Brooklyn Heights, NY -- With the season rapidly approaching, thinking back to the summer that just ended brings a huge smile to sophomore guard Sarah Benedetti's face. Benedetti had the opportunity of a lifetime.
Benedetti spent ten days in Brazil, volunteering time to host basketball clinics, visiting orphanages, and different schools in the towns.
“After the basketball portion of the assembly, we would talk to the kids about taking the higher path,” mentioned Benedetti in her excerpt. “For example, staying in school rather than dropping out and selling drugs (which is a very serious problem in Brazil). We promoted the importance of education, family, and religion for guidance to make the proper decisions throughout life.”
She kept a journal, depicting all the sights, sounds, and day activities during her trip.
Brazil Trip: August 2-13, 2012
This past August, I spent my time a little differently than I normally do. I was given the opportunity of a lifetime to partake in a mission trip in Brazil. This trip was a combination of basketball and volunteer work. I spent 10 days in Brazil and had honestly, the time of my life. I was able to visit a foreign country, embrace a new culture, meet amazing people, play the sport I love, represent the United States, and greatest of all, help people in need. This trip affected my life in so many ways; it was truly a humbling experience that I will never forget.
Being honest, I was a little nervous to go to a foreign country not knowing a single person. But it only took a few hours after meeting everyone to feel totally comfortable. While being down in Brazil, each day had brought us something different. The day we had gotten there was definitely a struggle. After traveling over 10 hours, we had finally reached Fortaleza, a city on the coast line just three degrees south of the equator.
Exhausted after the flight, we spent the night resting up for the next day, which was to be a very busy one. The next day started out early. We first went to the basketball stadium where we were hosting a clinic for coaches and players to improve and learn more about basketball. The clinic was for boys and girls ranging from ages 13-18. We ran the players through drills, interacting with them along the way. Not many of the players could speak English, which made it incredibly difficult to help and talk to them. Although there was a language barrier, the players and coaches were grinning ear to ear, showing how appreciative they were of this experience. The kids were awesome to be around, regardless of the difference in lifestyle, we still had a blast sharing the sport we loved. During our time in Fortaleza, we did three clinics.
At night, we had the opening ceremony for the international cup that we were playing in. Once again the Brazilians were all very warm and welcoming of us. We played three games in Fortaleza, including the gold medal game. There was an award ceremony after the game, with a newscast recording the celebration. It was great to represent the United States and win the gold medal.
When we weren't volunteering and playing basketball in Fortaleza, we visited what the city is most famous for, the beaches. The beaches were absolutely gorgeous, and the water was beautiful. One of the beaches had enormous sand dunes, where we took dune buggies and raced around the beach. It was such a fun activity. Being able to relax on such gorgeous beaches was awesome.
After the few days in Fortaleza, we flew back to Sao Paulo for the remainder of the trip. The first day we arrived, we visited an orphanage run by an American family. There were about 60 kids, all of which bombarded us the minute we got off the bus. There was a little girl no older than seven, who ran over to me and grabbed my leg, wanting to be picked up. I picked her up and from that point on, she wouldn't let go. It was saddening to see how little love these children received. Being able to give the kids some attention and affection was the best feeling in the world. I really could tell that kids absolutely loved the interaction. While we were there, we played basketball and a traditional outdoor Brazilian game similar to dodge ball. The kids were all so thankful to see us, and it was very obvious that our visit really made their day. It was a very humbling experience to see these children who have almost nothing but are still incredibly happy for the little they have. It made me very appreciative and thankful for everything I have, and also to always look positively on a situation. If they can make the best of their situation, absolutely anyone can.
On top of visiting the orphanage, we also traveled to different schools in towns around Sao Paulo. We visited all different levels of school; elementary, middle, and high schools. Both our men's and women's teams came to the school, and put on a presentation/clinic for the school. We showed them tricks, while the boys showed the kids some dunks. We also let them participate in some drills and just played basketball with them. After the basketball portion of the assembly, we would talk to the kids about taking the higher path. For example, staying in school rather than dropping out and selling drugs (which is a very serious problem in Brazil). We promoted the importance of education, family, and religion for guidance to make the proper decisions throughout life.
Later that night, we would travel back to the school to play one of the provincial teams in the area. Literally, the entire town would come out and watch, as the Americans would play against their home team. After the game was over, Brazilians would rush over asking for autographs, our Facebook names, and sometimes just to talk to us to practice their English. It was the greatest feeling in the world to feel wanted by so many people. It made me feel like I was a celebrity. Although, they could not really speak English, we were able to have conversations through hand gestures. Thankfully, Spanish and Portuguese are pretty similar, which was helpful when trying to converse. The little Spanish I knew genuinely helped our conversations. In total, we traveled to three different towns and put on clinics and played in three basketball games.
The trip had come and gone so quickly. After the trip to the last school, we headed to the airport. It was bittersweet to leave Brazil. I had met so many new friends, experienced a new way of life, and had gotten to help so many people. I had so much fun, but I missed the United States. Seeing how other people lived was refreshing, but it made me grateful for everything I have, as well as for all the opportunities I have in my life. There is only one word that can sum up this trip, and that is amazing. I truly had the time of my life on this trip, and I will definitely never forget it.