For long-time Canada’s National Women’s Team member Caroline Ouellette, hockey is more than simply a sport.
"Sport has brought so much into my life and I have learned so many important skills through hockey, such as confidence, leadership, perseverance and teamwork," she wrote in an email from Bénin, Africa, where she’s currently working with non-profit group Right to Play. "There is nothing I would want more than for every child in the world to have that opportunity."
That’s why Ouellette immediately jumped at the chance to travel overseas with Right to Play, which "uses the power of play and sport to teach fundamental life values."
"Right to Play focuses on the most underprivileged children, such as children with disabilities, girls (and) children in war or conflict areas," she says, explaining the organization strives to get these disadvantaged youngsters "to understand their rights as a child."
Ouellette says the idea is to improve literacy levels and access to education in these communities, while also teaching the children who live there "about self-control, working in a group, the ability to discuss and lead, and notions of basic health care so that they avoid preventable illnesses and (are) educated on current issues such as HIV-Aids."
Since arriving in Africa on Sunday, May 29, Ouellette says she’s already "seen the children’s joy, smiles (and) laughs when they are given the opportunity to play."
"It's difficult to describe how moving the children are," she writes. "Witnessing the Right to Play programs has been incredible, (as has) realizing how important and life-changing it can be for those children to learn through the power of sport."