NORMAN, Okla. -- Final exams were done and their bags were packed, ready for the first flight out of Oklahoma.
To earthquake-ravaged Haiti.
While most of the University of Oklahoma's student body left Norman at the close of another semester to return home, members of the Sooner women's basketball family past and present joined a party formed by former scout team player Adam Barnett, now College Missions Director at Journey Church, set to spread a mission of hope to a suffering people.
The voyage took them through the crumbled streets of the Haitian capital to the city of Titaneyan, where they helped work at the Mission of Hope, a complex of a clinic, church, orphanage and school, for seven days.
Their mission was planned before the January earthquake rocked Port-au-Prince, killing nearly 250,000 and forcing more than one million into homelessness. Still, the Sooners, whose Final Four season was marked by the word `resilience,' recognized indomitable will in the Haitian people.
"You saw (the devastation) as soon as you walked out the gates of the airport. There's a sea of people everywhere looking to help you with your bags just to get some form of money or piece of food just to help them survive. It really hit when we were in Port-au-Prince and saw the destruction of the buildings and how many tent cities there are now where streets are blocked because people are just moving right into the middle of the street because that's all they have left now."
"You're at an orphanage with five dozen children sleeping three to a bed in small rooms. Just the fact of seeing them with almost nothing, it's just eye-opening to see them still be happy being somewhere, having at least that place to sleep, still alive. And years from now, they will be the ones making the difference in Haiti. It just made me smile and appreciate my life even more."
"I had a little kid as soon as I stepped off the bus -- he looked at me, then he grabbed my hand; the next thing, he was in my arms and he wouldn't let go. You sit down in church and you're not sure what you're supposed to do. But, he fell asleep. There wasn't one part of him that let go. He was either going to hold on to my arm or my hand or my neck. He'd move and just snuggle back in, and it was the neatest thing. Those kids don't have anything. I can't imagine going to sleep, closing your eyes and then there's an earthquake and you wake up and not know what's there. I wouldn't want to shut my eyes again. To know he could find comfort in that church with me, that he could rest and wake up around his friends still was really cool."
"What stood out most was probably just the hope of the people in Haiti. They are able to continue to worship and smile throughout devastating circumstances. They have so much faith when they have so little and it's awe-inspiring to know that mankind has the ability to overcome challenges."
"There are two things that I will always remember. One is how good our players are. I'm always proud of the way they carry themselves and the people that they are. But, doing things like that, takes it to another level. The other is the smiles of the kids in Haiti. To be able to smile through all that they've suffered is amazing."
"It's different going to a place and feeling like you're making a huge difference just by being there. You can help people here and know that you're making a difference in the things that you can give. But over there, where people have nothing, you know when you are impacting people just by giving them yourself. You can just give a hug or a high-five and they appreciate it so much because even small gestures like that will help them have a much happier life.
"In the course of a work week, we're probably only emotionally moved one time, like when you laugh so much you cry or something like that. There, you're feeling that seven or eight times a day; you're alive."