the pitch. Everyone is a player; you are all fighting for the same goal and for a team. That respect stays with you when you leave the pitch.”

Champions of Change participant Yuliana said, ‘Participating in Champions of Change has transformed my life. Before this I didn’t truly understand what gender meant and now I do”.