Athletics News

Blue Demons Welcomed With Open Arms
July 10, 2017

PARRAMOS, Guatemala – Nine DePaul student-athletes have embarked on a week-long service trip to help at an orphanage in Guatemala that cares for abandoned and at-risk children.

The DePaul Athletics Service Immersion group met at the Athletic Center at 6:30 a.m. Saturday to begin the journey serving at NPH Guatemala.  Athletics Director Jean Lenti-Ponsetto wished the group well and spoke about their duty to serve all the communities they encounter. She told the Blue Demons how proud she was for taking time out of their vacations to serve.

After a four-hour flight to Guatemala City, everyone jammed into a van transport and headed up the mountains to NPH (Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos) which is Spanish for “Our Little Brothers and Sisters.” Here are accounts of the first two days.

Day One
Amani Hardrict, Women’s Track and Field

The energy of everyone at NPH was amazing. I was nervous about the language barrier, but the kids were super understanding. We could communicate with the little Spanish that we did know as well as hand gestures.

It was cool to see not much separates us from these children. When we played soccer with them, it was clear that the sport was a language that everyone understood. It was very interesting to see how the young kids looked up to us as we played with them, ate meals and bonded.

After meeting a group of girls before dinner, I saw them again at dinner and they gave me a hug. I had left them only 10 minutes earlier, and yet the bond was already that strong.  It is as if we are a big family that has a main focus of improving each other. It is already clear we can take away lessons from the kids just as they can from us.

It is very humbling to slow down and appreciate what we have and the amazing, supportive people that we support us back home. I am looking forward to developing strong relationships with the children. They all have such different, energetic personalities and stories. There was not a dull moment once we arrived, and I hope that it continues to be full of the joy that we felt on our first day.

Joe Hanel, Men’s Basketball

This being my second time making the trip to Guatemala, I thought I would feel less of a cultural adjustment when we landed in Guatemala City. But the experience of traveling somewhere out of my element was just as exciting as the first time.

When we drove through Guatemala City on our way to the NPH orphanage, our entire group was similarly engulfed with the new environment. Everybody seemed so eager to ask questions and learn about our new home for the coming week.

Touring the home was an especially powerful moment for us because we all got to see the incredible amount of work that goes into keeping it running and making sure all the kids get the attention and care they need. Our first interactions with the kids were a mix of Spanglish and awkward hand gestures, but the kids’ laughter and teasing soon brought all of us out of our shells.

I can already tell that we have a great group of student-athletes for this journey, and I look forward to watching where this trip takes us.

Day Two
Kelly Campbell, Women’s Basketball

The language barrier became a little easier for me on day two. We started off the morning going to mass, which was an awesome experience. Although I personally could not understand much, it was nice to get a sneak peek into their culture and see how interactive and appreciative they were with us and each other.

After mass, we worked in the kitchen for a couple hours. This was especially humbling as there were two ladies who ran the kitchen from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. cooking for the children. We helped separate the edible beans from the non-edible beans as well as removing rocks, which is something I never could have imagined had to be done. It took a very long time to separate, and they told us that it must be done every day when cooking beans for the children.

There is so much work that goes into keeping NPH running, and I give so much credit to all the volunteers and workers who are so selfless. One of my favorite parts of the day was playing soccer with a group of 5-to-10 year-old boys.

We played for a while, and then Blue Demon women’s soccer player Vanessa Nigg and I had the opportunity to knock down a piñata down with them. I have never seen a group of kids so happy to do an activity that I took for granted as a kid.

Not only were they so happy, but they would not let me leave empty-handed and forced me to take some of the candy they had collected. I cannot wait to build more relationships with these children and learn more about them and from them.

Elizabeth Parrilli, Women’s Soccer

In just our second day, I could not have guessed that I would already feel like our group has been able to positively impact all of the kids at NPH and have them impact us as well. Our group attended mass at NPH this morning and we were able to sit amongst the children in the pews.

During mass, I felt like I experienced a life-changing moment when Orlando Ramos, the NPH house director, took time out of the service to thank all of the groups who were visiting NPH. He was thankful we were all at NPH when we could be on vacation but had chosen to be here instead.

After Orlando had thanked everyone, a young boy ran from one of the front rows to one of our group members and gave him the biggest hug to thank him for his presence. I had tears in my eyes as I truly realized how thankful the group at NPH is to have us here. For this young boy to run, in the middle of a mass, to hug one of our group members was truly amazing.

I thought I would be the most joyful one to be here, but I clearly saw that the children matched my own joy. In just two days, there have already been so many things that really affected us in a positive way, and we are excited to continue to share our experiences over the rest of the week.

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