This year marked the third annual trip for Cristo Rey Brooklyn students through Courts for Kids. This year was an exciting year because we decided to go to a different country, Nicaragua. The student interest was very high but we were only able to take 12 students. Cristo Rey Brooklyn is a very special Catholic high school that serves low income students. As such, the selected students worked all year to fundraise the necessary fees to able to go on the trip and serve another community. Through bake sales, dress-down days, church collections, and a few larger events, the students were able to make the trip a reality. In that time, we also went over some Nicaraguan history and what it may mean for those students that would be affected by having a court in 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 all 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 wouldn’t it change 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 7 days we lived in the small rural community of Sacramento and our days were filled with sweat, insects, laughter, smiles, and heat! We hand mixed concrete ourselves, carried heavy bags of cement, carried buckets of sand, water and gravel, shoveled very hard and went through many trials and errors to get it done. 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, 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 were still able to enjoy each other’s’ company and create 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 really 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 beautiful waterfall at the top. We finished our excursion day at a natural mineral pool where different water games were available for us to play and where we met new people.
The most rewarding thing I received being on 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 for myself, and 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 show the best in me 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 put anything down to do it all over. -Daphney Lebrun, Class of 2017
The trip to Nicaragua was the best experience I’ve 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. Building a court for kids who don’t have as much as I do allowed me to have a different point of view on things. The first day we started work, we found out that we wouldn’t have a cement mixer so we would have to hand mix it. Hand mixing concrete was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life, especially with the sun constantly hitting me. We would have to keep mixing constantly so it wouldn’t 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 didn’t 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 didn’t 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 didn’t want to be left behind so I kept on climbing and when we got to the waterfall, it was amazing. I don’t 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. – Isaiah Alexis, Class of 2017
“I feel as though this trip has truly changed my point of view of the world. Having never been out of America I viewed America as the only civilized place in the world. But, to be honest, I came to love Nicaragua equally. The locals who fed me and the beautiful sites I’ve seen while here have transformed me into a man of truth and service.” – Chaim
“I learned that I am capable of things that I never thought I was able to do. The court tested my strengths and weaknesses and caused me to realize that I am able to do anything I put my mind to. It made me to become open minded and look at the bigger picture. No matter how hot or hard it is, all you have to do is keep going.” – Jeremy
“I want to be able to share with [the community of El Sacramento] everything I have back home, starting with education. Education is something kids take for granted saying ‘school is boring I don’t want to go’ but here there is a desperate urge that kids have to go to school and not being able to give them just a little more is the hardest.” – Daphney
“This trip changed me because now I appreciate everything that I have at home. Before I thought that the world was supposed to give me things that I have but now I see that I have to work for that.” – Jaylen
“The world may not be pretty at times but I’m sure that’s because we’re not looking for it in the right place; here in Sacramento, Nicaragua it exists and exists in abundance.” – Rajae