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Final Days In Panama

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The first-ever Knights Without Borders international service-learning trip is wrapping up Saturday. Courtney Griffith and Mario Samson submitted blogs from the past two days. Griffith wrote about working with the Aldeas Infantiles SOS group in Panama City, while Samson details a private tour of some areas of the Panama Canal.

May 10 Student-Athlete Blog - Mario Samson (Men's Tennis)

Sorry for writing my blog the very last night before we go back to OrIando. It's been hard to gather any energy to do it during the week, because every day has been full of activities and emotions. I was completely exhausted by the end of the day.

This whole week has been an amazing experience and quite a roller coaster of emotions. I had a lot of expectations for this trip and although some things may have changed, they definitely changed for the better. I met some incredible people from UTP (Technical University of Panama), the Aldeas home and of course the children, all of whom have had a huge impact on me. I was able to exchange information with some of the university students and we will be able to remain in contact with them, which is great. I know that we've made a huge impact on them as well and I knew this when they came to our hostel after dinner tonight to give us gifts showing their appreciation. 

Friday was more of a learning experience and it was great to see the Panama Canal. I was able to meet with my uncle who actually works in the expansion project of the Canal and he gave a private tour to Allie (Jest) and me. Since my major is Civil Engineering, I consider myself very privileged to see the construction of something that will have a huge impact in the world. My uncle explained to us a little bit of the overall concept the project and how it will work.

It is now time to pack, since we leave Saturday morning and then I get back on my grind on Monday. I am excited to come back and share all the stories with my family and friends. This has been the first time a trip like this was done by student-athletes from UCF, so I just want to thank everyone who made this experience possible especially Jessica Reo, Kimya Massey, the rest of our staff and my fellow-student-athletes who were a crucial part of this incredible journey that has just begun.

May 9 Student-Athlete Blog - Courtney Griffith (Women's Tennis)

After waking up early every other day we finally got to sleep in! Woohoo! Our quick ride to the Aldeas Home in Panama City was yet again an interesting one as we bumped and swerved and nearly got hit by 15 cars. It's always fun though! The entire scene was completely different than what we experienced in Clon. They had a gated community filled with 16 homes for about 65 children. Each casa had one Tia who took care of the children. 

We first had a presentation teaching us the rules of the facility. We were not able to go into their houses at all or take any pictures of them to protect their identities. This was really hard because they were all so adorable. 

We finally got to meet the children and divided into groups. I had a really good time with the older children playing futbol and everyone else was playing games or walking around with the children. One main thing that I instantly noticed was how different the children were compared to those in Colon. They were very rambunctious. Some of the younger boys were climbing trees 75 feet in the air. Others were tackling us and running around everywhere. It was very entertaining for sure. 

We eventually settle down a little after lunch when we did arts and crafts. They loved it! I loved seeing all of their smiling faces as they drew pictures for us and their Tias. They were also asking for all of our autographs which made us feel like celebrities.

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