After I graduated High School I spent three months volunteering in Guatemala at Safe Passage, an NGO that works with the community around the Guatemala City Garbage Dump. Those three months altered my life completely, I still continued with my plan of attending college at UNC and playing Ultimate Frisbee competitively, but the connection I had built with Guatemala stayed with me and shaped my life. It was because of Guatemala that the next summer I spent a month in Mexico learning to teach English. That summer in Mexico was my first experience with ultimate outside of the U.S.
A couple weeks before I traveled down to Mexico, through a roundabout email string, I got in contact with TECOS, a club ultimate group based out of Guadalajara, where I was going to be living. I was informed that TECOS would be attending Mexico’s first ever Mixed Nationals tournament a week after I arrived and they said it would be possible for me to play. So one week after I arrive in Guadalajara, I get on a bus and take the 5 or 6 hour trip down to Mexico City to compete. I was one of 3 or 4 ‘gringos’ on the team, and quite a few other teams had some American players. It was an amazing experience, and the most striking thing about ultimate in Mexico was Spirit of the Game. Even at a very high level, Nationals, Spirit of the Game was highly valued and very apparent. It was clear that everyone at the tournament simply enjoyed playing ultimate, and the outcome of the game came second to that. After every game the teams would get together and talk about great plays from the game on each side of the disc, MVP and Spirit Awards were given out, and there was just an overwhelming positive atmosphere at the tournament. After a windy Saturday, TECOS had a strong Sunday and won the tournament. The final was a great experience; held in a small stadium, all of the other teams at the tournament watched, cheered, heckled, and had an overall great time.
The experience in Mexico really stuck with me, and it was during the following summer, when I returned to Guatemala to volunteer with Safe Passage that it struck me, if ultimate could be so successful in Mexico, why not Guatemala. I had found a small pickup game of ultimate in Antigua, Guatemala where I was living and it made me realize that there is potential for ultimate in Guatemala. Safe Passage already had a sustainable sport program that was able to run things like a lacrosse program, so ultimate, a sport that just needs a disc and a field, seemed very feasible. This is where I started to develop my idea for the Ultimate Service Trip. I developed the idea to bringing down a group of UNC ultimate players to volunteer at Safe Passage and teach ultimate Frisbee to the children.
I am excited to say that this idea is in the process of being realized. Members from both UNC’s Men’s Ultimate Frisbee team, Darkside, and Women’s team, Pleiades, will travel down to Guatemala at the end of this school year, from June 2nd-9th, to volunteer for Safe Passage in Guatemala City. Safe Passage works with the community that lives and works in the garbage dump in Guatemala City, the largest garbage dump in Central America. Safe Passage’s mission is to bring hope, education, and opportunity to the children and families living in extreme poverty around the City’s garbage dump. In its 13 years of existence Safe Passage has grown to work with over 550 children and nearly 300 families. I am very excited to bring my teammates down to volunteer and excited for the possibility to teach ultimate to the children. For the week that the UNC ultimate players will be at Safe Passage we will volunteer in all different parts of the project, but our main focus will be to teach ultimate through the well established sports program that are exists there.
This trip will be organized with the help of UNC Club Sports, the support of Ultimate Peace, and will only be possible by donations from people like you. My dream for this trip is that it becomes a UNC tradition and can also be used as a model trip for other Ultimate Frisbee teams who want to travel down to Guatemala and teach Frisbee to children. To learn more about the trip and stay updated take a look at our blog. If you feel inclined to support us in this trip you can donate online, here’s how:
- Go to www.giving.unc.edu
- Press ‘Give Now’, then click ‘Search Funds’ and search for ‘Men’s Ultimate Frisbee’. Select the Men’s team from the list (account #1465) and fill in the rest of the information on the website and you will be good to go! This is a donation to UNC, a state institution, so it is also tax deductible!