Fourteen students, an administrator and priest from Jesuit High School in New Orleans, alongside two Courts for Kids representatives, three Peace Corps Volunteers and a wealth of involvement from the community recently completed the first ever Courts for Kids project in El Salvador. Here are some words from the Courts for Kids representative and the students themselves.
“This week, as you can see, we built a basketball court. But in reality, what we built was much more than that.” Those were some of the words that the Mayor of the region shared with the community and Courts for Kids team during the inauguration of the court that everyone gathered there had
played a part in in their own special way. That’s what made our experience in Las Pavas, El Salvador so unforgettable, and that is what made the Mayor’s words stand out to me. Community and regional planning, coordinating and budget meetings well in advance of our trip; the community organizing work groups to join us every day that we worked; three generations of local women waking up at 4am every morning and working tirelessly throughout every day to prepare fresh, delicious meals for our group; community members opening up their homes to perfect strangers as if we were family or the closest of friends. There was so much more at play here than the construction of a court.
We built a basketball court, yes; and it is a gorgeous one. A court that the likes of Lebron James and Kevin Durant could not easily walk past without needing to take just one fade-away jump shot. Yet no matter how strong a court is built, it eventually will weather, crack and slowly disintegrate back into the Earth on which it stands. The
memories and relationships that we built during our 9 days in El Salvador, however, are built to last. From arm wrestling a local, riding on the back of a milk truck, playing an epic El Salvador vs USA soccer match in the pouring rain, teaching kids and adults how to play the game of basketball, to being taught how to dance bachata and cook our own “pupusas”, the 18 of us lucky enough to join this Courts for Kids trip have come home with a renewed sense of community, family, faith, and a new-found appreciation for the indelible power of human connection.
~Matt Tanner- CFK Representative
I learned that the world has a lot more people that struggle in their everyday lives and live in poor
communities. The most difficult part of going home is that I am truly going to miss the locals and friendships that I made with them.
The most memorable moments from this trip are my interactions with the people from El Salvador and the Peace Corps Volunteers. The community showed me what it means to love each other and your faith.
My favorite memories of the trip were the chance to get to interact with the locals, especially with the kids; they were a lot of fun. Another memory is working alongside the locals as we built the court, especially since I was able to practice my Spanish a lot more since it’s my first language.
I understand more clearly now is that; even though things are rougher here in El Salvador, the people living here are perhaps happier than most in the US; and that they put both their family and faith before anything else. It’s amazing.
The most difficult part about going home is that I probably won’t be able to see most people here
again, if any. They are great people, and I wish that I could have gotten to know them a lot more.
I learned from the community that material possessions do not necessarily bring happiness. The people here in El Salvador don’t have half of the luxuries that we have in the USA, but they are much happier than people who live a life of luxury in the States, and they are even willing to share what little they have with others.
During my trip to El Salvador, I learned a lot about myself and about the El Salvadoran people. The experiences that I had on this trip were amazing and they made me more open as a person and more charitable and accepting of other people and cultures. I feel that this trip has opened me up to the world. Before I went on this trip I had many stereotypes about the people who live in developing countries. I thought that these people who lived in poverty were very unhappy but they actually turned out to be some of the happiest and most grateful people I have ever met. I learned on this trip that a job volunteering in the Peace Corps may be a viable option for me later on in life. I am very grateful that I was able to go on this trip and have this unique life changing experience.
During the trip, I really just wanted to build the court and go home, but standing amongst the
community today on the court really made me appreciate what we did here. Seeing all the guys that helped us build the court come out with their sons and daughters to play hit me with a wave of emotions that ware difficult to put into words. Up until this last day, I thought it would be easy leaving.
I now understand more clearly that while other countries might be different from the United States, they are still great countries rich in their own ways.
This was by far the hardest I’d ever worked in my life and it felt amazing to see all our hard work pay off. The community as a whole was incredibly kind and hospitable and even though most people were poor and had very few luxuries, they were still happy with their way of life.