WHS players bring their love of lacrosse to Jamaican youth

It was an effort to bring something positive to underprivileged children in Jamaica — in this case, leaving behind a love for the game of lacrosse, not to mention many bags of lacrosse equipment.

But Wilton High School rising seniors Sara Dickinson and Casey Tucker didn’t exactly go home empty-handed. After spending time with the people of Jamaica, and witnessing their spirit in the face of grinding poverty, they returned home with a new perspective on their own lives.

“It was just amazing how they didn’t have water and their houses were shacks, and they were still so happy and they were so welcoming to complete strangers. It was really refreshing,” said Tucker.

“I didn’t know what to expect. I realize how blessed we all are. I have water when I want and I have so much food to eat,” said Dickinson. “They don’t think about the poverty they’re in. They’re just all happy and they all love each other.”

The two WHS student-athletes spent a week in Jamaica in late July through Fields of Growth International, an organization that “aims to harness the passion of the lacrosse community into positive social impact through global leadership development, service and growing the game.”

They were part of the Lacrosse Volunteer Corps, which provides opportunities for international service experiences that includes coaching, serving and learning.

Most participants in the program are high school and college students, but it also features recent college graduates and high school and college coaches.

Tucker and Dickinson both started for Wilton High this past spring when the Warriors captured the Class M state title. Dickinson, who plays attack, earned first team all-state honors, while Tucker, who plays defense, was first team all-state and was also named an all-American.

Both learned of the Fields of Growth through friends from other towns, and decided to travel to Jamaica this summer together. They were able to collect a wide selection of lacrosse equipment through donations from the Wilton community, including uniforms, and brought 14 bags of equipment with them to donate to the Jamaican lacrosse community.

“Wilton was amazing,” said Dickinson.

While it is an island with a rich history and colorful culture, Jamaica is a land of extremes of wealth and poverty. Poverty is the lot of many Jamaicans, who “live in squalor, with poor housing, limited food supply, and inadequate access to clean water, quality health care, or education,” according to Encyclopedia of the Nations. It also has one of the highest murder rates in the world.

What Tucker and Dickinson found was people who rose above their circumstances and were warm and friendly.

“I didn’t feel out of place. The people were so welcoming. No one was sad or down. There were all happy all the time,” Dickinson recalled.

The LVC has three components. The first part of the program involves learning about the history, theology, international business and economics of Jamaica.

The second component is lacrosse, called Growing the Game, in conjunction with the Jamaica Lacrosse Association. Throughout the week, the girls and their group of 34 others volunteers coached at two youth lacrosse camps, one for high school players and the other for youth players.

“Working with the Jamaican lacrosse team, they were just amazing athletes. How fast they learned was insane. They were so eager to learn and were such great listeners,” said Tucker. “They had the right attitude for athletes.”

“When they’re paying lacrosse, the condition they’re in doesn’t matter,” Dickinson said. “I could tell how much they loved playing lacrosse. It took their minds off the poverty they live in every day.”

The third component of the program is service to others. The group spent one day in the rural village of Nine Mile, where Bob Marley was born and is buried. There, they packed and prepared care packages for elderly shut-ins and spent time helping them in their homes, in addition to visiting sick children and holding lacrosse clinics.

In Kingston, the girls worked with the Missionaries of Charity to serve the abandoned elderly. They helped feed the elderly residents and sang songs for them.

While volunteers stayed in a safe location, St. George’s Jesuit High School in Kingston, much of their work and travels had them experiencing the life of ordinary Jamaicans.

“It was awesome working with the high schoolers and the young kids, and also seeing Jamaica not from a tourist’s view. We went to a lot of places where tourists don’t usually go to. I got to see how the people lived,” said Tucker. “It’s one thing to see it in pictures and another thing to see it first hand.”

Both girls came home with a newfound appreciation of how fortunate they are.

“It really helped me realize how much I had,” said Dickinson. “It was an absolutely amazing time. I made a lot of new friends and I hope to see them again next summer.”

“I’m a lot more grateful for what I have in Wilton. I definitely do want do it again, and see the girls again, and visit with them. It was really fun.” said Tucker. “I wish I could have stayed longer.”