MP David Miliband, Andy Powell, First Minister Rhodri Morgan and Matthew Rees at the Welsh Assembly.
Welsh Lions Matthew Rees and Andy Powell have been praised by one of the highest offices in the land for their contribution to Wales' foreign policy.
The rugby playing pair welcomed Foreign Secretary David Milliband to the home of the Welsh Assembly Government in Cardff bay yesterday at a conference to promote a volunteer skills development programme which sends workers to Africa.
Rees and Powell are back in Wales fresh from the British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa and both had intriguing stories to tell about what they saw on tour after being invited to the Senedd.
Cardiff Blues and Wales No8 Powell joined a number of other squad members on the eve of the final Test against the Springboks to visit the Alexandra Township, one of the oldest in Johannesburg, and help out the Friends for Live project which supports HIV and AIDS.
The centre provides services for some 500 orphans and vulnerable children, including home based care support, including orphan headed households, supplementary feeding, counselling and testing facilities and income generating activities such as bead work.
"I paid one visit to the Alexandra school in Johannesburg where we helped with training and handed out some of our spare kit to the youngsters," said Powell.
"It was quite emotional witnessing some of the living conditions but the experience was extremely positive and I think it is important for us to help in that way."
Rees explained to the politicians, which also included Welsh Assembly government minister Rhodri Morgan, how he had chaired the tour's light-hearted Fines Committee which raised cash from players and coaches for minor misdemeanours like being late for a training session.
They eventually handed more than £3,000 to a charity which helped children in South Africa who are HIV positive.
Rees said: "We had some fun collecting the money, but we wanted to make sure it was contributed to a worthy cause which would be of genuine help in South Africa."
The politicians were told how community visits and activities now play an important role in tours to South Africa, and links with South Wales based charities such as Valleys Kids with links to South Africa now feature in match and tour build-up events.
David Milliband said: "It is nice to hear from the players of the importance they placed on off-the-field activities which get them involved in community life in South Africa."
Eight-week placements in Africa are managed by Public Service Management Wales in association with international development organisation VSO, to provide opportunities for managers in the Welsh public service to enhance their skills whilst working on long-term development projects in sub-Saharan Africa. For more information visit www.wales.gov.uk/psmw or call 029 2068 1343
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