Twelve members of the Colorado Christian University men's soccer team landed in sunny Nicaragua on March 22, 2007, for spring break. Instead of sand and surf, their focus was on concrete, bricks, and creating an additional classroom at a local school.
Junior midfielder Tim Lowe and his father, Kevin, along with Phil Sykora and Head Coach John Russo -- all Littleton, Colorado, residents -- were part of a 21-member team that spent 10 days constructing an additional classroom for the Eben-Ezer School. Located in the rural community of San Isidro, the school has just six classrooms to teach 280 elementary and 220 high school students. Elementary classes are held in the mornings and the high school students attend during the afternoon.
Money is scarce in the school's budget for replacing aging equipment or to expand facilities. That is why the Denver-based Casa Unida Foundation set up the recent service trip. Casa Unida is an all-volunteer, nondenominational organization working to ease the effects of poverty in Nicaragua -- the second-poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. The foundation is currently working to enlist volunteers and raise funds toward doubling the size of Eben-Ezer.
"We feel that education is a key to unlocking the chains of poverty for many Nicaraguans," stated Lakewood, Colorado, resident and Casa Unida Vice President Bob Moore. "This is our initial school project in Nicaragua. Our plan is to enlarge the school so each child can attend a full day of classes."
While members of the CCU team paid their own expenses, Casa Unida arranged transportation, housing, and food, and also raised money to locally buy building project materials. The plan: to turn a vacant plot of land adjacent to Eben-Ezer into an additional connected classroom. With the help and localized construction knowledge of a half-dozen Nicaraguan craftsmen, the volunteers used picks and shovels to dig the foundation, shovels to hand-mix concrete, and 5-gallon buckets to pour the foundation. The walls were raised with hand-placed bricks.
"It was hard work, but it was also rewarding to help make education better for these children," Tim Lowe commented. "The people at the school regularly stopped by to thank us and the school kids even came over to help when they could."
The CCU team was able to help complete nearly 70 percent of the project before their spring break concluded. On March 30, as the group prepared to return home, the community celebrated. More than 100 area residents lined up to shake hands or hug each team member.
"This school may be the only chance these children have to succeed," Coach Russo stated. "Their smiles and the love of the community captured our hearts. It was a great experience, and I believe all of us would like to someday return and continue helping the school to grow."
Other members of the men's soccer team who attended the trip included Bryan Etkie, Mitchell Harty, Jack Lennon, Aaron Mednansky, Dylan Riley, Taylor Shade, Tim Starr, Silas Thomas, Mitchell Wingrove, and Caleb and Gabriel Ziolkowski.
Learn more about CCU Athletics.