Student-athletes and staff from the University of Oregon Athletic Department embarked on a nine-day trip to the Dominican Republic from June 15-23. The UO contingent teamed up with Courts for Kids, a tax-exempt organization which regularly works with local groups and community members to build courts which provide youth with the opportunity to play sports.

The 20 representatives from UO traveled specifically to Los Cerros which is part of the rural town of Don Juan located two hours north of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The team stayed with host families in very primitive conditions with bucket baths, latrines, sparse electricity and even sparser light bulbs.

The group immediately began construction on the court once they settled into their modest living quarters. An assembly line of responsibility was quickly formed:  moving water by hand and foot with the use of a bucket, leveling sand on the playing surface, shoveling sand into the cement mixer.

On the first day, the team was assigned the task of leveling a huge pile of dirt which would serve as the foundation for the playing surface.

Day two on the job included pouring and spreading the concrete. Approximately 30 percent of the court was done by the second day of labor.

Then there was some adversity for the group in day three, as the dump trucks could not get close to the construction site because overnight monsoon rains made the road impassable. This required the team to move the sand -- which was used to make concrete -- down a slippery hill by use of wheelbarrow and buckets. The task of moving the sand closer to the court took six hours.


Once the pile of sand was relocated, the team continued its assembly line of responsibility. The court was completed by morning's end on the fourth day of work. 

Despite some adversity which included a difficult language barrier with the locals, the workers bonded together through some hot and humid conditions.

Following the completion of the court, both the UO contingent and local volunteers christened the surface with some sporting competition.

On the final evening, the locals hosted a bonfire and special ceremony at the court to celebrate its completion. Local youth performed dances and community leaders were recognized for their part in the construction of the playing surface. The court will serve as one of the only communal sites in the area for locals to come together in large numbers.

It was a valuable trip for the UO student-athletes (representing eight different varsity sports teams) as they experienced a different culture and interacted with a population who possess different values and norms.

Links:
- Click here to read a recap on courtsforkids.org.

- Katie Harbert, UO’s Coordinator of Student Athlete Development who helped organize the Dominican Republic trip, was recently profiled as part of an Inside Oregon feature. Click here to read that Q&A

More about Courts for Kids
Courts for Kids is an official 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, based in Vancouver, Washington. The mission of Courts for Kids is to foster love, compassion, service and an expanding worldview as we take teams to economically disadvantaged areas, partnering with local organizations and community members to build courts which will provide kids with the opportunity to play sports.

More information can be found at courtsforkids.org.