Shorecrest basketball players to Belize

The secret to volunteering in the developing world? Expect the unexpected and learn to roll with the punches. This is absolutely what we learned when 19 basketball players and coaches from Shorecrest High School traveled to the village of Cotton Tree in central Belize in July 2013.

On our first night in town, we were greeted by our friendly hosts, curious local children, and a Caribbean dance party down the street that raged on until 2 a.m. We were also introduced to our frequent companion for the next few days: the tarantula! While the tarantulas, heat and blaring music were a little shocking to our systems, we managed to get in a good night’s sleep and start our work early the next morning.

Projects like this are a true collaboration between the visiting group and the host town, so when we were greeted at the work site with a giant excavator waiting to help us mix concrete, we graciously accepted. After only a few hours of work in the heat and humidity, we became very, very happy to have the extra help.

The town of Cotton Tree already had a basketball court, but it was in poor condition, only used by the young adults in the community, and the culture and games at that court weren’t for the little kids in town, who had nowhere safe to play, and had been dreaming of this new court for months. Realizing this became amazing motivation for our team, and we worked harder and faster knowing that dozens of little ones would have a safe place to play once we were through.

After four days of work, the huge court was complete! As soon as the concrete dried, the court was filled with the sounds of local kids dribbling their new basketballs, running in their bare feet, and laughing as they tried their best to shoot three-pointers. We were so thrilled to be done, and played with our new friends for hours.

As the project was completed ahead of schedule, we took several trips to local orphanages to volunteer. These side trips were so eye-opening and impactful, and each of us left the orphanage changed by what we had experienced. What an amazing opportunity!

When we weren’t working on the court or volunteering, we were able to take a few fun side trips; we went to see Mayan ruins, went ziplining and cave tubing, and swam in a few local swimming holes. By the end of the week, we were exhausted by our work and fun!

As we left Cotton Tree on our last day, quite a few of our new friends came out to say goodbye. There were hugs, tears, and promises to return. It was hard to leave. After only a few short days, we could see the impact we had on them, and as we drove away, we could feel the impact they had on us.

Trips like this have a way of staying in your heart forever. Even though we’ve been home for only a short time, we know our new experiences and friends will linger with us. On gloomy Seattle days, we like to imagine a basketball court somewhere in central Belize filled with little kids, dribbling, giggling, and having the time of their lives.

{We blogged our adventures! Take a look at hoopsinbelize.wordpress.com}

~Written by Sara Haner, CFK volunteer

The trip was eye opening. I learned so much about how life was different in Belize and how the kid’s living conditions were drastically different from ours.  I learned from the hard work I put in.  I was exhausted by the time the court was finished but the locals worked like we did every day.  The hard work changed me by making me push myself farther and out of my usual boundaries.  I will come back to Seattle knowing what hard living conditions are.
~High School Participant 

 In Belize I realized how social class does not affect a person’s character and attitude. Seeing the people of Cotton Tree Village enjoy the tiny details of life and their attitudes in a less than adequate situation has taught me to focus on the good rather than the bad.
~High School Participant 

 This trip was a huge step at independence for me from my everyday life.  It was amazing to be away from my family for a week by myself, and I really felt that it allowed me to break out of my shell.  This trip was very important to me because it gave me the opportunity to share the sport I love with strangers.  I will never forget this trip and I plan to embark on similar adventures in the future.
~High School Participant