Courtesy: Michelle McCullough
LAS CRUCES, N.M. – Several members of the New Mexico State women’s swimming and diving program traveled to Limbé, Haiti over spring break, where they lent a helping hand to those who are less fortunate.
The Aggies partnered with Kristine Bender, mother of swimmers Picabo and Olivia Bender, and the non-profit organization, iWilGo, to help teach and mentor secondary school students at The Grace Mission located in the town of Limbé.
“We began dreaming this trip up after WAC Championships last February, so it was a long time in the making,” assistant coach Rachel Judge said. “We worked tirelessly with Kristine and the non-profit organization, iWilGo, to make sure this trip would not interfere with our competitive season. We also wanted to make sure we would have enough time to fundraise and for all those who had a heart to go would be able to find a way to do so.”
The girls traveled to Phoenix, Ariz. where they caught a flight to Miami, Fla., and made their way to Cap-Haïtien, Haiti. Once there, they took a two-hour car ride to the school. Team captain, Lanie McAlpin, recounts her time in Haiti as both inspiring and eye-opening.
“Leading up to this trip, I spent days preparing my heart, but no amount of preparation could account for the experiences and conditions we faced, both the amazing and hard ones,” McAlpin said. “I met the reality of the life and opportunities I have been blessed with, and the reality of the lives of these students and the people of Haiti. Despite the mountains before our students and the adversity they face, their smiles, determination, laughs, perseverance and hearts were inspiring and eye-opening.”
Junior Hanna McGowan and the other seven members of the team stayed on-site at the Barkman Center that was comprised of an orphanage, church, senior care center, baby crisis center, school and director and team facilities. During their week-long trip, they helped students write their first research papers and book reports, while cultivating their science, math, reading and grammar skills.
“Not only did this trip open my eyes, but it gave me a new perspective and made me more aware of all the opportunities we have in America,” said McGowan. “I used to see pictures and videos of the devastating conditions in Haiti, but couldn’t believe how accurate they all were when we arrived. Despite nothing being in favor of their success, these kids had perseverance, determination and so much grace. It was an amazing experience, and I wouldn’t have wanted to spend my spring break any other way.”