Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Second half of my trip to Panama...A photo is worth a thousand words!

When you make the world a better place for others, you have the good fortune of living in that world too. Give of yourself, for it is the most sincere, meaningful and valuable gift you can give.

-- Ralph Marston
"More than Sports" Homes of Hope Panama
...and the light shone down on this house we were building...

Thank goodness for the second half of my trip because it really gave me no choice but to put into perspective my mishaps of the racing the day before. I would be participating in Chris Lieto's "More than Sports" Project who had joined up with Homes of Hope. The plan would be to head into the Darien Gap into a seldom visited Indian village to help build a home for a family in need.

So a group of 30 or so athletes collected in the lobby in preparation for a long bus trip. Nothing lets you see more of a country than a road trip. We piled into a very old bus( that had no shocks) and headed on a long road towards Columbia.The check points every hour were a constant reminder that we were getting further and further away from home. But with many army guards around us carrying large weapons I felt safe at all times.

We arrived at a small field where a helicopter would fly in and take us on the final journey to the village where we would be spending the night.

Arriving in the village via helicopter was amazing...You really got a birds eye view of the miles and miles of untouched land. A highlight was being greeted by the little Indian kids. They had great big smiles on their face and I even got about ten marriage proposals.. It was all worth it right there!

The little children touched my heart and I wished I could have spoken more Spanish so I could have really communicated with them. It's amazing how the little 8/9 year old girls carry around these 2/3/4 month year old babies on their hips all day. The babies seeming quite content! The babies were my best part of the trip!!! Beautiful little angels.

After a quick delicious lunch we got straight to work. We would be building one house for a family of 9 kids.
The homes of the Darien Gap had been flooded in 2010 when it rained for months and the river rose. The Embera Indians have made make shift homes spread out amoung the hills on higher ground but the houses are in very poor condition and I was so happy to be a part of improving one families life.

We would also be showing the Indian men how easily they too could rebuild or improve their homes and hopefully with some of the funds raised they will beable to build a few more.

We started right away carrying lumber to the site...then concrete blocks, corregated iron pieces for the roof and finally big bags and buckets of sand and rocks from the river. This was heavy manual labour and all who had raced the day before were definitely feeling the heat and toll of the race. But we all worked hard together and it felt great!

As the sunset we were all exhausted...an amazing dinner had been cooked for us and we ate like kings, chatted and probably all hit our tents by 9pm...EXHAUSTED!
The night spent camping in the jungle was not restful for me, although the stars were beyond amazing.... As the night got quiet all sorts of animal calls were heard which was both fascinating and exhausting after a few nights of no sleep. But the army guards were close so I felt safe and rested my eyes until the sun rose the next morning! Three of us girls were happily squeezed into a tent and I am not sure if anyone got much sleep but the next morning we were all up and ready to go!

By the second day the house started taking shape and I was sad that by 12pm we had to head out as we were getting picked up by the helicopter again to be taken to a plane to head back to the city for an early flight out the next morning. I would have loved to see the finished house but will hopefully see pictures soon.

So a group of us headed out and waved goodbye to our little friends we had made.

I love athletes..The group was pretty awesome and it was fun getting to know everyone.

All in all it was an amazing experience and I was super glad I made the decision to be a part of it!


Kelly said...

This is AWESOME!! Good for you, Chris and all others who went out there. Had to of been a bit of a life changing experience. Really great stuff. :) ~Kelly

Lindsey Jerdonek said...

Wow, Jacqui, what a unique experience. Thanks for documenting it for us to see. I'm sorry abt the bad luck in your race, but everything is coming together for you. :)

Jacqui said...

Thanks Kelly...It really was cool to take some time to focus on doing something for others!!!! This sport requires so much focus and commitment and it's nice to keep things in perspective!
Lindsey thanks too....Yes while it was frustrating I know that I am headed in the right direction! Great training day! Looking forward to the next one!

Jamie said...

What an amazing trip! So cool that you got to double up on your racing trip and support an awesome cause at the same time.

Jill Poon said...

Wow Jacqui what an amazing experience!! Thanks for posting about it! Very cool!

Jacqui said...

Thanks Jill and Jamie! Yes great memories for sure!