June 5, 2014
The Knights Without Borders-St. Vincent edition trailer is out! UCF student and trip videographer, Jessica Keller, pieced together this preview for your viewing pleasure. A longer feature, including interviews conducted on the islands, is still to come.
May 10, 2014
Knights Without Borders has come to the end of its St. Vincent journey... for now. The group's final day in the Caribbean was spent traveling by ferry to Kingstown from Bequia to squeeze in one final session with a weekly basketball camp Saturday. We head back to America hopeful that the impact of our mission will have a lasting impact, not only for those on the island, but within ourselves, as well. We have every intention of returning to reunite with the many friends we have made here and continue to help this wonderful country.
Senior Associate Athletic Director for Student Services Jessica Reo, who organized this trip, had this to say about the experience:
"Adonal Foyle and the Kerosene Lamp Foundation's message is very connected to the UCF message: You can use sport for education. The mission of that organization matched ours and we saw it on the ground in everything that we did. We've already started to talk to Adonal and the KLF staff about continuing a relationship in the work being done in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We believe that there are ways for us to be involved in this community long-term and for many good reasons.
"I think every day our student-athletes impressed me more and more with their willingness to take part in anything that was put in front of them; with their excitement about working with the children; with their ability to connect not just with the children but with staff and local people, friends and family. The people that we met have become part of our family."
May 9, 2014
Photo Gallery (Day 6)
Student-Athlete Journal Entry: Javier Clavijo
"Today was a day of satisfaction. It was not as demanding in regards to physical work, this was more of a day to reflect on all that we have done so far. Today is our last day in Bequia, and I am going to miss it dearly. I feel as if just yesterday I was arriving at the primary school to begin Adonal's KLF camp in St. Vincent... Where did the time go?! It has gotten to the point that whenever I see a child from this beautiful country, I am unconsciously introducing myself and trying to do whatever I can to make them happy in that very moment. What I have noticed is that what makes them the happiest is when I play a sport with them. This is amazing because of the fact that "Knights Without Borders" was founded on the principle of promoting change through sport. We have succeeded in that.
To conclude our stay on this island, we finished fixing the library this morning. The hardest part was yesterday when we had to paint the entire inside and outside, and wash down a lot of different areas. Today I was working with Courtney C., Caroline, Leo, and Rosinha to take down all the books from the shelves and clean them, and then clean the shelf and return the book. This work was time consuming, but like everything else we have done here, it is to better the life of someone else, and for me, that's priceless.
After finishing book duty I actually went on a little adventure of my own with Rosi and Jessica K. where I took over the video and began interviewing different people. This was very funny. Once the library was finished we took a group photo and received many thank you's from the locals. It was stupendous that this library was fully restored after being untouched for many years.
Later in the day we went snorkeling near a coral reef off the coast of Bequia, and I had a phenomenal time. Usually I am afraid to go into the ocean when I am very far from the shore, but on this trip, for whatever reason, that has not been the case. We were out there for a while, and it was really cool. I also would swim underwater and pop up and scare my friends. Caroline was the one who got the most scared. On the way back on the boat, Megan took a picture of me modeling, and we're hoping I get a shot at being on the cover of postcards of Bequia. It is looking tough, however, considering I am not a model, and have never modeled before, but our fingers are crossed.
Tonight is the basketball game against the Bequia All Stars, and I am excited to get the W. It has been an unforgettable week, and I cannot wait to brag about my experiences from this week to everyone I know. I also have become BFF's with Justin, just saying. "
Student-Athlete Journal Entry: Caroline Eberhart
It is the sixth day here in the Grenadine Islands and we got to spend it on Bequia; a beautiful island with beautiful people! We started our day off finishing the refurbishment of the library that we started yesterday. We split up into three groups. One touched up all the outside paint with bright colors of yellow, orange, purple, and turquoise. Another group cleaned up the outside landscape picking up trash, raking leaves, and cutting down trees (the locals provided big and scary machetes for this task). The third group, which was the one I was in, worked inside the library where we cleaned the book shelves, washed and dried the books, and swept and mopped the floors. We had a great assembly line going where Cortney C. and Rosinha would wash the books, Leo and I would dry the books and Javi would wash the shelves and organize the books back in their correct order. We all worked together so well, which made this tedious task a really fun experience! Even though the library wasn't completely finished at the end of the day and a few minor details still needed touching up, the final product was amazing. With a little paint and some hard work, this new library will be sure to bring some new light to the island of Bequia and some smiles to the kids!
We then were able to explore the island a little bit more; this time underwater. We had the amazing opportunity to go snorkeling in the bright blue waters off the coast. I got to wear the GoPro camera underwater camera while I was snorkeling. I made sure to capture the coral reefs, starfish and all my new friends!
I've only been away from the States for about a week and I feel like my life has been changed. I feel like I have really made an impact on the islands of St. Vincent and Bequia and in the kids' lives that live here. Interacting with the kids and explaining to them the importance of literacy and studying hard in school as well as excelling in their sport has been our mission of the trip and I feel has been accomplished."
#IslandProblems are over (for now)! We're back online after internet was knocked out for the island of Bequia on Thursday. Check out the following blog entries from men's basketball's Justin McBride and women's soccer's Megan Fish.
May 8, 2014
Photo Gallery (Day 5)
Student-Athlete Journal Entry: Justin McBride
"Last night was our first night in Bequia and I had the best sleep I've had on this trip. We had a fan that worked and I had my own bed that was huge that had no bugs or ants. I didn't have to worry about anything flying into my ear. I never said anything about the place we stayed in St. Vincent because I'm grateful to be here, but the way that Staphon screamed that first night - it made me scared. The fear factor wasn't there last night. I accidentally ate Fish's omelet on accident this morning, and it was great.
I thought the library we worked on today was going to be in worse condition than what it was. They had already stripped it and primed it, so all we had to do was paint. The condition of the books made me sad. I have yet to be in UCF's library, I haven't stepped foot in there. Here, they want to read books and they don't have them. The books were dirty. The most recent book I saw was from 1980. Everything that they are reading is old. I have those resources and I don't even utilize them. It made me grateful for what we have at school.
When we walked around town today, people were thanking us for helping them and caring. It's not what you give, it's just that you gave it. I think it will mean a lot to them because it's more than just books. They are so grateful for literally everything that it makes you question how you react when you get something or things that you take for granted - like running water, brushing my teeth. I talked to a lady while we were painting, and they are really worried about water. It hasn't rained and that's how they get water. I run my shower after practice for 45 minutes before getting in. It just puts everything into perspective.
This is the highlight of my whole freshman year. I looked forward to the trip in the weeks leading up to it, but I didn't expect this. Hiking up the mountain like they do on Survivor or jumping off a cliff - who does that in their life? I think doing it brought everyone close and I'm glad we did that so early on in the trip. It was like, you don't leave anybody behind. We had each other's back. If someone slipped, or if someone needed water, they were there. This time last week, I didn't even know Javier and now he's my boy. We've built a lifetime of relationships here. I'm down with coming back.
Student-Athlete Journal Entry: Megan Fish
"We made it to the island Bequia yesterday on the ferry. The view the whole was ride unreal... beautiful blue water all around. No matter which direction you looked, there were islands all a part of the Grenadines. After arriving we put our stuff in this cute and simple place called Julie's Guest House. No AC and sharing a bed with Connie under a mosquito net = priceless. We chilled by the beach for a while until it was time to split up and go into schools to read to the kids. As we walked up, the kids freaked out when they saw Justin, who is 6'11 and built like a door. They've never seen someone so big...it was adorable.
After meeting the kids, we each got our own group. Mine was first-graders - three girls and two boys. We read "Billy Fish" and although the plan was for us to read to them, after I started I saw the kids were slowly reading a few words here and there, so I ended up having them read the books to me. It was so awesome hearing them read and my favorite part was when they would come to a word they didn't know and either use what they've been taught and sound it out and put it together, or if they were having a tougher time, I would help along with their teacher. Sometimes they would figure it out. Seeing them really focus and struggle then finally get it and hear their excitement when they realized it was right was such a touching moment. They are so smart and into learning and reading, I loved it.
Again I find myself being touched so much by these children when we came here to "help them." They struggle to get a quality education and my whole life I've taken mine for granted until this last year. And even then, there is so much more I can do. Day by day, hour by hour, these kids and this trip continues to change my life and most importantly help me grow as a person."
UPDATE: Internet issues on the island have forced us to temporarily suspend updates to the Knights Without Borders blog. We'll update everything we can from the trip as soon as we have the ability to do so. Thanks for reading!
May 8, 2014
Photo Gallery (Day 4)
Student-Athlete Journal Entry: Connie Organ
"Today we arrived in Bequia to begin the second portion of our mission. We are now very used to the island heat and the bugs that come with it, but I believe we will be in for a new obstacle tonight. Upon our arrival to our new home for the next few days, we noticed bug nets around our bed. We then learned that the bugs on this island would eat us alive if we slept without them.
The one really great thing that happened as we were figuring out accommodation locations was everyone wanting to continue living like the natives. A few of my fellow athletes had the opportunity to stay in rooms with air conditioning, no bugs, and televisions, but instead decided it would defeat the purpose of the experience and stayed with the rest of the group.
After getting settled in, we split up into groups, and we headed to our assigned schools to teach kids how to read. We were originally supposed to read and teach at only one school, but once the other schools heard word of our impending arrival, we felt the need to visit all the schools who expressed an interest in our mission. My group went to a local school, and it was a complete life-changer. The school was very small, and it contained one big room divided into five classrooms by dividers. It was a little difficult to read to the kids because you could hear everything going on in the surrounding classes. It really made me appreciate how fortunate my educational opportunities were growing up. Although their conditions were a bit unconventional, the innocent kids didn't know any better. They enjoyed every minute of the crowded schoolroom situation, as well as their playground, which consisted of a junkyard, a truck trailer and a donkey hub.
Although it really hit an emotional button inside of me to see the conditions these kids had to deal with on a daily basis, it always made me smile to see them enjoying life to the fullest anyways. I am thrilled for the next few days to come when we refurbish their local library, and we are able to give them another beneficial place to continue to get the most out of life."
Student-Athlete Journal Entry: Leonardo Ayala
"Just when I thought that this trip couldn't get any better - I got to teach today, but the best part was that I got to teach my favorite subject, MATH! It was amazing, these kids were so smart, they kept asking for harder and harder questions, and every time they got the right answer. It was almost to the point where I wanted to teach them something new, like algebra. I was so impressed. It made me so happy to see that these kids may have it hard but still have the motivation to do well in school.
The views here are breathtaking. It is so beautiful here and being able to experience all of this with great people like the UCF athletes makes it even better. We got to see islands on the ferry ride to the Grenadines, which is also really cool!"
May 6, 2014
Photo Gallery (Day 3: PE Class Takeover)
Student-Athlete Journal Entry: Cortney Cesarini
"Visiting two schools today was a great experience. I did not expect the kids to be so nice and have such good manners. I really enjoyed talking to the kids in the morning group because they understood what kind of hard work was needed to come to school in America. It was heartwarming to hear about all their dreams about coming to America, getting an education and playing their sport. Something so simple to us would mean the world to them.
I met a lot of new friends today. Some of the kids (older ones) actually added me on Facebook. I think it will really be neat to stay connected with them. I told some of the 15-16 year olds that I could see them next time they compete in the Penn Relays because it takes place 30 minutes from my home in PA!"
Student-Athlete Journal Entry: Rodrigo Quirarte
"Today, we woke up earlier than yesterday and went to the `city.' It was an hour-and-a-half ride with A LOT of curves - too many to be able to sleep on the bus. We went to a high school and spoke to the kids from there. We did a `speed dating' system where we talked to a kid for five minutes, telling them a little about us, the life of a student-athlete and a normal day in college. Then we would switch and start again with another kid. They had great questions and were very curious to know more about the U.S. and the college system.
Most of the kids play soccer or run track. Actually, a few of them had just come back from the Penn Relays. They were eager to obtain information and insight of our daily life. You could see in them their hope and desire to one day become a student-athlete in the U.S. We had two big groups. The first one took the speed dating too literally - when the kids signed our T-shirts, one girl put her number and email on mine. After that, we played some soccer, and trust me, some of those kids can really run! It was a great experience, and it was awesome seeing them being so grateful and appreciative.
When we finished there, we went to the primary school (same as yesterday) and did similar activities with the kids. It was nice seeing their faces full of joy when we arrived. This time, after the sports activities, we gave out books to the children. Every kid received one book of their choice. It was fun seeing the kids trying to decide what book they wanted. Some kids were so indecisive and really wanted to take two. It was great to see them being very motivated by the books and reading.
We came back to our dorm and the sun was still out so we decided to go cliff jumping again. I guess we can't resist that adrenaline rush. Everyone is exhausted today. Those kids are really taking our energy, but hey, that's the reason we are here."
May 5, 2014
Photo Gallery (Day 2: Cliff Jumping, Waterfalls and Sports Clinic)
Student-Athlete Journal Entry: Alex Piercy
"We finally arrived in St. Vincent yesterday and boy was it a journey to get here. From being in three different airports all day to driving an hour-and-a-half through the mountain on a 10-food road going 60 mph! Yes, I was a bit car sick to say the least. The hostel wasn't exactly what we expected but waking up to Stephon screaming like a 12-year-old girl at 3 a.m. because a bug crawled on him made it totally worth it!
This morning I woke up at 5:30 a.m. to go on a nice run through the mountains. This place is absolutely breathtaking. We then went on a 5-mile hike and my favorite part was going cliff jumping into the ocean. I was the first one to jump (Like Tris in Divergent) and it was such an adrenalin rush. I can't wait to do it again.
The hike was a bit brutal but I kept up in the front of the pack. Although my legs were dying, once I saw the extraordinary view of the waterfalls, I completely forgot about my legs hurting. We are in the middle of the rainforest! How amazing!
Our next venture was going to coach clinics at the local school. Not going to lie, the first five minutes of being there - seeing how torn up the neighborhood is and how their playground consisted of tires - really made me tear up. I had to hold myself together and once I got to playing with all the little kids, I couldn't stop smiling. I find it so amazing how kind and loving they are. They just like to jump on you and hold their hand. They are so open! They really opened up a new side of me. All the kids were so appreciative of what we are doing for them. It was truly an amazing thing to see."
May 4, 2014
Photo Gallery (Day 1: Arrival)
May 4, 2014
KINGSTOWN, ST. Vincent - After three plane rides Sunday, the 2014 spring semester Knights Without Borders trip is officially under way.
Beginning the day at 5:45 a.m. at Orlando International Airport, a group of 17 student-athletes along with staff set out for their service trip to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The Knights caught a short flight to Miami before jetting off to Barbados for a connection to St. Vincent, which lies off the coast of Venezuela.
After landing in Kingstown, the group was on the move once again, riding in two buses for 90 minutes on the winding, narrow roads to finally arrive at their accommodations at 9 p.m.
While in St. Vincent, the Knights will work in conjunction with Adonal Foyle's Kerosene Lamp Foundation. The foundation was created in 2003 to use sport as a bridge to the next generation, promoting education and health awareness, providing free athletics & academics camps and mentoring at-risk student-athletes.
The following UCF student-athletes will spend the next week running sports clinics/P.E. classes and rebuilding a library on the island of Bequia.
Rosinha Rosario (manager)
To learn more about UCF's Knights Without Borders initiative, including how to support the program, click here.