Ryerson’s men’s volleyball team was up to serve, but they were serving up objects of a different kind.
During the winter break the Rams went to Cuba and handed out equipment from Ryerson athletics teams.
It took the giving that has been a regualr part of team’s training trips to Cuba to a new level.
“It’s something the team (has) always done, but not on this kind of scale,” said Wesley Kosiba, captain of the team. “We’ve always gone down and brought individually our own equipment to trade with individuals at the Matanza school.”
The team was able to bring more this year thanks to the idea from Jerome Camacho, Ryerson’s head athletic therapist, to ask all teams for donations. He brought the idea to head coach Mirek Porosa in the fall and it developed from there.
“I think Jerome was the head of this and I was kind of the second man helping him out,” Kosiba said. “But to see it work so well and bring so much joy to the kids in Matanza was an unbelievable experience.”
Camacho sent out an email to all the Ryerson teams and within a week a 130-square-foot storage room was filled with equipment.
“I had to spend like well over a day organizing everything,” Kosiba said. “We had a bag of just shoes that weighed over 70 kg. Like it was insane.”
It cost about $20 to bring each bag. Camacho said that if it weren’t for the expenses, they would have brought quadruple the amount they did.
The Rams donated a box of balls, whistles, athletic clothes, school supplies and feminine hygiene products. The biggest donation was a volleyball net and lines.
“It was like Christmas, like our guys getting an Xbox when they’re 10 years old,” Camacho said. “That value is just weird with how things are around there.”
Nathan Walker, a rookie on the team, had never been on the trip. He was in awe of how much the gifts meant to the children.
“The kids are pretty excited. Like Jerome will walk in and they’ll all just crowd around him.
“Mirek will hand out his chocolates and kids will just like crowd and all yelling and wanting stuff, so it’s a cool atmosphere,” said Walker. “It was my first time there so it was definitely different, seeing how much they appreciate all the stuff.”
The players were taken aback by the Cubans’ desire to give something in return.
“You would want to give them stuff and they’d want to give something back to you,” Walker said, describing the experience. “Like, I’m trying to do something for you and you just want to give everything to me.”
Porosa wants to remember this giving spirit well beyond the trip.
“The biggest gift you can give is share whatever you (have) with someone else who is in need,” Porosa said.
“I think for me every year it’s a humbling experience. Seeing them and just seeing it’s not about me, it’s me and other people.”
The team hopes that this tradition will be able to continue for years to come.
This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on Jan. 28, 2015.