Aug. 10, 2012
Summertime for student-athletes is often spent visiting family or lounging around the pool. Kristen Steffes, a senior defender on the Oakland women’s soccer team, spent her off time in a little different fashion.
Steffes visited Haiti over the summer traveling to different villages and painting houses while interning for Mission of Hope.
“I was there as an intern for Mission of Hope,” Steffes said. “Along with Haitian translators, I would lead missionary groups from America that provided assistance to the local communities. We would visit the surrounding villages, getting to know the people in the communities and paint their homes.”
The trip also allowed her an opportunity teach the local children some of her skills on the pitch. Steffes, who saw action in 20 games last season, says the lessons the children taught her were far greater than anything she could show them playing a sport.
“There’s something about being immersed in a culture for a long period of time that really opens your eyes to the incredible people all around the world,” Steffes said. “It doesn’t matter what they have or what they don’t have, it’s about their hearts and personalities, their goals in life and what they dream of doing in their future.”
Steffes gives credit to the entire Oakland Athletics program for supporting her efforts to be able to go on the trip.
“This trip really brought Oakland Athletics together as well. I think it’s incredible the hearts of the student-athletes and their desire to help me attain my dream of going on the trip this past summer,” Steffes said. “Every team, from swimming to baseball, volleyball to men’s soccer all contributed and worked so hard to help me go. That’s something that needs to be acknowledged because it’s incredibly encouraging that so many people can rally behind one person. You really get to see that athletics here isn’t just about sports, it’s about building a community and a family.”
Her favorite memory of the trip came on the soccer field, though the game of soccer took a backseat to what the moment represented.
“Countless times while being there I got to see so clearly the joy in playing a sport. The kids love soccer, no matter who is playing and what the field is like,” Steffes said. “One of my favorite memories is getting to witness a miracle.
“In one of the villages, a deaf community of 50 families moved in with the hearing community. Mixing those communities isn’t necessarily normal in Haiti, but God made it happen. To bring the two closer together, a soccer game was started every Tuesday afternoon between deaf and hearing players. They had uniforms and everything, it was a big deal. One Tuesday, it poured. Not like the normal rain we’re used to, but a torrential downpour that you couldn’t run from. The field being red dirt, turned into mud, but no one even cared. Everyone kept playing. The ball couldn’t be passed without getting stuck and people couldn’t run without falling, but it didn’t matter, we were playing because we loved the game.”
The mission was an experience Steffes says she will never forget.
“I would trade nothing for this trip. If I had the chance to go back again, I would say yes in a heartbeat.”