June 19th, 2024

Hat High volleyball team finds meaning of giving back in Hawaii

By Samantha Johnson Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on October 27, 2023.

Medicine Hat High School senior girls' volleyball players spent a full day planting trees, along with watering and mulching, while also connecting with locals about the environment and Hawaiian culture.--SUBMITTED PHOTO


Grade 12 students Meghan Fisher and Ava Chenard were part of a group volleyball players from Medicine Hat High School to recently travel to Oahu, Hawaii on a service-learning trip.

Fisher thought it was a great senior trip and her highlight was attending an NBA preseason game and getting a photo taken with Clippers point guard Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland. It was Chenard’s first trip to Hawaii and her highlight was visiting the Polynesian Centre in Honolulu, which she described as fun and educational.

The service aspect of the trip, which included tree planting and cleaning up a beach, had an impact on all players.

“The people there are so friendly and they welcomed us so kindly into their home and into their space,”said Chenard. “And the fact that we got to give back to their culture and their home while we were there, and see the beauty in that, is completely different and felt rewarding.

“They base their culture on nature, and before volunteering we all said a prayer-like chant at the beginning to open up our hearts to the space, and that was beautiful and moving. We got to see the differences we were making but also hear their stories about it and how even planting a tree, you don’t think that will have such a big impact.

“But the stories they tell us about it and how impactful it is for them and their culture, it was very moving and rewarding.”

Fisher added that she’d been to Hawaii twice before on vacation with her family, but being able to give back to the community was a more immersive experience.

“It’s a great vacation spot and you can go to the beach and relax, but when we did the beach cleanup, we saw how much garbage there really is. In my mind Hawaii has always been this tropical vacation place, but there are so many people who have to work to keep it like that, and I never thought of it before,” explained Fisher. “Our whole team said that when we travel somewhere we want to try to dedicate at least one day to giving back and to have that for the rest of our life – that thought process of giving back when you go somewhere because you are entering someone’s home and not just a vacation place.”

The team also played volleyball, both at a tournament along with an exhibition game at a high school in a low-income neighbourhood. Players discussed how the team enjoyed hearing the Hawaiian teams bring their culture into the game by cheering in their native language and saying a prayer before going out on the court.

“At the beginning it was all fun, we had full days of exploring, going to the beach, the Polynesian Centre, and at the end we did the volunteer part of our trip,” concluded Fisher. “Waking up early every morning and getting the job done, it ended up being a lot of fun, but getting up and knowing we have six hours of planting trees and we have to go pick up 83 pounds of garbage, at the beginning that felt challenging but ended up being rewarding.”

Co-organizer of the trip Toni Bardal explained the overwhelming silence that descended on the group when they were told each tree they planted was dedicated to a person who died or went missing during the Maui wildfires earlier this year.

“I did this trip when I was in high school,” stated Bardal, “and we didn’t have the service-learning aspect. To have experienced the trip myself as a teenager and then going as an adult and watching the teenagers, it was humbling to me. They were really good about putting their phones away and taking in what we were doing. I was excited every day to see what they were going to learn.”

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