“I learned that the world may view America a certain way, and hopefully this trip changed the perception of Americans to Santa Ana.” – Alyssa
“The biggest thing I learned from the community is the power of expressing thankfulness. From the moment we got here they celebrated and showered us with love. That feeling was more than enough motivation to get through every day of work and finish the court.” – Nicci
“I have not had my phone on this trip and it has been an amazing feeling to just be so present with the people around me and have genuine face-to-face interactions.” – Vanessa
Our group consisted of 15 student-athletes and 4 athletics staff members. We had athletes from rowing, cheer, dance, softball, and tennis. Because of this, most of us went into the trip not really knowing each other. In the short bit of a week, we got to know each other well and built relationships that will last for years to come. We learned that building a court was hard work, however, the experience was so rewarding. We were able to work alongside students from the local school where the court was being built. Most of us did not speak Spanish and we were surprised by how much we were still able to communicate through dance, whistling, gesturing, stunts, and sport. They were some of the most hardworking and humbled kids I have ever met. The relationships we made while working alongside them will last forever.
“My favorite memories had nothing to do with the court itself. What I loved the most was the connections I made with the kids. Finding ways to break the language barriers and communicate, learning about each other’s cultures and traditions; those were the fun parts.” – Dalton
We woke up very early every day, ate breakfast, headed to the school to work, walked to a beautiful restaurant for lunch, went back to work again, and then back to the restaurant for dinner. The food was amazing and added to our authentic experience of Colombian culture. Thanks to the local Peace Corps Volunteer, we had the opportunity to explore and learn more about the Santa Ana community every day after work. The activities included a long tour of the city, a performance of a cultural dance, a tour of classrooms in the school, and a field day where we played traditional games with members of the community. On one of our last days in Santa Ana, we traveled to another city and walked around to see old Spanish churches built in the 1600s. Finally, the last day we had a ceremony for the opening of our court and were able to play soccer against the students on the court. That night, we were able to share our final meal with some of the faculty of the school. They were such a wonderful group and cared for us all week. The students are lucky to have such great teachers and staff. Not only were we immersed in the culture by working with the locals but every day we experienced the rich, unique culture of Santa Ana. The final day of travel we were able to spend time in Cartagena, Colombia. The city was beautiful and amazing to walk through and look at the architecture, shops, and restaurants.
“They have just as much, if not more, love and happiness here in Santa Ana than we do almost anywhere in the States.” – Dalton
Every day we were given a challenge. Each one consisted of a question or activity we needed to accomplish. Examples included: Ask a local what their goals are, ask what the locals think about the US, teach a local the hokey pokey, or learn a local dance move. These challenges gave opportunity to talk with the students and were very helpful when we had breaks. Each question or activity furthered our relationships with the people of Santa Ana. The people of Santa Ana were the most welcoming people I have ever met, and we are so grateful for letting us into their town. The work was not for the faint of heart but was so satisfying at the end.
“They have so much drive and want to better themselves and their community. This trip got me to want to focus on people and my community over technology.” – Jazmine
When the court was done, it was a bittersweet moment. On one hand we had accomplished what we had come to do, but on the other hand, that meant our trip was nearing its end. It was hard to say goodbye to the community. The community that we came to love so much and the relationships we made. Throughout the trip we always said, “it’s more than a court.” It was so much more than a court. Being able to experience the culture and share our lives with people was far more important than the court. Our group became very close and we learned so much about ourselves. We learned the importance of teamwork, hard work, humility, redefining happiness, culture, and giving back to the community.
-Mia, UCF rowing team
“I understand more why people would venture treacherous journeys to go to other countries for a better life. But I also see how grateful and how proud these people are of their homes. It is very humbling.” – Mia
“Many people always want to change [other] people because we might think it’s wrong, instead we need to embrace how other people are different and celebrate it.” – Nicole