NASHVILLE --- Tennessee State softball sophomore’s Emma Colegrove and Maddi Clark traveled to the Dominican Republic to help teach under privileged youth English and softball. The two Tigers spent a week in the D.R. as a part of Outreach360.
Outreach360 was originally incorporated in 1995 as Orphanage Outreach to assist an orphanage in the Dominican Republic. As the Orphanage Outreach volunteer program grew, more and more volunteer effort was expended on disadvantaged neighboring communities. The focus was on education—English, literacy, and community health. To more accurately represent our community efforts, Orphanage Outreach began doing business as Outreach360 in 2011.
The duo began the journey looking to make a difference in the lives of the young children in Monte Cristi and the neighboring communities. The experience became as much of an impact on Colegrove and Clark, as it was to the youth of the area.
“I honestly think about the trip all the time,” said Colegrove. “I have a few reminders of the trip that I constantly have on me. They are good daily reminders to keep me humble. Everything I do, I appreciate more than I did before.”
The counselors would spend the day teaching their respected sport and the evenings playing with the kids or spending time in the community.
“I think about the Dominican Republic every single day,” Clark said. “I miss the kids more than anything. Whether it was a little boy who would yell my name nonstop until I came outside to play, or sweet Casey whose precious laugh still runs through my head, I can’t help but get sad occasionally and wish I was with them. There was one boy though, who forever changed my life. A picture of him is set as my screen saver on my phone as a constant reminder of my experience with him.”
The trip began with a lengthy all day trip with several stops and was even a milestone for Clark. Not only was this the first time out of the country for the Lyles, Tenn. native, but it was also the first time on an airplane. So the excitement began even before landing on the Caribbean island.
The mentors completed training before heading out to the community for their first day of coaching and teaching. Athletic opportunities are not a high priority for young girls in the D.R., so the week started on a bit of a slow note as no one showed up to participate.
The first day was not a loss as other Outreach counselors helped go around the neighborhood to find girls to come out. The nudge led into more girls coming out over the remaining days.
During the journey, the TSU teammates were able to tour around the island, including a visit to a biweekly trade market on the Haitian border and an evening trip to the peer to enjoy a sunset. They also went on an early morning hike up a small part of a mountain to watch the sun rise.
The week ended with growth in the local kids and an opportunity to play a game against the boys. This marked a moment of empowerment for the girls, as they are not really given the opportunity to be on the same level athletically as the boys in their culture. And proud moments came for the visitors as they saw their young protégés compete with young men.
“We had confidence in our girls believing they could compete with the boys,” Clark commented. “I’ve never been so proud of anyone before. These girls came to camp not knowing how to even throw, but had a strong desire to learn and get better. They not only competed with the boys, but I personally thought they did better than a lot of them.”
“Thursday was the most amazing day of camp,” stated Colegrove. “In the DR, girls are inferior to boys and do not have a right to play on the same field as boys. Those rules and gender stereotypes were broken down that day. It was amazing to see them working and playing together. That was a great way to end my week of camp.”
The adventure started over the Christmas break with Clark scrolling through Instagram, gained momentum when Colegrove agreed to join her classmate and ended with a life changing experience.
Full accounts of each day are linked below for each, Clark and Waterford, Mich. native, Colegrove. The two will begin their second season at Tennessee State this fall.
Maddi Clark’s Accounts
Emma Colegrove’s Accounts