(Midway, Ky.) - Hailing from Montenegro and attending school in Kentucky, Midway basketball player Hristina Ostojic is no stranger to traveling the world, so it wasn't much of a surprise that she wanted to spend a month of her summer in St. Lucia. What might be unexpected is that she wasn't there just to soak up the sun, she was on a mission to, in her words, "grow as a person and change someone's life."
Ostojic and two other Midway students traveled to Anse la Ray with Global Volunteers and spent four weeks working with the children at the village's primary school. She spent the first leg of her trip helping third and sixth graders improve their math and reading skills and was able to draw on her own experience of overcoming obstacles to inspire her students.
"I got so attached to the children and shared with them my photos of Midway University and our basketball program and told them nothing is hard to accomplish," she said. "I talked to the older ones and told them how hard it was for me in a different country and learning a new language, trying to inspire them to be better and, one day, try to pursue their dreams."
She and her fellow students also got down and dirty in Anse la Ray's Parish Hall, giving it a facelift with new paint inside and out, before returning to the school to work with preschool and kindergarten students.
When she wasn't working, Ostojic took advantage of every opportunity to soak up the local culture, something she believes is an important part of helping others.
"The local residents in Anse la Ray talked to me a lot about their life and shared many memorable moments. There was not a time when someone wouldn't say 'hello' on the street and wish you a good day. I made many friends for a lifetime and shared my stories with them," she said.
Ostojic also took the opportunity to step out of her shell and embrace new experiences to make her a better volunteer. As she explained, "In order to help others, we need to be open to new cultures and be ready for circumstances that we've never experienced."
Now that's she has finished her program and returned to the United States, Ostojic says that she's been fortunate to bring some incredible memories with her.
"The most rewarding thing I gained from volunteering in St. Lucia was the love that was given back to me as a 'thank you.' I feel like I accomplished something bigger than just helping others. I feel like I made a bond with these amazing people and children in such a way that saying goodbye was much harder than I thought. A mark was left; a mark that will never be erased from my heart or theirs."
As she prepares for her senior season and what's in store for her after graduation, she says St. Lucia was just the tip of the iceberg.
"I know that I'm here on this planet to help others and this is just the beginning of my work. I am so honored that I represented my university, basketball team and my family in St. Lucia."
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