The journey to Paraguay from NYC was a long one. We flew from JFK to panama, which was a five hour flight, and then panama to Asunción, which was seven hours. We got to Maciel at four in the morning, after a long bus ride from the airport. We were sleeping in classrooms at the local elementary school. All night I couldn’t help but think about whether or not the locals would like us.
We began working on the court in the afternoon. When we were done working for the day the boys and I played soccer with the younger children, we had so much fun. That is what really set the tone for the rest of the trip. That same night we got to know the older boys, Roque, Diego, Cristian, Julio, Ariel, Danny, Claudio, Ivan, and Nelson. We sat in a circle, and despite the language barrier, we all really connected. The next couple days were filled with much joy and hard work. We really got to bond with the community through the “universal language” soccer, playing UNO, and volleyball, through those games we were able to find a common thing to laugh about.
We got to eat authentic Paraguayan food for all three meals everyday, the food was so delicious. In Paraguay when they served chicken, they use all the chickens body parts, including the heart! Every night we also got to drink a traditional Paraguayan drink called tereré. It is drank with one cup that is passed around to all the people in a group.
On the third night a dancing school from Caazapá came to attempt to teach us a traditional Paraguayan dance. The night after we got to teach the locals how to play tennis and we taught them the basics of basketball. The last night was very eventful, there was a whole celebration, there were singers, a dancer, and a speech organized to thank us. It was all really touching and heartwarming. We all spent the rest of the night dancing under the stars and the moonlight with the locals, who at this point really became our family. Later that night we all got to kick around a fireball on the soccer field, it was a really memorable and awesome experience.
In our perspective we might have seen these people as “poor”, when in reality they are not poor at all but they are rich in spirit. Their joy and exuberance really overshadows their material poverty. I never would have thought I would get so close to the little kids and the older guys to the point where I was sobbing when we were leaving. It was amazing how we all bonded, despite being from different sides of the globe and despite the language barrier, we were able to find things we commonly enjoyed, and we were all able learn about each other’s cultures. This trip not only allowed us to build relationships with the community of Maciel, but we were also able to build tighter relationships within our group. Even the small things like playing with Humpy the dog and chasing the kids who took off with my friend’s slippers, are things I will never forget.
The experience showed us what we all have to be grateful for and that joy and happiness show no boundaries. I am sure I can speak for my entire group when I say that helping build the court in Maciel was humbling and unforgettable. Here is a quote that really resides with me: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others” – Gandhi
Elias Almary, Loyola Student
“I can wholeheartedly and honestly say this trip was unlike any other that I have been on… I’m saddened to know that this is my last Courts for Kids project with Loyola. Thank you for a life-changing experience!” – Allie
“What I learned about the world is how little I truly know. I feel as though I was wearing blinders and only saw one way of thinking, but now it’s though I can fully open my eyes and see the world in a whole new light. I learned that to truly understand world problems you must be exposed and come hand to hand with the people that need the most help.” – Lucy
“Through this trip I learned about the world in terms of new opportunity. Nikki (Peace Corps Volunteer in Maciel) made a connection between the United States and Mexico, and Argentina and Paraguay. It opened my eyes to more clearly understand that it’s not a choice to leave one’s home country and begin a new life, but a hardship and necessity to survive and feed your family when there is no opportunity.” – Maggie
“What I learned about the world is that it’s not always fair. Why should it be that I get to go home and enjoy the rest of my summer playing and relaxing while other people my age have to work to keep food on the table?” – Regina
“I can say this confidently that I have never met more generous people. I will never forget the unbreakable bonds I made even though there was a language barrier.”– Lucy
“I was emotionally changed by this trip. I became more open and confident and my perspective on life and the world also changed.” – Hannah
“I had a stereotype prior to this trip that people who didn’t have as much as I have, just simply aren’t happy. I now know this isn’t true due to the love and life the locals of Maciel had.” – Chris
“I understand more clearly now the need for others to be let into other more developed and opportunistic countries. The people of Maciel are so great and hardworking, but because of their situation, they do not have the ability to develop and show their skills.” – Kate
“My low point was the fact that… they don’t get the same opportunities as us. Those who have the talent to become a brain surgeon, or an engineer, or a scientist, instead struggle to feed their families everyday.” – Amelia
“My resolution to conclude this trip is to live life as close to the life I lived in Maciel as possible. I will turn around on that busy one-way sidewalk that is society, and push through the crowds going the other way.” – Amelia