September 20th, 2013 | Uncategorized
I can’t believe it has been over a month since I first arrived here in Belfast! Time has truly flown by. It’s been pretty difficult for me to write these blog posts because there’s so much I want to share about my experience. We have yet to start school, so a lot of our time has gone to volunteering in different areas around the city. We’ve spent full days in primary schools, which here is like grade schools in the states. I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of hearing the ‘wee’ kids with their adorable accents. We play relay races, different games and drills, then have time for us to speak about our experiences in our life and how we got to where we are. Some of the questions I have received range from “Do you live in Disney World?” to “Do you know the Fresh Prince of Bel Air?” to “Who has inspired you?”. At one school, Brian got everyone to chant for me to Irish dance. So, embarrassingly enough, I had to do the jig that I remembered from when I was 12 years old in front of everyone. Needless to say, there’s always some good laughs throughout these days. Many of the kids have never even touched a basketball, and it makes me so happy to see their excitement when they finally put the ball in the hoop!
Last Thursday, we spent the day at a Juvenile Detention Center. As we were being prepped for what to expect during our sessions, I was pretty nervous. They, of course, gave us the worst-case scenarios and stories as to what kind of incidences have happened in the center. Nothing of sorts happened on our visit. We spent the whole day in 45-minute sessions with about four kids each, all ranging from the ages of 14-17. We spoke to them about how sports have changed our lives, how having something we love in our lives has inspired us to stay on the right track. We spoke of the importance of doing your best to surround yourself with the right kinds of people who want to bring out the best in you and who want you to succeed. Brian and I spent our lunch time in one of the houses with a handful of kids and those who watch over the house. Often forgetting I was in even in a juvenile detention center, I really enjoyed the conversations we were able to have. At one point, we asked if the kids liked it here, and one of them turned to us and said that he would much rather be here, for it’s way better than anything he had at home.
After talking to Gareth, he informed me that it’s a good thing we spend days there because it helps to open up a relationship between our foundation and for when the kids get out of there. Our EHOOPS and SHEHOOPS programs are designed to help kids who have been in trouble, who are from some tough areas in Belfast, and who could use some positive people in their lives to get them on the right track. Unfortunately, this same week, the computers from the Sport Changes Life office (which the kids come into use for anything from school work to helping them build resumes) were stolen. The good that came out of it was that the New York Stock Exchange offered to donate new computers. The CEO of the NY Stock Exchange announced this at a big tech conference on Friday at the Titanic Headquarters, which I was fortunate enough to attend.
All of the experiences I have had working in the community thus far have been truly humbling, and make me appreciate all that I have in life even more. The fact I have had a home I was happy to go home to everyday, a place where I felt safe and loved, is something I know I often times take for granted. I’m so fortunate to have had good people in my life to support and inspire me as I work to accomplish my goals, and to grow up with parents who raised me with a strong faith. These are all things I think we take for granted in life, and I’m grateful I’ve had daily reminders to appreciate all I do have. Miss all of my loved ones in the states!