It's crazy to think I started on this island as your "Nevis Housewife", however things have drastically changed, and to make life a little more interesting last week I attended my first ever Special Olympics National Games for St.Kitts-Nevis. What an experience!
A bit of background info: I started on the committee in September of 2015 as secretary, however due to the business it entailed, and the fact that I had 0 experience in this area, and that there were so many unknowns as to planning for events, who the athletes are, who all these people are I was working with, I had no relationships with anyone, and working a full time job plus completing a masters degree, I stepped down as secretary and decided to focus my attention on the athletes themselves, specifically with swimming.
Being on an island surrounded by water, one would think that everyone here can swim. Not true! Most of the locals are actually afraid of water due to fear of sharks. A reasonable doubt I suppose if this is all you have known. However I managed to find 3 swimmers for the Nevis side, and was assisting in training them for competition.
After weeks of planning, countless meetings, headaches, and emails the competition finally arrived. Now seeing as this was my first go round, I had no clue what to expect. Even the people who have been a part of this for several years had no clue what to expect! I can't imagine though, in North America Special Olympic teams have to worry about ferry times and organizing rides to and from port. That was very chaotic. However our athletes made it to St.Kitts safely for the track and field day. There was even a performance by a local Soca artist Nicha B! I was so proud of myself for knowing who he was and knowing the song he sang. Some of the locals were shocked at my knowledge! ;)
The track day went well all things considered! It was a long hot day, and we cut it close to getting the boat back to Nevis but I think the athletes had a great time. There was a team from Connecticut who attends our meet every year, and I over heard one of the coaches say they thought things were nice and organized (even though we got the schedule of events on arrival). Medals were won, smiles were had, and only a minor sprained ankle occurred!
This was the opening ceremonies
Athletes from the Connecticut Team
Super Star Runners
The next day we had a Bocce Ball tournament on Nevis. Team Connecticut came over for an island tour, so obviously it makes sense to have the white newbie girl show them around...I learned a lot about Nevis, so I guess it worked out.
Again something I didn't expect to be part of the job when working with Special Olympics.
The team made it to Nevis!
This was my tour bus! (Don't worry I didn't drive, the taxi driver was our great tour guide!)
The last day was the aquatics day. This time I was at the forefront. Managing my athletes and coaches and parents and coordinating the ferry and payment for the ferry was stressful! Not to mention I was very sea sick on the way over to St.Kitts! To much reading.
St. Maarten was joining us for the day, but their plane was delayed, the schedule of events had to be changed, and the organizer of the aquatics who quit two weeks before the event decided to show up and not tell anyone and helped run the show. What a whirlwind! However, once things calmed down, and the breeze showed up, I was able to enjoy watching my athletes swim their hearts out and earn some medals. One of my favourite moments was seeing one of my swimmers who complained all training about being afraid of water and not wanting to swim, and how she thought she couldn't swim well, absolutely owned at front crawl and came first! Seeing her face light up at the finish line, and receiving a medal made the whole experience and months of planning totally worth it. Take a look at some highlights from the event!
These 2 girls, I have been working with for the past 3 months! They have worked so hard!
A small pool, and our own make shift lanes, but it worked! Pool Noodles are very useful!
This has been an incredible opportunity on this island, and it has allowed me to break through my comfort zone and truly start to feel like I am part of this community. I met some amazing people, was able to work with some fantastic athletes, and I really hope to continue to make a difference in these kid's lives. They deserve opportunities like every other child, and I hope to spread the word around the island and show some awareness about Special Olympics. I may be new to the game, but somehow it landed me an interview on local TV, and I developed the swim program which I hope to grow in the time I have left here.
It was definitely a week to remember!!
A little fun dining experience after the games. This guy stole my french fry right out of my hand! Ketchup and everything!!