gain perspective through service
Numerous Division III teams toured the world over the summer, mixing opportunities to play and to learn about other cultures.
Some, like a group of Muskingum student-athletes who traveled to Guyana early last month, also embraced an opportunity to serve.
Muskingum softball coach Donna Newberry, who led 14 student-athletes from various sports to teach basketball, volleyball and soccer to children during a two-week visit to Kwakwani, Guyana, tells the story:
“The trip was important to Muskingum and the athletes for several reasons.
“It gave the students a better perspective on the global picture. To see a broader picture of the world, the poverty, the living conditions, the people, etc., in a real setting rather than a classroom is vital to growth.
“It allowed our students to experience multi-cultural diversity. For the first time in their lives, they were the minority. To integrate into a community and interact with the native people in an environment where we were the only Americans was an eye opener.
“The folks in this rainforest village live in a great deal of poverty and under adverse conditions. It gave our students the insight to finally understand that money does not necessarily correlate with happiness.
“As one student said in her journal, ‘The people in Kwakwani are not like the people here in the U.S. I love the way they are so willing to lend a helping hand and they have no worries. I have never met people who are so strong in their faith in God and who are thankful for everything in their lives.... Just when I thought that I was making a difference and teaching the children in Kwakwani, I realized at the end of the trip that I was not the one teaching, but rather they were the teachers. The people in Guyana helped me and taught me to become a better person.’
“It immersed our student-athletes – many of whom intend to be teacher/coaches – in experiential learning. It is one thing to sit in a classroom and talk about teaching a sport, organizing drills, etc., but it is quite another to actually do it. They had to adjust on a moment's notice as things changed. They taught age groups ranging from 10 years old to adults. They had very poor equipment and facilities to work with and extreme heat to work in, and it created a good deal of self-discovery relative to their future professional lives.
“The trip created a strong bond among athletes from various sports. We had softball players, men's soccer players, women's soccer players and volleyball players on the trip. Seldom have I seen such a sense of camaraderie and mutual respect develop in such a short time. It will be good for the overall unity of the Muskingum College athletics community.”
Newberry said village children signed up in advance to learn the sport of their choice. The student-athletes conducted three clinics daily for each of the three sports, progressing from teaching fundamentals and basic strategy to playing modified games and eventually competition between teams.
“For many of the villagers, this was their first formal instruction ever received in a sport,” she said.
“Each day we would also do extra activities with our student-athletes to immerse them in the culture. Examples would be traveling to Hururu (an Amerindian village), hiking through the rainforest, visiting the home of a basket maker and learning the process, going to a lumber mill in the rain forest, etc.”
The group also constructed swing sets for children and bleachers in the village square, to provide a gathering place for residents.
“We stayed at an old boarding house left over from the days when the Americans ran a bauxite mine in the area,” Newberry said. “Accommodations included sets of bunk beds with occasional running water.”
© 2010 The National Collegiate Athletic Association