What I Did on My Summer Vacation: A Real World Experience
By Jessica Walters
Working out, sleep, and pool time typically characterized my summer, but between touring Europe with the volleyball team, helping an orphanage in West Africa, and blogging about the experience, the summer was anything but typical.
Traveling the world and writing about my experiences has been my dream since I was a little girl. I thought it was a far-off dream. I was wrong.
The trip to Europe was less of a surprise than the trip to Africa. Now a senior on the UNLV volleyball team, we spent the last three years raising $80,000 to go compete on a tour through Europe.
We raised the money by writing letters, coaching volleyball clinics for middle and high school athletes, and selling 10,000 UNLV wristbands for $2 a piece.
In a cruel turn of events, the spring before leaving for Europe, I tore a tendon in my shoulder and had to go in for surgery. Recovery time was five months, which released me to play a month after we returned from Europe.
The disappointment subsided slightly when one of the athletic administers suggested I put my journalism training to good use by documenting the trip through video and blogging on the athletic Web site.
With a camcorder in one hand and a camera in the other I wrote about walking through castles in Prague, dancing in Budapest, racing through the streets of Vienna, cascading down the mountain slides in Slovenia and riding the gondolas through the canals in Venice.
It was the most amazing journey I had ever taken, until four weeks later when I traveled to Africa.
The journey to Africa all started in Mary Hausch’s Advanced Reporting class when she had us draw out of a bag to pick the area of campus we would have to cover as our beat. I drew the Engineering complex.
While strolling the hallways of the Engineering building, I ran across a poster of Engineers Without Borders, a non-profit organization that just started a chapter in Las Vegas. The group’s goal is to help developing countries build needed infrastructure. The chapter was traveling to Ghana to build a well and latrine for an orphanage, and I wrote a story about it.
The president of EWB liked my story and invited me to go with them. Professor Hausch thought it was a great idea and connected me with Channel 8. My church said they would pay for my trip. Before I knew what was happening I was on a plane to Ghana, loaded with a camcorder and a blogging website courtesy of KLAS-TV.
Nothing prepared me for what I would experience in my 12 days in Ghana. I witnessed slums, true poverty, filthy conditions, people struggling to survive day to day. I held suffering children, dug trenches, danced with kindergarteners, played African drums and fell in love with the orphans.
Everyday I wrote about my experiences, posted videos of the orphans and the progress. Channel 8 followed the story in Las Vegas while I was in Africa. The blog became bigger than I expected.
The experience gave me a cause to fight for. There are currently 20 orphans living per 12-by-15 foot room and the orphanage is running out of money paying for a rented complex. They need a new orphanage that EWB is willing to build. EWB needs to raise $30,000 to build it. This caused me to think. If the volleyball team could raise $80,000 to go compete in Europe, we sure can raise $30,000 to change 80 orphans’ lives.
Visit my Ghana blog at http://theghanaexperience.wordpress.com, and the European blog at http://unlvrebels.cstv.com/sports/w-volley/spec-rel/european-blog.html.