Tag Archives: volunteering

The Trainless Island

What do you do when you have twelve kids who love trains but have never seen a real one? You take them on a train ride, of course!

The island of Saint Martin doesn’t have a train, but the kids from Player Development SXM know a lot about them anyway. Each day, these boys and girls gather on the little league field to practice for baseball games and improve their academic skills. Many days, my friends and I join them to help with reading and math or coaching.

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When practice and homework is done, the kids run inside the repurposed shipping container that serves as their clubhouse to play with their favorite toy: the model train set.

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The kids are excited, because this summer, they get to ride a real train. In August, they’ll be packing their bags for the long trip to Toronto, where many dreams will come true. They get to watch a Blue Jays game, see Niagara falls, play against a Canadian little league team, and ride a real train for the first time. For their homework, some of the kids have written about their hopes for the upcoming adventure:

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For many of the kids, this will be their first time off the 37 square-mile island.

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Many of the kids dream of being a pro ball player, and this will be the first time they get to witness a major-league game.

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This is a really big deal for them.

The logo for the team is, of course, a train. Coach Tom asked me to design it for the team, and my friend Andrea made it into a t-shirt for the kids to wear during the trip.

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Like it? You can actually buy one for yourself, or send one to one of our kids! All the proceeds of the purchase also go toward the kids’ plane tickets. Make a difference for these kids. Click here!

 

Community Action Day at American University of the Caribbean

What do you get when you combine packed buses, hundreds of purple t-shirts, smiling faces, and a giant rain storm? No, not the first day of your third-grade church camp– but good guess. You get American University of the Caribbean’s 2015 Community Action Day!

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An AUC Student Tutors in Reading

I love organized service projects. Our undergrad university put on a day of outreach each spring, and all the students got a day off classes to do yard work for the elderly, paint over graffiti, etc. I was happy to find out that AUC does essentially the same thing, although a day off school is not an option here. The event organizers offered about two dozen different CAD activities, and students and campus groups could sign up for whatever they choose. Ben and I decided to go help with the Little League Player Development Program, since I already volunteer with this organization.

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Coach Tom Shows Us the Science Room

We met our group at AUC and took a bus over to the baseball field. Not too many kids had arrived before us, so Coach Tom gave us a tour of the team’s clubhouse. The clubhouse is a wonderful place. It’s made up of three shipping containers– one filled with science stuff, one dedicated to reading, and one full of exercise equipment. Every week day and Saturday, the kids come to the clubhouse for tutoring and baseball practice. Coach Tom and his wife, Lisa, along with whoever shows up to volunteer, help the kids with math and reading. This kids are rewarded with baseball cards and time to play with toy trains and the science projects.

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Ben and His Classmates Tutor Kids

About 25 kids showed up on Saturday, and all the volunteers sat down with a child or two to help with reading. As they finished, kids and AUC students moved to the field to practice baseball.

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A Beautiful Day for Baseball

In the Caribbean, storms rise up out of nowhere and drench the earth with driving rain. It’s rainy season now, so it was not really a surprise when the heavens opened and poured the waters of all the seven seas upon us! We all congregated under tarps and into the containers to wait out the rain.

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Even AUC Professors get Involved

When the rain let up a little bit, Lisa drove Ben and I next door to the local university, where the Migratory Bird Festival was being held. She went back for a few kids at a time when the weather finally cleared. We colored some pictures of birds, learned about their feeding habits, and adopted a Gaiac tree to raise. Since Sint Maarten has been in a drought this year, there was an exhibit on drought and how it affects the birds–ironically, it was partially damaged by the rain and had to be moved inside!

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Raising and Planting A Gaiac Tree Helps the Ecosystem Thrive
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One of the Kids Discovers Pond Life

At noon, we walked the kids back to the baseball field. Most of the other volunteers were playing catch with the kids. We said goodbye to everyone from the team and piled into the bus to head back to Cupecoy. It had been a great morning.

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Most photos courtesy of Tom and Lisa Burnett

A Day in the Life of an AUC Spouse

After my last post, A Typical Day at American University of the Caribbean, I was encouraged to tell about my own typical day. This is a little harder than sharing a typical day for Ben, mostly because my days are never the same!

Here’s what my day looked like yesterday:

We woke up at 6:30, a little later than usual, because we had a late-night Skype call the night before. I made stove-top toast for breakfast, and Ben left for class at 7:20.

Making food has extra challenges here! I don't read Dutch...
Making food has extra challenges here! I don’t read Dutch…

I organized my laundry and took it to AUC’s dormitory laundry room. Our apartment’s washer and dryer don’t work well, so I always do laundry at school. One of the washers had leaked, so an AUC employee was mopping the floor. I stopped to chat with her for a while. While waiting for my laundry, I studied Swahili from a textbook I got a couple years ago in Kenya.

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At 8:15, I met a couple friends– other spouses– near AUC and went on a 3-mile run with them. The air is humid and warm, so two of us decided to walk to the beach after our run to cool off. My friend brought her dog with us, and it was hilarious to watch her play in the surf!

Sasha plays on the beach
Sasha plays on the beach

Around eleven, I went home and made lunch. I try to have it ready for Ben when he walks in the door. Today we had leftovers from a school-catered lunch we had on Monday.

After eating, the two of us spent a little time together. Then Ben studied his vital signs checklist while I cleaned up after lunch, blogged, and read my Bible.

At two, a friend picked me up and we drove halfway across the island to the little league field. We parked behind the field next to three containers. These containers look rather unassuming from the outside, but inside, they are filled with all the wonderful things we loved in our childhoods– a labeled shell collection, a train track running along the ceiling, a remote-control robot, science projects, books, a rock tumbler, and so much more! The little league coach has set up a player development and tutoring program for some of the island kids. Some of the AUC spouses come to tutor the kids and play ball with them. While we were there yesterday, I got to work on reading with a three or four kids, play catch with two little girls, and do warm-up exercises with the boys.

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We left around 4:30 and headed back to our homes in Cupecoy. I went shopping at the Asian market next to our complex and started a dinner of beans and rice. While everything cooked, I answered emails for my freelance art job. Want to see what I do for work? Check this out!

One of the T-shirts I designed for a client (copyright 2015)
One of the T-shirts I designed for a client
(copyright 2015)

At 6:30, Ben and his friend Matt arrived for dinner.

Dinner at the Johnson's
Dinner at the Johnsons’

At 7:05, I ran out the door, a little late for my Zumba class. I go to a free Zumba session twice at week at AUC’s gym. The class ended at 8:00, and I had a little time to talk with friends before going to band practice.

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At 9:00, I arrived at worship band practice. I’m singing and playing in our church’s worship band on Sundays– next week, I’ll be singing back-up and playing the drum. Some weeks, I’ll be helping out by playing guitar or piano as needed.

Practice went late, so it was almost 10:30 before I got home. Ben and I were both exhausted! We talked for a bit, set the alarm, and fell fast asleep.