January 23, 2015
Some spent their winter break skiing, some spent it on the beach, and others spent their time with Netflix. The Hamilton men’s soccer team, however, did not take much of a break. Several members, including Alec Talsania ’17, Peter Goldsmith ’17, Harris Pollack ’17, Spenser Heller ’17, Connor Crutchfield ’17 and Erich Marcks ’16, traveled to Guatemala for a week through the Guatemala Healing Hands Foundation (GHHF). The GHHF uses education, surgery and therapy in order to improve the Guatemalan health care system. The Hamilton students traveled to Chichoy Alto in the region of Patzun, Chimaltenango to improve education by building the second floor of the local school.
The men’s soccer team raised over $18,000 dollars to be used for the construction on the school, which should be finished by April. With the new second floor, students entering middle school will have the necessary learning space that they would not have otherwise had. The team also collected over 200 pairs of shoes and 100 soccer balls as well as other soccer gear, which they distributed to local teams in the area.
A typical day included waking up and getting breakfast at 7:30 a.m., driving 45 minutes to get to the school in Chichoy Alto and working on construction from 9:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. At around that time each day, the Hamilton students played soccer against local teams in the stadium in Antigua, Guatemala.
The school system in the Chichoy Alto spans first through ninth grade, after which “kids either start working or they can go to a vocational school,” according to Pollack. Vocational school is not cheap, however, so people aspiring to attend typically apply for sponsorships. While the members of the soccer team were in Guatemala, there were eight students looking for sponsorships. The highlight of the trip was when each Hamilton student and their families decided to sponsor all eight students. One of the students was looking to attend school for accounting, which would cost $250, so Pollack, Talsania, Goldsmith, Heller, Marcks and Crutchfield all agreed to chip in and sponsor the student together. According to Pollack, this was the most rewarding part of the trip for all six members.
Pollack, who is the Vice President of the Student Athletic Advisory Committee (SAAC) at Hamilton, plans to work with HAVOC to increase athletic community outreach throughout Utica.
Although the trip has ended, the soccer team’s connection to Chichoy Alto is far from over; in fact it has only just begun. The boys and their families intend to keep in touch with the students they are sponsoring. Pollack said that building the school and becoming the sponsors was so rewarding because they “really had a lasting impact on these kids’ lives.” Pollack emphasized their strong bond to Chichoy Alto, and the soccer players are planning to go back, hopefully with even more members of the team next time.