Sand volleyball girls go above and beyond


While other students spent their summer working jobs or enjoying the beach, four members of the Mercer University Sand Volleyball team dedicated part of their summer to service. For the first month and a half of their summer vacation, these girls devoted their time and energy into helping others on two separate Mercer on Mission trips.

Zoe Becton and Erin Brett, graduate students returning to Mercer to play sand volleyball, traveled to Gulu, Uganda.

“The initial purpose of this specific Mercer on Mission trip was to teach primary and secondary school students about water, sanitation, and hygiene, nutrition, HIV/AIDS and malaria,” said Brett. “We were also expected to research and improve the water quality in northern Uganda by testing water quality parameters like iron concentration, pH and conductivity. This would help the people of Gulu to better understand the source of contaminants.”

As an environmental engineer, Brett wanted to further her knowledge in her discipline.

“I love traveling and want to be able to work in the field of international water development. I knew that Mercer on Mission would be a great opportunity to get more experience with different water projects and organizations and would allow me to better understand what it takes to work in such a field.”

Becton, a global health major, needed the trip to fill a degree requirement, but she also had several other reasons for going,

“I was mainly interested in participating on the trip due to an interest in working overseas. I also wanted to see if I could handle working in a developing country,” she said. “My favorite overall experience was being in the rural village interacting with the people. The women didn’t speak a lot of English, but we were able to make due. One woman let me wear her baby on my back and it was so amazing. The people of Uganda are such loving people, despite their history. They were incredibly welcoming, and it was difficult to leave.”

Two rising sophomores, Hannah Sorenson and Emma Peel, traveled around Belize. Peel said their primary goal was to help develop the sustainable tourism industry in contemporary Mayan villages in southern Belize.

“We held meetings with community representatives, conducted tourist surveys, and learned about the cacao industry, which is quite prominent in many Mayan villages,” said Peel. “We also held a workshop for the women of San Filipe, a small Mayan village where we spent the majority of our trip.”

Peel’s reasons for participating in this Mercer on Mission trip go back to her roots. “My main inspiration for going on this trip was my parents, both of whom were in the Peace Corps in Guatemala after graduating from the University of Vermont. The connections that they formed with those they met in Guatemala have lasted them a lifetime,” she said “And they will be going back to the village in which they volunteered for their 25th anniversary this September. Their dedication to people halfway across the world from them has inspired me to travel and perpetuate the cycle of service,” said Peel.