Day Four is actually the final day in the Dominican Republic. The next day itinerary only includes travel back to the United States.
On this day, the best is indeed saved for last. As a member of Score International, the organization that helped the North Carolina A&T men’s basketball team plan its trip to the Dominican, David Conrady addresses the players and coaches each day. This morning is different, however. There is an extra hint of passion in his voice.
It is reminiscent of a pregame speech.
“These are young girls who have been deserted all their life,” he says, referring to an orphanage called Pasitos de Jesus. “If you are shy and introvert and to yourself, they’re going to recognize that. These are girls who need a friend.”
His stern message apparently resonates. When the young men arrive to Pasitos de Jesus, there is no breaking of the ice. The men’s team is immediately friendly and talkative with the house of 32 orphan girls. Hola’s flow out of the mouths of the guests and the hosts as the men’s basketball team walks around the back of the orphanage house that possesses a porch area with a covering.
More and more girls begin to flow from the house saying, “GRANDE, GRANDE.”
“The girls are a little taken aback by your size, it’s okay,” says Dalma Florian, the founder of Pasitos de Jesus.
After the initial shock is over, there is not a shy basketball player in the bunch. Players interact with the ladies, jumping rope, playing volleyball and drawing pictures on the marble concrete in the backyard. It is two hours of Division I basketball players playing Double Dutch and drawing. It humbles the players, the coaches and the staff to see just how much life is in a group of girls who have had plenty of heartache in their lives.
One grows up among dogs before being rescued by the orphanage. Another one is abandoned at birth. Three sisters are abused by their father for years before the Pasitos de Jesus. Another one is almost sold into prostitution. They are all tough stories to hear. Yet, before the visit is over, they sing three inspiring hymns in Spanish that bring tears to a few people’s eyes. It is a humbling experience for a group of Americans who are very fortunate.
“We thank you for coming today. If it were not for you, this would have been another dull morning,” says Aneliy Sierra Florian, daughter of founder Dalma Florian, to her captivated audience.
A&T head coach Cy Alexander offers the young ladies A&T t-shirts. The 32 young ladies are grateful and put the t-shirts on with such enthusiasm. A request to give the young ladies, who have seen rejection in their lives, a hug then goes out. The hugs mean so much more to them than the t-shirts. It almost seems unfair that the visit is coming to an end. As the A&T men’s basketball team drives off to prepare for their final exhibition game, the girls erupt in cheers as if they are saying farewell to rock stars.
It is quite a way to end a trip.