Saturday, August 13, 2016

Central America and the Caribean: A new confederation is born

The 28th May 2016 represents a turning point in the history of Orienteering in Central American and Caribbean region. After several years of preparation, the Central America and Caribbean Orienteering Confederation was founded by Guatemala, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Haiti and Belize. Elected for a period of two years, the Board of Directors of this new organ has in the Guatemalan Alby Aguilar its first Secretary-General. It is she who tells us a beautiful story, born of the dreams of few and that longs to reach many, about spreading the sweet scent of Orienteering over this vast region of the globe.

Born in Guatemala City where she lives, Alby Aguilar encountered Orienteering in Cuba nearly a decade ago, at a time when she was studying Physical Education at the famous EIEFD, the International School of Sports and Physical Education. Since then she has been caught up in this magical web, fascinated by the appeal of the deep forest and at one with the orienteers’ respect for nature. Through mixing with students from over 80 countries, Alby began gradually to firm up a dream: to unite the efforts of her colleagues at EIEFD and disseminate Orienteering throughout Central America and the Caribbean.

The foundation of the Confederation on 28th May is no more than to realise a dream. In personal terms, “it is the materialisation of my promise to promote Orienteering in all countries of our region,” says Alby Aguilar. She adds: “Cuba has been a member of the International Orienteering Federation since 1978. More than thirty years later, all countries of the Caribbean and Central America are now being asked to join in, helping Orienteering to grow. No country should stay out!” she claims.

A hard task in front of her

Alby Aguilar has now assumed the responsibility to manage the project for the next two years. The Spanish Orienteering Federation, through José Angel Nieto Poblete, has been undertaking a great deal of preparatory work for over five years now. Alby recognizes this important support: “We have to thank José Angel Nieto Poblete as the mentor for this initiative, making it possible to carry forward the founding of the Confederation. We would like also to extend our gratitude to the Spanish Orienteering Federation for the way it has been working on the promotion and development of Orienteering in several countries of the region.”

Conscious of the realities in this region, Alby Aguilar is well aware of the hard task that she has just embraced. “The reception and support provided to Orienteering varies widely from country to country, and has mostly to do with each country’s sports policies”, says Alby Aguilar. She bemoans the difficulty of making contact with the real decision-making centres, and denounces the circuitous pathways that lead to having to work at different speeds in every country. “Despite being a sport that has been practised in the region for several decades, the truth is that its promotion has never been particularly effective and hence there has been a low level of development,” Alby concludes, referring to the major difficulties that the project faces.

Please help us!

In addition to Cuba, there are other member countries of the IOF in the region, such as Barbados, Colombia and the newly incorporated Dominican Republic. Although not members of the IOF, Belize, Costa Rica, Haiti, Guatemala and Mexico are developing countries that will find here a real launching pad for higher flights. It is in these and other countries that Alby Aguilar will invest her efforts, assisted by the Delegate of the Confederation, Yohalis Acosta Albino from the Dominican Republic. They hope to add more countries to the group of five founding countries already by the 2nd Congress, to be held in 2018 in Costa Rica.

One of the newly created Confederation’s dreams relates to the possibility of seeing Orienteering being accepted as one of the sports included in the Central American and Caribbean Games in Cartagena in 2018. This is a multi-sport event that has taken place since 1926, and is held every four years; it is the oldest regional event in the world, recognised by the International Olympic Committee since 1950. “We ask for help from the IOF in joining us on this project, supporting our efforts to see Orienteering in the Games and thus taking the development of Orienteering further, in line with the IOF’s mission and its own goals”, tells Alby Aguilar.

Text: Joaquim Margarido

[See the original article at Published with permission from the International Orienteering Federation]

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