Below is Monday's student-athlete blog entry:
Blog - May 6, 2013 - Kyle Cox (Men's Soccer)
Today, we woke up bright and early to the SOS Aldeas Infantiles orphanage in Colón to begin our community service work. Those of us staying at "The Palace" were treated to some delicious coffee from our hosts, were picked up by the bus to gather the others, and after a not-so-quick pit stop at "Super 99" we were on our way! Since we had an hour-long drive ahead of us, I volunteered to serve as our DJ for the trip and felt that it was extremely appropriate to kick the trip off by blaring Suavemente by Elvis Crespo. (Needless to say, the song was soon voted the song of the trip and was already requested to be played at the beginning and end of every road trip we take in Panama). We then proceeded to drive through the scenic forest outside of Panama City, catching glimpses of the Panama Canal, and finally made it to the orphanage!
Excitement was definitely running high when we arrived and we were introduced to some more students from the local university in Panama City as well as some of the social workers and mothers that run the orphanage. After we exchanged pleasantries and settled in, we split ourselves into two groups to take a tour of the various homes within the orphanage and receive a brief education about the orphanage itself. On a semi-related yet important note: prior to this, Mario had left with Kimya (Massey) to purchase our supplies for the day, so we were down a translator and Evers was the only fluent Spanish speaker between the two groups. As a result, Lianne, Courtney and I volunteered to translate for the group during the tour and actually did very well. We joked that the three of us combined would be the equivalent of one Mario or one Evers. Personally, I was excited to have the opportunity to utilize the four years of knowledge about the Spanish language that I had acquired during high school and even surprised a few people, including myself, at how well I could still speak the language (Señora Mendes would be so proud!). But I digress...
On the tour, our guide explained to us that the orphanage has six houses, each of which is run by a single mother who they call Tía (or Aunt) and one home houses anywhere from seven to twelve children. She also explained that the houses had not been renovated in a long time and that they greatly needed several things to be fixed around the campus, particularly repainting the walls of the homes that were in poor condition. Since it is our mission to help these individuals in any way possible, we decided to focus our time and energy on resurfacing and repainting the rooms in all the houses. But before we began our project, something incredible happened: we found a soccer ball!
As anticlimactic as that may have sounded, I have been dying to play a pick up game since we landed In Panama, there are literally soccer fields everywhere and it has taken every ounce of me to not jump out of the bus and hop into a game with some random strangers for a few hours. But my opportunity finally came and it was incredible Everyone joined in the game, from most of the student-athletes to the children and even some of the staff. I am pretty sure some of them had never touched a soccer ball in their lives before, but to me, this is a true testament as to why we are here; to spread happiness, to impact the lives of others, and to grow as individuals through sport. When I mentioned to some children that I played soccer, their faces instantly lit up and were extremely eager to start kicking around with us. For me, I was excited to experience a culture that values soccer as much as I do and everyone seemed to have an absolute blast during the game!
After an intense match, we started our restoration project by first laying a coat of primer paint on the areas of the wall that had chipped paint or were just in poor condition, which turned out to be a lot more wall than we had originally anticipated. At one point, we were afraid that we would not have enough primer paint to finish priming all the walls in all six houses. But, due to some efficient paint allocation and usage coordinated by our friend Chicken, we were able to complete our job for the day! By the end of the day, we were all covered in paint primer but none of us cared because we knew we were doing something great! To have the opportunity to give our time and energy to help others in need is something truly special. These kids are all absolute gems and they deserve way more that what they have been given in their lives. It hasn't even been two full days here in Panama and I can already begin to see myself growing as a person as a result of experiences such as these. I can only imagine what tomorrow has in store, but whatever that may be, I am beyond exited to find out and take it on headstrong.