Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Serious Ting

Serious Ting is a publication by and for the Peace Corps Eastern Caribbean community, including Peace Corps Volunteers, Peace Corps Staff, Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, and host-country nationals.  Serious Ting is dedicated to publishing submissions that are productive in nature, enhance communication within the Peace Corps community, represent the diversity of our experiences and/or reflect a spirit of creativity. 

Serious Ting relies on contributions from Peace Corps Eastern Caribbean Volunteers, Staff and host-country nationals.  Articles can be on any topic, creative, journalistic or informative.  Below is the article that I submitted for the next issue of Serious Ting discussing my involvement with the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Rugby Union Football Club.

I was always very active; I swam competitively, I cycled, and I played rugby.  So when I found out I was going to be serving in the Caribbean, I figured I would get back into swimming.  However, those dreams were dashed when I learned I would be living in the interior, in a rural farming village in the Marriaqua Valley, making it rather difficult to get to the sea to swim. I knew I wouldn’t be able to continue cycling, for various reasons, most notably I would not have a bike and the roads are narrow and dangerous.  And I certainly didn’t think I would be playing rugby.  So I continued my service for about a year without doing much activity.  That was until a chance meeting and a fleeting conversation between a fellow volunteer and the girlfriend of a rugby player. 
This serendipitous meeting has led me to form some of the greatest relationships, mold my fondest (and one of the most unforgettable!) memories, provide the opportunity to experience many new adventures and help to make a positive impact in the lives of many kids.  What initially started as something to occupy my time and get back into shape has quickly evolved into one of my proudest achievements and the reason I have extended my service in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
When I first came on the scene to the SVG Rugby Union Football Club (SVGRUFC) it was nothing more than a few (approximately 5 guys and one or two women) gathering around to pass the ball and play a pick up game of touch rugby.  Over the course of the past year, a committed group of both players and non-players have been meeting regularly to re-direct SVGRUFC.  This group facilitated the election of the new Executive Board, which is dedicated and focused on re-establishing rugby in St. Vincent as the force it once was.  This includes focusing on increasing awareness and interest in rugby and in particular, in the youth.  The executive has been working feverishly to restore rugby in St. Vincent to its former glory and has thus far significantly boosted attendance at training sessions, raised funds for a school rugby programme which has attracted many new youth players, conducted monthly community outreach programmes aimed at increasing exposure of the SVGRUFC while positively contributing to the betterment of society and promoting environmentalism and volunteerism, as well as organized a summer youth rugby camp to be held during the month of August 2013.
Over the years, the idea that rugby is a white man’s sport has been all but nearly shattered. What started as a chiefly expat group of rugby enthusiasts has evolved into an almost exclusively Vincentian group of men and women interested in the sport of rugby and all that it stands for.  Since its inception in 1998, the SVGRUFC has celebrated many successes in the regional and international levels.  This includes victories in prominent tournaments beating teams such as St. Lucia, Barbados and Trinidad.  These accomplishments were shared by the men’s, women’s and U19 teams at the time.  Unfortunately, the last few years have seen a decrease in interest and prominence of the SVGRUFC; the SVGRUFC was all but lost and forgotten.
Aside from all the stressful but necessary administrative duties of writing grants, proposals, and reports and trying to make the necessary contacts at various national organizations that I have been involved with since joining the Executive team, I have also had the opportunity to be involved in so many new and wonderful experiences.  My fondest memories from joining SVGRUFC are not playing rugby, but rather our many fundraising and community outreach events.  Fortunately, through our countless themed-dinner (I have now learned how to make sushi) fundraisers, I will now have a career in waitressing to fallback should my engineering degree not work out. Organizing and executing a dinner fundraiser is a lot of work, it’s tiring and stressful, but seeing the many new supporters of SVGRUFC enjoying their food and raising much appreciated money to fund our youth programme and summer camp is well worth it.  We even manage to have a little fun along the way.
Our most successful endeavor in rebranding SVGRUFC has been our monthly community outreach events.  These include beach clean ups in communities throughout St. Vincent and donations and visits to the Nursing and Community Home and the Mental Health Institute.  These events help to increase awareness of the SVGRUFC through the positive media attention these events create, while contributing to the ever-important promotion of environmentalism and volunteerism among our team and the greater community.  The beach clean ups are particularly fun.  While our primary goal is to clean the beach and/or community, it is always followed by a cook up to which every one contributes something to the pot, a beach rugby game, and bathing in the sea.
I have had the pleasure of meeting people in many capacities throughout St. Vincent, all as a result of joining SVGRUFC, several of which have become close friends. I can check off “sailing” from my bucket list, after the team traveled to St. Lucia by sailboat to play a “friendly” game.  And that “unforgettable” memory I referenced earlier: that would be spending an evening in the emergency room having my lip stitched back together, after an unfortunate collision with the biggest and strongest man on the team.  I will be forever grateful for that chance meeting that has ultimately given me the opportunity to continue my service, forge forever friendships, travel and experience many new adventures and give back to St. Vincent in an unlikely and unexpected way.

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