Gabe Hoffman Johnson, a senior on the men’s soccer team, organized a trip with a teammate to Sierra Leone. Johnson began his organizing efforts early in the fall term by putting on a soccer ball drive at one of the home games. Johnson contacted hundreds of local soccer enthusiasts and collected more than 300 soccer balls during and after the event. Johnson worked closely with the non-governmental organization, Fambul Tak International and the Futbols for Fambul Tok program. In early December, Johnson traveled with the soccer balls to Sierra Leone and delivered them to several schools in villages across Sierra Leone.
The experience was incredibly rewarding for both Johnson and his teammate and fellow senior, Colin Skelly. Johnson noted the uniting power of the game of soccer. When Johnson and Skelly unveiled the balls to the kids, they saw an immediate rise in spirits as the kids wrestled over the balls with excitement. Skelly reflected on how this experience made him realize how much typical American student athletes take for granted: I have always had access to the proper gear to play soccer, and it was surreal to see how much something as simple as a soccer ball meant to the kids, schools and communities.
Another highlight of Johnson and Skelly’s trip was playing in one of the local adult soccer league games. Johnson said that, “More than 200 people attended the game and they were extremely excited to see the foreigners battle it out.Johnson plans to continue his involvement with the Futbol for Fambul Tok program, and foster a strong relationship between the Fambul Tok soccer program and Dartmouth soccer.
Dartmouth Lacrosse athletes worked with two non-profit organizations, Bridges to Community and Lacrosse the Nations. Bridges to Community organized the building component of the trip and paired the athletes with local masons in the rural village of Las Conchitas. Bridges to Community has built roughly 400 houses around the community of Las Conchitas and over 700 in all of Nicaragua. Additionally, Lacrosse the Nations set up the framework for the local lacrosse clinics. According to their mission statement, Lacrosse the Nations works to improve the lives of children across the globe by teaching lifelong healthy living skills, and also works to bring joy into the children’s lives through the love of sports. Gunnar Shaw, one of the organizers of the trip, noted that both organizations provided important resources and
helped provide direction for the trip’s projects. Shaw also remarked on the importance of the specific service efforts:By building a concrete steel-reinforced home for a family currently living in a corrugated metal shack, we offered them a clean shelter and a new start.
Members of the Dartmouth Lacrosse teams have already started planning efforts for the next trip and will hold a “Scoop for Loot” game this spring in order to raise the needed funds. Freshmen Timmy Burke will be the program coordinator for next year’s trip. Burke has volunteered in Nicaragua with his family over the last 7 summers and brings great energy and leadership.
With these incredible service-learning trips, several Dartmouth student athletes have taken the initiative to bring their passion for service across the world. Both Johnson and the lacrosse players learned a great deal from their trips and will continue to apply this knowledge by giving back to their teams and the Dartmouth community.