Sixteen University of Oregon student-athletes from a variety of sports and four faculty members traveled with Courts for Kids to a small community north of Santo Domingo called Los Cerros. The team stayed with host families in very primitive conditions with bucket baths, latrines, sparse electricity and even sparser light bulbs. The first four days were spent working incredibly hard on the court as we dealt with a lot of adversity. The toughest moment was when a dump truck was forced to dump a giant load of sand up a hill from the court because the monsoon rains made the road impassable. While the team stared in disbelief at this giant mound of sand, the lone golfer on the team grabbed a bucket and made his way up there. Soon everyone followed and started moving the sand down a very slippery path (even a horse fell down at one time) using buckets and one wheelbarrow. By 5:30 that night, the pile had been completely moved, which meant our team and the locals had been working at it for over five hours!
Most of the athletes agreed that this was harder physically than anything they had been through, which is definitely saying something considering the grind of college athletics. Even if they change their minds after going through another summer and fall of conditioning, the work was intense and they put an incredible amount of sweat (and some blood!) into the court.
The night the work was finished, there was a bonfire on the court and some of the Dominicans brought out some speakers and a light and danced into the wee hours. One of their favorite past times is dancing and the community members told us this court was the first communal site where they could celebrate together like this in large numbers. On the last day, the team played on the court with the locals for about seven hours and I can’t imagine how many hours will be spent playing on this court in the next thirty years. The moms in the community were so invested in this project because it will be a vital tool to keeping idle youth off the streets and getting away from destructive behaviors.
Some words from the participants:
The most demanding and rewarding experience of my life.
This trip sincerely changed my life. Not only was I able to help a community in need but I was also able to find out who I was as a person. I can truly say I found something I love and am passionate about with helping communities in need. Being told we were loved so much and just right under God to a Mother will remain in my soul forever. Truly a life changing experience!
My focus has been and will be architecture for many year; however, I would love to combine it and find the way to collaborate in experiences like this one, having a great, positive impact in poor communities. This trip made me think about my future. Now that I know how it’s like, it has become one of my top interests other than architecture.
Our trip to Los Cerros was unforgettable in every way. We created lasting bonds with the people of Los Cerros and felt like we became part of their community. The work was more physically challenging than most of us had ever experienced but we learned to lean on each other, to overcome adversity, and to find a place within many of us didn’t know existed.
This trip was the highlight of my career in athletic administration. We learned a lot about ourselves both mentally and physically and worked together as a team. Most importantly, we created a phenomenal community space that all members of the village will enjoy for years to come.