WINCHESTER, Va. – Last summer, a select group of women's soccer players made an empowerment trip to Haiti and blogged about their experiences. One of those players, junior Shannen de Leon, returned to Haiti over the semester break and is back with an update.
I spent the first week of 2018 in Jacmel, Haiti. I was fortunate enough to go back and have the opportunity to work with so many amazing girls again. This time, we brought along two women's lacrosse players: Abby Zorrilla and Alexandra Simonson, and their coaches, Lindsey Lutz and Maddie Taghon.
Both Abby and Alex played soccer prior to coming to college, so we were curious to see how they would fit into our clinic format. They were a bit rusty haha, but it was exciting to watch them play and really get into it.
Danielle Burris '15, '17 D. PT and Alysha McCleaf '17, both women's soccer alums, also joined us in Haiti. I was extremely happy that they came because it was so much fun playing soccer with them again. Both of them are very good friends of mine (Burr is my roommate) and I was thrilled that they were going to experience Haiti.
When we arrived to the Isaiah House on the first day, we had 10 duffel bags filled with donations, food, and crafts that we had to sort through and unpack. (Thank you to the men's lacrosse team for donating the bags!) We had an overwhelming amount of donations that we could not even bring them all! We are saving those donations for the next Haiti trip.
On the first day of camp, Sara Fuller and I recognized so many familiar faces. Some girls even came in the clothes and cleats that we had given them last time. We had to give some of them new cleats though, because their feet had grown so much and they could no longer fit in the old ones.
There weren't that many girls on the first day, maybe about 40-50, but this gave us the opportunity to really get to know these girls. Last summer I was so overwhelmed with how many girls were at camp and I did not really get the chance to learn all their names. But this time, I could almost tell you the name of every girl and they called all of us by our names too.
There was one little girl in particular that I was looking for. She was not there on the first day of camp and I was upset because I thought I would never see Adacheca again.
Word must have gone around that we were back in Haiti because there were a lot more girls on the second day of camp. As we were all scrambling around to get the new girls cleats and clothes, a little girl tapped me on the shoulder. As soon as I realized it was Adacheca, she jumped into my arms and we were both so excited to see each other. That was probably my favorite moment from the whole week.
We decided to lock the gates that day so boys couldn't come in and watch or interfere with the camp. We all noticed the difference that made. The girls acted like their true selves and had a lot more fun when they were not so worried about the boys being around.
The final day of the camp was of course very sad. After reconnecting with so many girls, it was hard having to leave them again.
Besides the soccer camp, we visited some of the same places we went to last time (Wings of Hope, the Clinic, a school), but we also got to meet a ladies group in a secluded community called La Fond. These women have united together to become self-sufficient women and tackle major issues in their community. They were very inspiring.
I hope that by hearing about all the amazing experiences that our student-athletes have had in Haiti, it encourages more people to come. These girls have learned so much from us through soccer, but we learned so much from them too. They taught me how trivial my "problems" are, to be thankful about what I have and not complain about what I don't have, and to remain positive through hardships.
(A huge thanks to those who donated items! You made a huge impact.)