The phrase “time flies when you’re having fun” has never meant so much to me until being in TCI. This month has easily been the most challenging but the most rewarding 4 weeks of my life. I was not only a teacher to the TCI youth but this month was also focused on becoming a host mom to 23 Brock University students as they came down to work on sport for development on the island. Early this month the goal was to prepare the “Brock University Achievement Through Sport Initiative” to be delivered in schools for the week of February 18-February 22 as well as create and coordinate a weekend Inter-Island School Tag Rugby Festival. Although the planning and execution for this event made for some long nights, tiring days, and never ending Skype calls, the final product made all of the hard work worth it and I would do it 10 times over to be able to see the hundreds of smiles I got to see this past month.
With coordinating with Dr. Laura Cousens and a past TCI QE Scholar Ryan Sutton, we were able to create a unique sport for development program to be delivered at schools in TCI. This program focused on instilling the importance of resilience, women empowerment, and sport participation while applying for post-secondary schooling through the use of different rugby related physical education activities. Soon after their arrival Brock students were separated into groups and broken out to different primary, middle, and high schools across Providenciales and Grand Turk where they would lead and facilitate programs in their respective schools for the next week. This program aligned with the goals of the youth development program for the TCIRFU as it gave youth the opportunity to learn the importance of sport and how it can give them once in a lifetime opportunity in the future such as mentorship, travelling, or even furthering their education.
The youth in TCI took to the Brock students better than I could have ever imagined, everyone became one big family and the youth never looked happier to see a group of people that they looked up to and could lean on. Although some schools were on their midterm break, that didn’t stop Brock from continuing to share their messaging through the creation and execution of a mid-term summer camp held every day of the week where the same ideas were shared in a different less structured environment for youth aged 3-18.
A lot of planning went into the creation of the inaugural “Inter-Island School Tag Rugby Festival”, from the sponsors and donors to the fixtures, trophies and even refs. There were a lot of moving pieces that made this event as successful as it was. This tournament wouldn’t have been even close to this successful without the hard work and dedication of the Brock University SPMA 4P93 class that put in 2 back-to-back 15 hour days to execute the biggest rugby tournament TCI has ever seen. The day was filled with 20 passionate teams, loads of fun off field activities, great music, even greater bonding moments, delicious BBQ, a couple bloody knees, competitive rugby, 3 division champions, and most importantly over 300 smiling faces the entire day. Because of all of this I would consider the first “Inter-Island School Tag Rugby Festival” to be a huge success.
While having the Brock students on island we thought it was essential that we show them the true island life and all of the amazing aspects of the place that Taylor and I get to call home. Upon their arrival Brock University was welcomed at the airport by myself, Taylor and members of the rugby community to make sure they got welcomed just like they were family. Throughout their time here Brock students got to experience the well-known rugby BBQ’s, Thursday night tag-rugby, Saturday morning youth rugby, the island’s most popular event Fish Fry, an all-inclusive day at Club Med, as well as a boat trip to go snorkelling at the barrier reef. Being on their reading week you would have thought that they would have taken any free time to go to the beach but the students had different ideas in mind. While here students insisted on spending their free time making a difference on the island, in doing so the students along with myself and my predecessor Ryan Sutton spent free-time cleaning up the field at Enid Capron Primary School, visiting the local orphanage getting to make some lifelong connections with the youth, as well as volunteering at Pot Cakes K9 rescue.
Getting to see the impact that sport has on such a diverse group of individuals was truly a life changing experience, sport something so simple in Canada is a channel for connecting two people with basically nothing in common. Although being 2/3 of the way done my internship here in Turks and Caicos, I am beyond proud and honoured to have been a part of this program and to be given the opportunity to leave a Brock University and TCIRFU legacy for years to come on the island of Turks and Caicos.