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Karl Martin Zimmermann

Karl Martin Zimmermann

We arrived in the Solomon Islands on the 22nd of May, 2014. I remember the warm, humid air pressing down on me from the very first step out of the plane and the dusty and rubbish-covered streets. They were potholed so all the cars had to drive in a zig-zag to dodge the holes. There were huts on the side of the road, simple and unstable. It really is like a different world.

Our main project was on another Island called Isabel. We stayed ten days in a lovely village called Vulavu and one more week in a small village called Kolokofa. There was hardly any electricity and no toilets other than a hole in the ground or some timbers over a river to do our business, so it definitely turned out to be quite the new experience for all of us. We tried to support the locals the best we could by bringing water tanks and picking up rubbish in the villages but I think what they appreciated most was the fact that we brought bits of culture from all around the world to their small and isolated village.

It was a great experience to see the island life with my own eyes and actually live it myself. People there do not have the luxuries we take as a given in our homes but still seem to be happy and content with their lives. I will always cherish the relationships I made there and will never forget what I experienced on that small group of islands, the Solomon Islands.

Posted in Testimonials

Alex Couweleers shares his experience in Vanuatu

Going to Tanna was one of the best experiences of my life to date. Experiencing the people there and their culture and lifestyle was something that i will never forget.

The main project of focus was a Sports for Peace Tournament, incorporating a message of peace, reconciliation and development for the people of Tanna. For the opening ceremony we gathered the chiefs of the local villages to speak about peace, reconciliation and the future, with a vision to interact as one community by helping and serving each other. The tournament had two divisions for soccer, Men’s and Women’s volleyball, as well as a cross country race which was 8km long and was held on the final day of the competition.

My main focus was on the soccer part of the tournament as it was also the main sporting event. Before the tournament we had created a team and I ran a couple of trainings preparing us for the tournament as some of the other teams had been training for this a couple of weeks in advance. I was really able to bring to Tanna my experience of playing soccer all my life and really understanding the game as well as how to coach a team and run a tournament. It was, for the most part, completely new and it worked out extremely well.

The finals was a thrilling match as the two teams were from villages that had been training for this beforehand and really wanted to take home the peace and reconciliation cup. One of the teams had a 3-0 lead at halftime and was playing much better and then somehow the losing team found strength and heart to fight back and tie the game 3-3 just before regulation time was over. They then went into two ten-minute overtime halves and the team kept fighting and ending up winning 4-3 coming back from a three goal deficit. It was wonderful to see and both teams congratulated each other for a great match and it brought about a joyous atmosphere. I saw how sports can bring about peace between people with different ideas and beliefs.

From the tournament I had been keeping my eye on certain players, as well as the ones that were on my team, to create a soccer team that would be willing to train so that they could join the top league in Vanuatu. We then began trainings at 5am and I focused mainly on fundamental skills and fitness as they haven’t really had training with some of the fundamental touches and drills. I wrote out and diagrammed a bunch of different drills that they can do in practice themselves without me there so that they can continue to train. The team name is Armada and hopefully future OLT teams can help them out as they progress as a team.

Something really special about Tanna is that there is so much love and respect for each other. If there is a request from an elder the younger ones will always serve lovingly and the power of the elders is not abused. Everyone really lives for the sake of their families and community and everyone is considered as brothers and sisters.

Also the people are really connected to the creation and use it for their homes and tools and in many ways I never imagined possible. It was absolutely amazing. I hope that someday I can return again and help the communities there but learn the language so that I can fully understand everything people want to express.


~Alex Couweleers, Seattle USA

OLT 2009-2010

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Ilene Reid

I am honored to have been a part of this program, and owe a great deal of thanks to the leadership that made it possible. The time I spent on OLT was not only a chance for me to invest in my personal growth, but the unforgettable memories and friendships that I gained have stuck with me since.

Looking back on my OLT experience, I realize the sacrifices of leaving home and putting college on hold were totally worth it. To anyone looking into the program, I would make one recommendation. Like many things, your experience is what YOU make it. All that you want to gain and invest into the program is what you will get out. For me I felt that by determining I wanted to grow and learn a ton, I was able to take that away from my experience.

Spending time in the islands was a highlight for me, it being my first time witnessing such a drastically different way of life. As soon as I landed on the tiny island of Kiribati, I immediately felt humbled by the generosity and love of the island culture. I can still remember vividly the experience I had one Sunday attending mass with several hundred islanders and being moved to tears by the incredible spirit that overcame me while worshiping together in song. Though we went there with the intention of serving the island people, I now realize they did us a bigger service by teaching us how to appreciate the simple blessings in life.

The island experience was towards the end of my journey, and there was a lot of planning and preparation that was needed before we could make that happen. As an international group with members from as far away as Korea and Japan, as well as locals from New Zealand and Australia, we were blessed with the challenge to go beyond cultural differences in order to accomplish our goals. Looking back, I see how God was guiding me through each phase of my experience, teaching me the value of persevering through difficulties and the power behind a united team.

One of the most lasting influences of my OLT experience has been the friendships that I made during our adventures fundraising all over New Zealand and Australia together and during the precious times we spent working in Vanuatu and Kiribati. I am incredibly blessed to have been involved with this program and am thrilled to see its constant development and growth. Thank you to all the leadership committed to its vision and giving me the opportunity to experience the beauty of Oceania.

OLT 2007-2008