Dec. 5, 2017
By Brad Muller | More Features
Some college students want the latest electronics as holiday gifts or look forward to vacationing at home or elegant locales. Five South Carolina equestrian student-athletes are on the other end of the spectrum as they wanted to make a difference to those in need, so they’re heading to Haiti on a mission trip for part of their holiday break. A traveling party of approximately 20 college students will be making the trip with Filter of Hope, a Christian-based organization, for six days beginning January 3 to bring the gift of clean drinking water.
“I think it’s very rewarding,” said Sarah Isgett, a junior studying Public Health, who made a similar trip last year. “Sometimes you have to take a step back and realize that what’s happening in America isn’t the only thing going on. There is such a need with poverty in so many other places of the world. When I went over spring break, we got into little groups and distributed water filters. We’d go into their villages, travelling down dirt roads in the middle of nowhere in some of the poorest parts of Haiti. I went with 16 or 17 other people, loved it, and had the best time ever.”
When Isgett found out about another opportunity during Christmas break, she jumped at the chance and invited her teammates, Bridgett White, Lizzie van der Walde, Meredith Milton and Raleigh Bacharach to make the trip as well.
“I’ve gone on mission trips in middle school and high school, and I’ve seen how little things can really impact people in a big way,” said van der Walde, a junior marketing and management major. “We have so much. This is such a small thing for us, but it can really impact them, so I’m looking forward to it.”
“I’ve never been on a mission trip, but I come from a very strong Christian family,” said White, a junior mass communications major. “When Sarah talked about it, I thought it would be cool to represent Gamecock Equestrian.”
The Gamecocks will surely be exposed to a different world.
“Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere,” Isgett explained. “It’s incredibly eye-opening. There are straw and mud huts wherever you go. Everything feels like it’s set back two or three hundred years. Nobody has electricity. These people have nothing. They’ve never seen phones before. I would show them my equestrian videos on my phone, and all the little kids were amazed. All of their clothes are t-shirts that came from sports events like the Boston Marathon. Pretty much everything they have has been donated.”
“I’m a little nervous, but I’m more excited than anything else,” White said. “My parents were cooler with it than I thought. I thought this was important to do, and I always wanted to do something like this.”
“To have student-athletes involved in this is another great way we can represent our school,” van der Walde added.
My hope is that we go and really make an impact on their lives.
More important than designer clothes or cell phones, Filter of Hope helps provide a basic necessity in creating access to clean drinking water.
“We provide these kits, and drill a hole into the bucket and put the filter on,” Isgett said. “You dump dirty water in there, and when it comes out, it’s cleaner than our tap water. We would drink the water and show them that it’s clean. The buckets will last for ten years, and they can change the filters on to other buckets. It allows them to have clean water for ten years, which is great because they don’t have a water system at all there like we do.”
The volunteers will also be sharing their faith, and the Haitians will be doing a lot of work to help make it all work. Meanwhile, the volunteers are rewarded in a subtle way.
“It’s one of those things that humbles you,” Isgett said of her previous trip. “I asked my mom if she would help pay for me to go to Haiti on the mission trip as my Christmas present. It makes you take a step back to see that not everybody has the things that we take for granted, like running water.
“Everyone was so appreciative. We’d play with the kids a lot. They were the coolest. They didn’t know what they didn’t have. You wanted to feel bad for them. They’re very happy people.”
“My hope is that we go and really make an impact on their lives,” White said. “I hope to have a new perspective on things since I’ve never been to another country like that before. I hope I’ll appreciate more of what I have.”
Isgett noted that the trip back to America after such an experience can be also be a culture shock.
“You realize you can walk into the Atlanta airport and there are so many places to get food and water whenever you want it, and these people, everything they eat, they have to produce on their own in an area where it’s not easy to do that,” Isgett said.
The Gamecocks hope that other students and student-athletes will follow their lead in the future.
“I’d like to be able to do this again with more people,” Isgett said. “I think the five of us getting to go is going to be great, and we’re going to be able to come back to tell our athletic community about it. To go back later with a bigger group of student-athletes would be great.”
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