Buffalo, NY – This past Spring break, The D'Youville Women's Volleyball team traveled to Nicaragua as part of an opportunity to spread the game of volleyball and give back to those who are the less fortunate.
The trip gave the women an opportunity to play two exhibition matches against the Nicaragua National Volleyball Team and serve the community through various opportunities. In all, three coaches and ten players made the trip to experience all that Nicaragua had to offer.
Head coach Stephanie Kazmierczak, assistant coaches Sherrell McLean and Erin Pennington led the group of women who traveled Nicaragua from March 19 to March 24. The ten players that also traveled were Abby Booth, Savannah Brayton, Alexandra Bubar, McKenna Cartonia, Julie Fleming, Gabriella Mas, Samantha Murray, Megan Schneider, Kendyll Smith and Kaylee Stewart
Amongst the five community service projects that the team participated in, the favorite project amongst the team was working at Manos Unidas. Manos Unidas is an organization where adults with disabilities come to work and are paid weekly based on attendance, rather than there overall output of purses made out of recycled rice bags.
As part of working at Manos Unidas, the team joined in on the "circle time" lunch break, an exercise where the women got to know the workers. Every day the workers get in a circle, throw a volleyball to someone, and ask what their name is and how old they are to promote engagement. Once everyone has gone, they do the same thing and ask a personal question.
Another favorite volunteer activity was organizing a volleyball clinic for the girls in the community outside of Granada. The team came up with icebreakers, warm ups, skill development drills, and then joined them for a game of Queen of the Court.
Freshman McKenna Cartonia recalled one of her favorite activities while in Nicaragua and the impact the game of volleyball had on everyone.
"My favorite moment was the volleyball clinic because even though we didn't speak the same language, we were able to communicate through playing volleyball," said Cartonia.
Following the clinic, the girls from the community stayed to watch the Spartans take on the Nicaragua National team.
When the team wasn't playing or volunteering in the community, they were indulging in the culture. During their week in Nicaragua they zip lined through the trees, toured the islands on a boat, and even had surf lessons at the beach where a season of Survivor was filmed.
Sophomore Julie Fleming looked back upon all of the wonderful memories that were created and how not only her, but the rest of the team will cherish them from this point forward.
"We had so many first time experiences that we will remember for the rest of our lives," said Fleming.
In total, the team spent six days traveling in three different cities. Along with Manos Unidas, the women volunteered in three other areas. The Carizal English Classes, Escuela Adelante and Biblioteca Mobile were three different events that all involved the youth of Nicaragua. The players not only gave books to the youth, but helped teach them the English language.
The women spent time in Managua, San Juan Del Sur and Granada. Each city brought a unique part of Nicaraguan culture to the experience.