Volleyball looks back on Nicaragua, 'life-changing' trip
By SCOTT WARD
GREELEY -- It's been a little more than a week since Northern Colorado Volleyball and some fans and support staff returned from Nicaragua, but the trip is still a trending topic around the athletics department and remains a vivid memory for all who were lucky enough to be along for the ride.
The Bears' coaches are now back to work recruiting and preparing for the upcoming season -- head coach Lyndsey Benson is also preparing for her wedding -- and the players have scattered a bit, getting some extra rest and preparing to return in June with an intense focus toward next season's anticipated campaign.
But none of them will ever forget their weeklong stay in May 2012 in hot and steamy Nicaragua.
UNCBears.com caught up with the players over the last week. Below and in the accompanying video is their thoughts on the trip.
Brittany Crenshaw -- junior from Yorba Linda, California
"This trip to Nicaragua was truly a life changing trip. I learned so much from the volleyball experience, the country and its' people, and from the time with my teammates. I really enjoyed and gained so much from the community service we did in Nicaragua with the children at the schools and the volleyball clinics we organized. It was amazing how much joy can come from something as simple as a volleyball. I think that is why this experience was so meaningful because that was a joy that each of us could relate to, the love of the game. My other favorite part of this experience was to see another country and their culture as well as the beautiful landscape. It was such an eye opening trip to be able to see how the people there live with practically nothing and that is something I will remember, and constantly be reminded how blessed I am to have what I have. Overall this trip was more than I ever expected and I am so grateful that I was given this opportunity to learn and grow in such a unique way."
Amanda Arterburn -- senior from Aurora, Colorado
"My experience in Nicaragua could never be measured by words to express the change that my heart went through. Letting go of fears and stepping out of my comfort zone to serve others brought me to tears as I connected with children who live for the interactive moments that I shared with them. I will forever be grateful to the people who made this opportunity happen for me, and I will always cherish the love that I grew for the people in Nicaragua. I am gratified."
Donne' Elcock -- sophomore from Longmont, Colorado
"I am so grateful that I got to experience many things in Nicaragua. Words cannot explain how I changed as a person in that very short time frame. It feels great to have touched someone's life as they changed mine in return. It is a very beautiful thing to be a part of something bigger and better than the normal life I live. I let go of fears and stepped out of my comfort zone and that was a very huge step for me as I grow into an independent adult. The kids and people of Nicaragua were grateful with what they had and lived everyday as a dream. I will always cherish every moment I experienced in Nicaragua and keep it very close to my heart."
Breanna Williams -- senior from Littleton, Colorado
"This trip has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I came into the trip without a clue of what to expect and from it I have gained a whole new perspective on life. Working with the Nicaraguan children was the highlight of my trip. They were all extremely loving and grateful when we would help them in their classrooms whether that was making Mother's Day cards or helping them learn English by reading books or making puzzles. The people were so friendly and everywhere we turned they were greeting us or smiling. I have gained a new appreciation for all the things I have here in the United States that most of the Nicaraguan people will never have the privilege of experiencing in their lifetime."
Tambre Haddock -- freshman from Longmont, Colorado
"Going to Nicaragua this past week has been a remarkable experience I will never forget. In the United States we hear every day about the poverty around the world, but until I witnessed that first hand it didn't really hit home with me. Not only was playing the Nicaraguan national team and El Salvador such an awesome experience, but it gave me a greater appreciation for my life and for the program and team I am a part of. Not many kids get the opportunities my teammates and I get every day and I want to make sure I am enjoying my time here at UNC and making the most of it. The people of Nicaragua completely touched my heart in a way I won't ever forget. I am so thankful for all those who put in the time and effort to make this trip possible. I am extremely blessed!!"
Natasha Law -- senior from Seabrook, Texas
Jill Dawson -- junior from Lincoln, Nebraska
"Our trip to Nicaragua was truly amazing, nothing that I ever could have imagined. Getting to spend time with all the kids was my favorite part. Seeing their faces light up when they saw new people walking in, and having the opportunity to play volleyball and soccer with them was so much fun! Being a part of the mobile library was a great experience, to see what the kids liked to read and how excited they were to get new books. This is one experience that I will never forget. I hope to return to Nicaragua soon to continue to help out."
Bri Strong, Sophomore from Cedar Rapids, Iowa
"My experience in Nicaragua is extremely hard, maybe even impossible, to describe how amazing it was in words. We went there originally to become better volleyball players; not only did we leave better volleyball players, we left as better people. Our trip to Nicaragua was not only a fun experience with my team, it was also very eye-opening. Seeing the living conditions that the people of Nicaragua go through everyday made me so grateful and blessed for what I have today. Working with the kids was the most rewarding experience I have ever had. I made some amazing memories with amazing teammates during our Nicaragua trip, ones I will never forget."
Merideth Johnson -- sophomore from Fort Collins, Colorado
"Nicaragua was a very special trip for our team and a memory that will last a lifetime for myself and others. This trip was my first time to a third world country. While it was a huge culture shock, it was also one of the most humbling experiences I've ever had. I'm so thankful to be a part of this team and that I was able to experience this trip that few get to experience as I did and with the people that I experienced it with. The people of Nicaragua are what truly made the trip what it was and I was so amazed by their kind, friendly, and welcoming attitudes. The part of the trip that was my favorite was the community service. The children and teachers that we met were such great people and I will always remember how grateful they were for everything. Although we were helping them they were the ones who had the most impact on the team. I would not trade this trip for anything and I now have a new perspective on life and the meaning of true happiness."
Andrea Spaustat -- freshman from Omaha, Nebraska"The trip to Nicaragua was one that I feel so privileged and blessed to be a part of. This experience I know will always stick with my in everything that I do. The Nicaragua trip impacted the way that I look at my life and all the privileges that I am offered here, whether it be schooling, volleyball, or the cush lifestyle I live. This was a very humbling experience that I will never forget!"
Alyssa Wilson -- sophomore from Clinton, Oklahoma"While being in Nicaragua I feel as if my life was truly changed. Seeing how other people in this world live was a great experience for me. Riding from place to place in Nicaragua, we were able to see their houses and how they live. The majority of the houses we drove by were just little shacks. A ton of people only had a bicycle as a form of transportation, and they would ride an entire family on one bike, even through the dust our trucks would stir up. Going to the schools was my favorite part of the entire trip. The language barrier was somewhat difficult, but seeing their happy joyful faces to even be able to go to school was awesome. At the English learning school, where we read to kids, I met a new friend named Gabriel, he was 8. Before we left I asked him if he was my friend in Spanish, and he said "si" with a huge smile on his face and gave me a hug. At our last volleyball clinic that we held I met a girl named Christine, and she was 11. She knew very little English, but I could tell that she was doing her best to communicate with me. Before we left she brought me a bracelet, took a picture with me, and gave me a big hug. Out of all the kids we met, I can still remember both of their names and faces. That is how much of an impact they had on my life. Getting to play volleyball in crazy conditions was so much fun. The first night we got to play outside under a couple of lights, on concrete, and with a live DJ playing the entire time. The rest of our games were inside of a building similar to a barn. It was crazy hot and we were all sweating insanely. We felt as if we were going to pass out a few times, but we learned how to push through it. This trip definitely helped our team in so many different ways. I am so fortunate to have been able to go on this trip, see the world, and meet new people."
Natalie Laband -- senior from Monument, Colorado
"The experience I had in Nicaragua was completely unimaginable. I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to go to such a beautiful place and live another life for a week. Working in the schools and libraries was by far the highlight of the trip. The kids are so happy and carefree with the little that they have. The language barrier was a little difficult but it didn't seem to bother them. They just enjoyed reading new books with new people. The kids touched me in more ways than I could even fathom. The life they live is completely different than mine. This made my appreciation for what I have been given grow even more. We also got to play some competitive volleyball against Team Nicaragua and El Salvador. The concrete court was different but awesome at the same time. Seeing the conditions that these girls play in changed my outlook on Butler Hancock completely. Nothing will be as hot as Nicaragua. In our down time we got to go zip lining down a mountain, catch some waves on the surfboard at the beach, and relax our bodies through yoga while watching the sunset. What an amazing seven days! I was so blessed to have gone on this journey. My eyes have been opened to many new opportunities in how I can serve others. I am so appreciative of the supporters of UNC Volleyball that helped us get down to Nicaragua. This would have never happened without such an amazing support system."
Marissa Hughes -- junior from Huntington Beach, California
"My experience in Nicaragua was amazing and life changing. I am so fortunate to have this experience that many other college athletes will not get. It was very heartwarming to connect with kids there who speak a different language. Communicating with the kids in a different way other than language will be something I will remember forever. Even though the kids did not have much, they were always smiling and happy. They truly appreciate life and everything they have. They have taught me lifelong lessons without even necessarily speaking. Getting the opportunity to help and give to others in a different country was very humbling. It is a memory I will carry with me forever."
RaeLynn Snyder -- junior from Simla, Colorado
"Going to Nicaragua was an experience that I will never forget for as long as I live. It was such an eye opening and inspiring trip! My favorite part of the trip was going into the schools in San Juan Del Sur and Granada and interacting with the children helping put on volleyball clinics and helping them with their school work. There are several smiles that will stick with me forever, and just knowing that I made an impact in some of those children's lives is so incredibly heartwarming. On our last night in Nicaragua we donated clothes, bags, and shoes to children and families in need, which was very uplifting as well. I thank God and everyone that helped support us to be able to have such an amazing experience. It was an absolute blessing and the memories that I made will be with me always!"
Kelley Arnold -- junior from Berthoud, Colorado
"Nicaragua was such an amazing experience that I never in my wildest dreams would have imagined. Before going on this trip I was somewhat hesitant because I didn't know what to expect. The people who know me well also know that I am not a very adventurous person and I don't like to try new things. I am honestly so happy that I was able to be a part of this trip and experience what I did. I loved working with the children in the schools and making those connections even though there was a huge language barrier. It was an eye-opening experience seeing what those children didn't have and were still happy with the bare minimum. I have taken so much away from this trip and I know that I will remember this trip for the rest of my life. Even though our priority was volleyball, the community service is what I will remember and what made the biggest impact on me. Thank you to everyone who played a role in helping us get this opportunity to serve others and better our volleyball program."