¿Qué lo qué? Courts for Kids trip to the Dominican Republic

Qué lo qué?

This was the first phrase taught to Bellarmine’s travelers once arriving in the Dominican Republic, which is the Dominican way to say “What’s up”. It was the beginning of a vibrant trip full of teamwork and cross-cultural interactions. 

Courts for Kids is an organization that builds courts across the world in developing countries. The correlation between sports and the development of children is positive in a multitude of ways, some being learning teamwork, making friends, staying healthy, and improving self-esteem. The core values of this organization are as listed: authentic relationships, genuine partnerships, transformational experience, and exceptional character. 

In July, 17 Bellarmine students and two chaperones met at the airport in Seattle and departed on what would be a ten day trip to the Dominican Republic. 

On this particular trip, the group of Bellarmine students worked together with locals and the concrete contractor to build a multi-sport court: for basketball, volleyball, and even soccer. For the students, this meant shoveling sand, gravel, and concrete into buckets to load into the concrete mixer, as well as wheelbarrowing it into the court. The difference between a construction site in the DR compared to the US was striking for the students. Similarly striking was working in the heat and humidity of the tropical location. 


A before and after shot of the court! Photos courtesy of Mary Rink

After finishing the court on day five, the community had an opening ceremony for the new court. Many important people in the town of El Seibo, including the governor, spoke in front of many locals who came to celebrate. That evening, the first games of volleyball, soccer, and basketball were played for the first time!

Right after the first inaugural basketball game was played on the court. Photo courtesy of Ramsey Slack

While the building of the court was the purpose of the trip, it was not the only important takeaway for our students. The interactions with the locals and exploring the culture was unforgettable. In between shifts working on the court, during meals, and in the evening there was time to talk with the locals, play games, and learn about one another! While only some Bellarmine students spoke Spanish fluently just like few of the Dominican locals spoke English fluently, they were all still able to communicate in new ways, and teach each other parts of both languages. Many of them are still in contact today via social media like WhatsApp. 

Additionally, exploring the local culture created a perspective shift for everyone involved. The local cuisines, activities, and ways of life were exciting to explore. A fan favorite was limoncellos, a local fruit that came from trees growing right at the school.

Senior Maya Loveland-Hyland noted one of the greatest takeaways she received from the trip, “I feel like I have a much better understanding on how to communicate and build friendships without speaking the same language or sharing the same culture.”

Similarly, Senior Colin Webber said “I understand more clearly now why these trips are done. It helps not only the locals in the community, but it also helps to create meaningful long lasting relationships with everyone involved. Along with these relationships, it also helps you grow!”

Sr. Ana, the principal of the school we worked with, was overjoyed with the completion of the court and the relationships we built. This school had been waiting for this court to be built since before the COVID 2020 pandemic. Her statement was translated from Spanish, and she said, “For me, the presence of the Courts for Kids in my school was great. In the first place, sharing the goods of each other encouraged us to carry out a project that we dreamed of for a very long time. Seeing it come true, and joining forces makes me happy and grateful. The presence of these young people was impressive for me, the strength, if we organize ourselves we can do all we want. I was taught to keep fighting until God gives me strength and life is worth it. For the staff and students it was a lesson and we learned it for life. Thanks. God bless and multiply all the good you do!”

Sr. Ana with her gloves on, ready to help build the court! Photo courtesy of Mary Rink

Before embarking on the way home, the Bellarmine group visited a stunning beach in Santo Domingo. The tropical location and blue water was a wonderful sight, and a perfect end to the entire experience.

Read a detailed trip summary here: