The volleyball team arrived home on May 18 from their 16-day humanitarian trip to New Zealand and Samoa, returning successful not only in four international matches, but more importantly in service.
The team’s members spent nearly a week and a half in New Zealand playing three matches and enjoying the country and a week in Samoa dedicating themselves to serving those affected by the Tsunami that hit the islands last fall.
In New Zealand the team played two matches in Auckland and one in Hamilton. Other than the matches in Auckland, the team had the opportunity to visit the children’s ward at Middlemore hospital where they distributed beanies and teddy bears.
“Any opportunity that we had to be able to serve was a highlight of the trip,” said head coach Sam Atoa. “The opportunity to be able to give of yourself and to give of the things we took down made it well worth the trip.”
The team arrived in Samoa on May 11 and team members were picked up by their host families. Prior to the trip, the team collected humanitarian items and loaded them into a 40-foot container, which was shipped prior to their arrival.
Day one of the service leg of the trip found the team having to split in half to distribute items. Half of the team went to the Ah Mu Academy, an elementary school, to distribute items while the other half went with Atoa to the Catholic Elderly Care Center.
At the Ah Mu Academy the team distributed 30-35 boxes of school supplies that were donated by individuals here in Utah.
At the Catholic Elderly Care Center, the other half of the team distributed a pallet of medical supplies donated by Globus Relief, which is located in Salt Lake City. “Even though there was a language barrier, you could see that they were grateful,” said Atoa.
During the following days the team was able to visit the high school Atoa attended and take part in an assembly while also donating items such as athletic equipment. The team also had the opportunity to meet and visit with Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese, the Samoan head of state, as well as distribute items to the national hospital.
After finishing all their scheduled visits the team surprised three villages and two small hospitals unannounced and unplanned. Atoa referred to this day as Santa Claus Day. “It was a humbling experience,” said Atoa. “It was nice to stop unannounced and to be able to give.”
With the trip winding down, the team was not able to reach all areas that they would have liked. “The container was so big that we had to rely on other church leaders to get things trucked out to some of the areas that we were not able to get to that were affected by the Tsunami,” said Atoa.
Atoa is grateful the trip worked out as he had hoped and remarked that “It allowed the girls to be able to see this project come to an end. They started it and they were able to know that it finished.”
Reflecting back, Atoa says, “It was an amazing experience, it really was. I think anytime you loose yourself in service and are able to see the smiles on peoples faces, you can see the joy and gratitude.”