boom boom

•November 20, 2010 • Leave a Comment

what’s your name?


what do you want me to call you on jump?

boom boom

boom boom is the most challenging student i have ever dealt with. when i first met him, he would steal from me, cuss bad words and disrespect me every chance he got. but i could tell something was different about him, so despite my neighbors’ pleas, i kept letting him come over.

how old are you, boom boom?




when boom boom started coming to saturday volleyball, he saw how i interacted with the other children. i hug them and pick them up. i give them kisses and high fives. i am different from the other coaches.

what’s your favorite thing in the whole world?

our thing.

what’s our thing, boom boom?

when you open your hands up wide and give me a big hug.

boom boom comes from an extremely poor family. he does not attend school and rarely showers. he is neglected, beaten and abused and the evidence lays plastered on his boney body. but underneath that rough exterior, he is abnormally sweet. and has grown to be one of my best students.

are you good at volleyball?

i’m the best.

boom boom now spends every evening studying with me and every saturday playing volleyball.

and when i got back from a week in st. kitts for peace corps training, he was waiting at my door for me. i opened my arms and gave him a big hug and said,

i really missed you, boom boom.

me too.


just cliff

•October 12, 2010 • 1 Comment

what do you want me to call you on jump?

just cliff.

cliff is a 5th grader at new grounds primary school. he is short and skinny and has had his ears pierced for as long as he can remember. he lives with his aunt and grandmother in new grounds village.

when cliff was a baby, the vincentian government attempted to eradicate ganja farms up in the windward mountains. both of cliff’s parents were killed in a fire set by the government.

what’s your favorite thing to do on the weekends?

play volleyball with you.

is it hard for you to play volleyball?

yes, sometimes it’s hard to hit the ball.

is anything else hard?

when you make me do pushups.

cliff is one of the best 5th grade volleyball players we have. he is always the first on the court practicing and the last to leave. last week he won ‘best camper’ award, where he got a piece of american candy.

but cliff is unique.

what makes you different from the other students?

i only have one arm.

this was what i considered to be the last sentence of the interview and as i picked up my books to leave the classroom, cliff grabbed my arm and said,

but, miss, i’m not different.


•September 20, 2010 • Leave a Comment

what’s your name?


what do you want me to call you on ‘jump’?

gully god

josh is the youngest member of vertical, at the age of six. his rastafarian dread locks and shy demeanor set him apart from the other participants.

who’s your best friend?

you and my brother.

me and omar are your best friends?


he and omar came to every volleyball practice this school year, except for one.

gully god, why didn’t you boys come to volleyball last week?

i blew up my brother’s face.

josh and his brother, who is ten years old, are often left unattended for days at a time, and last sunday was no exception. on sunday afternoon josh was dared by his older cousin to light a watch on fire. when both of the boys didn’t think anything would happen, omar picked it up and it blew up in his face. since there were no adults around, the children were unable to get an ambulance or seek any medical care. it wasn’t until the next day that his brother was taken to the emergency room, but by then the wounds were infected over a large portion of his face.

how’s your brother now?

he’s better, but his face isn’t.

two days a week i have josh in a remedial reading class. his attention span is always of concern, but no more than any of the other six year olds i have.

what do you want to be when you grow up?

either a doctor, a lawyer or a professional volleyballer.

josh always comes into class with clean clothes and scrubbed shoes. however, i have always noticed a distinct odor that seemed to follow him around. when i asked him what it was, he replied:


neely, you know my name

•September 9, 2010 • 2 Comments

what’s your name?

neely, you know my name..

well, what do you want it to say on ‘jump’?

bad man gus gus.

i had to do the first entry about gus gus. a parent isn’t supposed to have favorites, but i’ve never heard that saying for peace corps volunteers. so i’m just going to come out and say it: he’s my favorite.

what’s your favorite sport, bad man gus gus?



because i’m good at it

gus gus is probably one of the worst players we have in our group. he’s always misinforming the other players on what they should be doing. he’s always complaining about the amount of running we have to do. and i don’t think he’s ever hit a ball over the net. but he always shows up.

during the summer we had a two week volleyball camp that was about thirty minutes away from his home. he was the only kid in the group that had to get on a van to come to camp, but he never missed a day. in fact, he would show up early to my house and walk my dog, then we would go to camp.

gus gus lives with his grandmother, mother and three brothers in a small house near a village called san souci. his father is a police officer in tortola, an island in the british virgin islands.

what do you want to be when you grow up?

a police officer or play volleyball in the world cup

gus gus is one of my luckier students, he is able to play in tennis shoes. he always has books for the next term and he never goes without lunch.

if you could have anything in the world, what would you want?

to go see my dad.

let’s just call it vertical

•September 8, 2010 • Leave a Comment

vertical started like most nonprofit, do-gooder organizations: we wanted to change the world. that notion lasted about thirty minutes, once we realized exactly how unrealistic we were being. so we toned it down a couple (hunderd) notches and decided to just change the day of a couple kids.

it was then we started offering weekly volleyball programs to primary students in st. vincent and the grenadines. and it just grew from there.

this blog is about the kids, the parents, the coaches. this blog is about their stories, it’s about their lives.