The 2015-2016 school year marked the third annual trip for Cristo Rey Brooklyn students through Courts for Kids. In the past, we took students to the Dominican Republic. This year was an exciting year because we took our students to a new country, Nicaragua. The student interest was incredibly high but we were only able to take 12 students.
Cristo Rey Brooklyn is a unique Catholic high school that serves students of limited economic means to become men and women of faith, purpose and service. As such, the selected students worked all year to fundraise the necessary fees to be able to go on the trip and serve another community. Through bake sales, dress-down days, church collections, and larger events, the students made the trip a reality. In preparation for the trip, we learned about Nicaraguan history and the impact building a basketball court may have on the students and their community. Below are two reflections on how the trip went:
A Home Away From Home
Have you ever imagined building a basketball court from scratch? No? Neither had I, but that changed for me when an opportunity to go build a court in Nicaragua came knocking on my door. The trip was such an amazing experience that I would not change it for the world.
We arrived in the country of Nicaragua on Monday July 25th and we all embraced the environment immediately. We arrived late to the city of Granada, and after a night’s sleep in a hostel, we were up early the next day to travel to the island of Ometepe by boat! During the next seven days we lived in the small rural community of Sacramento. Our days were filled with sweat, insects, laughter, smiles, and heat! We hand mixed cement ourselves, carried heavy bags of cement, shoveled sand, water, and gravel and went through many trials and errors to build the court. It was hard work, but well worth it when we completed the court after four hot days!
The community of Sacramento welcomed us with open arms by providing rooms for us to sleep, amazing home cooked meals, and hand built bathrooms for us to use. It was by far more than we expected, but I am more than grateful for it all. The community was like a family that was longing for our arrival, and we instantly connected with all the kids, contractors, and families. Despite a language barrier that many of us had, we enjoyed each other’s company and created a bond that can never be taken away.
We also were lucky enough to go on many excursions. We had the opportunity to see monkeys, horses, cows, bulls, dogs, pigs and experience the countryside of Nicaragua. We also were able to attend little parties that were so much fun because it gave us an opportunity to bond as a group. We also went hiking, which was definitely an adventure many of us thought we might not make it through! But, it was all worth the hard climb when we reached the beautiful waterfall at the top. We finished our excursion day at a natural mineral pool where we played different water games and met new people.
The most rewarding thing I received from this trip was the opportunity to be changed by the community and the experience. Humbling myself and accepting the change was something I needed to experience. Seeing the smiles on the faces of the community members once the court was finished is an image I will never forget. Ultimately, one thing I learned from this trip was to be comfortable being uncomfortable and to always be my best even through adversity. As Frank Ocean once stated, “work hard in silence and let success make the noise.” This quote is a true reflection of all those who participated and worked hard. This trip was absolutely amazing and I would do anything to do it all over.
Class of 2017
The trip to Nicaragua was the best experience I have ever had. It was my first time out of the country and the community made me feel right at home. They were welcoming, friendly, and grateful. The experience of building a court for kids who do not have as much as me gave me a different point of view on life. The first day we started work, we found out that we would not have a cement mixer so we would have to hand mix cement. Hand mixing cement was one of the most difficult things I have ever done in my life, especially with the sun constantly hitting me. We would have to keep mixing constantly so it would not dry up. We also would have to carry cement bags back and forth, which was a heavy load on our backs. Although it was a lot of hard work, it was worth it in the end. I loved seeing the whole community come out to thank us and watch the inauguration of the court.
My favorite part of the trip, which was also the hardest, was climbing the volcano. I did not want to climb it at first but I had no choice because the whole group was going. I was all the way in the back of the group and struggling to get up the mountain. I did not eat in the morning so I felt weak and there was a moment when I was felt like I was about to pass out. I did not want to be left behind so I kept on climbing. When we got to the waterfall, it was amazing. I do not regret it at all. I am grateful that was able to go on this trip and experience this. The trip was amazing and I am going back to visit one day.
Class of 2017