The organisations Beyond Skin & Escuelas de Paz, promoting peace in Colombia & Northern Ireland have been calling for support to highlight the work of a young activist who died from cancer - and celebrate her legacy.
Natali Marquez, from Bogotá, Colombia, was diagnosed with a brain tumour and died aged just 26. She was a peace activist with the organisation Escuelas de Paz (Schools of Peace).
Three months before her diagnosis she worked with Beyond Skin in Northern Ireland, an organisation which uses the arts to help tackle racism and sectarianism.
And during that time she helped develop a peace programme to be shared between the people of Colombia and Northern Ireland.
Her sister, Ingrid, has just been granted a visa to travel from Colombia to visit a memorial event at Mount Stewart Northern Ireland where a tree is to be planted in memory of Natali.
Beyond Skin founder Darren Ferguson, a musician and former aid worker, said: “Natali will be deeply missed. But she left a huge legacy in Colombia and Northern Ireland thanks to her tremendous work. Perhaps not many people will know her, because she may not be famous or a VIP, but she opened the doors for many people to shape a more meaningful and inclusive future. We want to celebrate her life and it’s only right that her sister, Ingrid be there to join us.”
Natali was diagnosed with a brain tumour in July, 2017. She had three operations on her brain, along with various medical procedures, but died on February 25, 2018.
Beyond Skin was set up in January 2004 in response to the rise in racism and sectarianism in Northern Ireland influenced by the legacy of conflict. The charity started working with Escuelaz de Paz (Colombia) in 2016, developing the #FUTyoURES project - which set up a shared creative model for conflict resolution to meet the needs of people in Colombia and Northern Ireland.
Today it has engaged over 3,000 children and adults and is rapidly growing.
Ingrid said: “Words are not enough to express the feelings of gratitude and honour that my parents, my children and I feel towards this beautiful tribute that Beyond Skin will offer my beloved Natali. Our dear Nata left a great legacy of love, passion, tenacity and courage to all of us who had the fortune to meet her.”
“Half of her heart remained in Northern Ireland, which she loved as much as our home. To have a memorial here for her is wonderful.”
A tree will be planted at Mount Stewart Northern Ireland on what would be Natali’s 27th birthday.
Ingrid will work with Beyond Skin and partners to develop a Natali Marquez foundation programme, to enable young girls to be active youth ambassadors. Escuelas de Paz and Beyond Skin are members of United Network of Young Peace Builders, who have been the driving force behind the Youth4Peace moment.
Natali’s former colleague, Robison Gonzalez added: “We must continue Natali's vision to build together with art and love so that new generations have a greater creative awareness."
The tree planted in Natali’s memory is a Rowan Tree which in Northern Ireland folklore was said to provide protection in the area which it grew.
The Rown is also known as the ‘portal tree’ between this world and another – representing the chance of going or leaving somewhere.
Darren added: “Natali was a bright, creative, outgoing, kind and positive person. She always put others first and was an inspirational role model for young people. Natali helped to establish a network to forge relationships with artists and peace activists across the world in areas of conflict and post conflict. Her legacy will live on.”
Natali took part in the Northern Ireland Global Youth Peace Conference in March, 2017. It brought together organisations, artists and young people to exchange experiences and knowledge. Mount Stewart hosted part of the Conference.
Natali described the summit as a ‘great international alliance’ and said: “We are living in a difficult moment of history – but the solution is in the hands of the youths.”
Natali's family and friends would like to offer sincere thanks to Mount Stewart National Trust for thier generous and kind support.
PRESS RELEASE: Angela Belassie firstname.lastname@example.org
If you wish to attend the event on 12th register your attendance here
Video Link of Natali interview at Mount Stewart, Northern Ireland.
PICTURED. Natali with Sister Ingrid and Family
Read More about Natali and her blog here