A STUDENT from Machen has spent her summer break coaching rugby in Peru to women in a high-security prison.

Jo Penrose, 20, is studying sport and exercise science at Exeter University, and has spent the last two summers coaching rugby in the rural city of Cajamarca in Peru and plays touch rugby for Exeter University.

She first visited the prison, on the outskirts of the city, last year as part of a group taking Bibles to the inmates.

Ms Penrose said the inmates were friendly, despite not spending much time with them on the original trip.

South Wales Argus:

(Jo Penrose in the courtyard of the prison with the women)

"I was intrigued by them," she said.

"On my way out I mentioned to my friend that I would love to play sport with them. I thought it was only a dream and it would never happen.

“A year later, I found out that I had the right contacts to be able to get me access into the prison to train. I just turned up with a ball and some cones, had my passport taken off me at the door and it went from there!

“I think about 30 women learnt to play and the rest sat around and enjoyed watching.”

As part of the Welsh Rugby Union Youth Board, she was able to use her contacts and the WRU provided kit and training equipment for the trip.


Ms Penrose said she was nervous at first, when she was left with 80 prisoners and only two security guards.

But she soon found that she really enjoyed their weekly rugby sessions.

South Wales Argus:

(The women in action under the watchful eye of Jo Penrose)

Ms Penrose said: “Being locked inside a prison isn't a great feeling. But coaching rugby to the women soon distracted me and soon it was something I looked forward to every week.

“By the end of it I was crying as I had to leave the ladies behind. I got to know a few of them pretty well and it was really sad knowing that they might not be able to play sport once I left.

“They said it had really helped them to de-stress. I gave them a rugby ball though so hopefully they’ll be let out every now and then to run around.”

“Another highlight was being able to introduce two new rural communities to rugby. They played a tournament with two other groups last week and they played so well despite the sport being so new to them.”