April 10, 2018

Lady Bobcat Volleyball Team Serves in Belize

Volleyball player Danielle Curnes holding a little girl from Belize and smiling

Volleyball team members posing with a group of children from Belize

Little boy laughing while sitting on the lap of a volleyball player

little Belize girl tearfully hugging a player goodbye

College of the Ozarks Lady Bobcats Volleyball Team traveled to Belize to serve, March 16-25, 2018. Students and faculty have developed a relationship with the Belizeans from their trips over the past six years.   

Student-athletes hosted a Vacation Bible School (VBS) in partnership with Billy White and ROWKIDS.The Billy White School, located in the Cayo District in Belize, provides education for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. ROWKIDS, a Christian non-profit, is dedicated to providing safe water, education, health, and services.

“These trips are important for students to reflect on themselves, reflect on God, and reflect on their skills and how can they impact their communities and the rest of the world,” said Dr. Andrew Bolger, campus minister. “Students feel more empowered and aware of how God is active and how they, too, can participate.”

The Lady Bobcats Volleyball Team fully funded the trip through volleyball camps they hosted over the past few summers.

“The student-athletes have been working incredibly hard over the summer to earn this trip to Belize,” said Head Coach Stacy Muckenthaler.

“One specific moment that highly impacted me on the trip to Belize was when I played ‘soccer’ with a little boy named Jonathan,” said senior Hannah Bracker. “Our little game of ‘soccer’ consisted of kicking a half-full water bottle back and forth. He was so happy to have this water bottle to kick back and forth with me. We should be grateful for the little things instead of being caught up in all of the fancy things we want or do not have. Pure joy can come from a half-full water bottle if you have the right mindset and are grateful for the things you have.”

“The trip has impacted me in multiple ways,” said junior Alex Spears. “For my professional career, in business marketing, this trip gave me an opportunity to experience a different culture that we do not experience here in America. It opened my eyes to see that every culture is different, and what you market to one culture might not succeed in another.”

Student Participants

  • Hannah Bracker, senior accounting and public relations double major, from Springfield, Missouri
  • Danielle Curnes, senior nursing major, from Branson West, Missouri
  • Halle Huffman, junior elementary education major, from Williamsville, Missouri
  • Alex Spears, junior accounting major, from Perryville, Missouri
  • Kayli Grant, junior elementary education major, from Omaha, Nebraska
  • Haley Stallings, junior elementary education major, from Fair Grove, Missouri
  • Rielly Dobbs, junior elementary education major, from Nixa, Missouri
  • Shay Helsel, junior criminal justice major, from Branson, Missouri
  • Maggie Plake, junior human and molecular biology major, from Fort Smith, Arkansas
  • Kaylee Larimer, junior early childhood and elementary education major, from Strafford, Missouri
  • Kaylan Smith, freshman animal science major, from Ozark, Missouri
  • Ryley Thixton, freshman elementary education major, from Ozark, Missouri
  • Morgan Copeland, sophomore allied health science major, from Nixa, Missouri  

Trip Sponsors

  • Dr. Andrew Bolger, campus minister and director of institutional quality initiative
  • Stacey Muckenthaler, head women’s volleyball coach and instructor of physical education
  • Tina Keith, associate professor of education
  • Kerry Moore, assistant professor of education

Article submitted by Kyle Duncan, CofO Public Relations

Additional fun notes from team members:

  • We hiked to the Cahal Pech Archeological Reserve (Mayan Ruins)
  • We ate giant quesadillas the size of your face!
  • We had morning devotions with the local teachers
  • We sang songs, prayed, taught Bible stories, shared fun activities, and had crafts with the children at Billy White.
  • We handed out school supplies to the children (Note: Team members used personal funds and did odd jobs to earn money to purchase these supplies.)

And a few additional personal comments from team members:

  • "We learned that we are not good at minute-to-win-it games," said Ryley Thixton, "we learned some new dance moves, and we learned we live in a colorless life in a world full of color until we are born again in Christ."
  • "When we split into our classrooms, we taught the children what it means to run to Jesus, as we talked about the story of Zacchaeus, and each class incorporated fun activities and crafts," commented Hannah Bracker.
  • "Please keep praying that the littles at Billy White will feel so loved and see Jesus through us," said Shay Helsel. "We want to make a lasting impression on them and their community.
  • "Saying goodbye to the kids was extremely difficult," noted Danielle Curnes. "There were lots of tears, hugs, and emotions.  I think I can speak for everyone when I say it was a life-changing experience and the kids have forever made an impact on our hearts."