Empowering women through sports and education

Monica Smith with some of the children of Playa Gigante, Nicaragua.In January, I had the unique opportunity of traveling to Playa Gigante, Nicaragua, to play softball and share some life-saving cancer-detection techniques.

The trip started as an invitation to play in a softball tournament and share some softball skills and knowledge with the local women. However, members of our group from Oregon have a wide range of life experiences, and we wanted to share those as well. 

Among us was a breast cancer survivor who had also lost her mother to breast cancer. She’s a firm believer that early detection and education saved her life. As a group, we made it our mission to deliver as much information about breast cancer as we were able to. Our survivor’s doctor was even able to join us!

Monica Smith with breast cancer training sessions in Playa Gigante, NicaraguaAs a group, we went through two breast cancer training sessions to prepare for our trip. We also brought training materials to leave in the village. A group of breast cancer survivors in Salem, Ore., even made hospital gowns for us to leave at a local clinic. Not to leave softball out, we also gathered bats, balls, mitts, helmets, visors, shirts and bat bags to leave as well.

We flew into the capital city of Managua and drove two-and-a-half hours to Playa Gigante. When we got there, the women were happy to see us, and we were excited to learn from each other. We even held a breast cancer training session that afternoon! 

When our breast cancer survivor told her story, many of the women in the village were very touched. Not only was she sharing her story, but she was healthy and strong. In that area, it is uncommon for people with cancer to survive. The doctor who joined us also shared information about early detection and treatments and later helped train staff at the local clinic.  

That weekend we held a softball skills clinic for the local women and girls. On our last full day in the village, we held a tournament among four teams. The local school children cleaned up the field and the entire village came out to watch.

I’ve never experienced anything like Playa Gigante before. 

They don’t have many of the things we take for granted like electricity or running water. Many homes have dirt floors and people sleep in hammocks. Cooking is done over an open fire and animals and livestock are free range. 

I couldn’t help but notice that life is more stress-free and relaxing compared to the U.S. We have so much yet are so unappreciative as a society.

I realized our trip made a difference for the women of Playa Gigante. I don’t ever doubt the impact one person can have.

Looking back, I’m not sure if we made more of an impression on the women of Playa Gigante or the other way around. 

by Monica Smith on Fri, Apr 12 2013 7:15 am
Posted by Monica Smith on Fri, Apr 12 2013 7:15 am


Shirley Roberts said on Apr 15, 2013
What a great trip! Thank you so much for your dedication, work and sharing your story with us! People like you really make a difference. :)
Tom Buchheim said on Apr 19, 2013
Fantastic effort, Monica. Thanks for sharing your story.

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