Sports -namely soccer and basketball - brought four students from Brazil to Crowder College in Neosho and the ongoing pandemic has them staying here for the duration. When the campus closed down, so did the dorms where they lived. Their current home away from home is with Clint and Mindy Dalbom. Clint is the park superintendent for the City of Neosho and Mindy teaches English as a second language at Crowder. That's how she became acquainted with the students and how the four - Gabriel, Manu, Victor and Natalia joined their household for now.
The young ladies are both Lady Roughrider basketball players and the young men play soccer.
And, despite the circumstances of their temporary residence, they're doing well.
"The kids are in good spirits and seem happy. They are able to FaceTime their parents every day. The community has been very supportive with meals and food and financial support," Clint Dalbom said. "They have been working out to stay in shape for their sports. They walk the neighborhood to get exercise and fresh air."
Area residents from the college, the community, and some area churches have pitched it to help the Dalboms. Tina Wilson, the girls' basketball coach from Crowder visits her players.
"She visits them here at our home from a distance. She makes sure they have exercises, books, puzzles to keep them busy. She checks on them often. She coordinated the college giving us a box full of food from the college pantry," Mindy Dalbom said. And Wilson is just one of many who have provided some support.
"The Baptist Student Union has also brought us food and gave us financial support. Aaron Werner (the BSU director, really cares about the Crowder kids. Aaron also coordinated getting us extra furniture for the students. Our church, Fellowship Baptist church, believes in what we are doing. They have loaned us a church van for transportation. We had to take two vehicles before. They also gave us a financial gift that has allowed us to purchase food and pay extra utility costs. The church organized a meal train and someone brings a meal every Sunday and Wednesday night. This is when we have family night. Several people from church have brought us groceries. Another church, Ritchey Baptist, has never met us or the students gave us a financial gift to help with our extra expenses," Mindy Dalbom stated.
And others have also stepped up to lend a hand.
"We even have a nurse practitioner who comes to our home bearing groceries but also to serve medical needs. Our students do not have good health insurance since they are from Brazil. We had never met this friend before," Mindy noted.
Concerns about the corona virus are also present.
"My parents are worried because people in Brazil aren't respecting the orders," Gabriel said.
"I am very worried about them (parents) getting the virus and financially," Natalia said.
All of the students hail from large cities in Brazil including Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. Most find the town to be small and quiet.
"Neosho was already like home to me," Natalia said. "The community has always made me feel safe. I am deeply sad that I can't be with my parents but at the same time, I am very thankful to have amazing people making me feel at home."
Victor shared a similar sentiment. "I think that except for being with family, I wouldn't have a better place to be in this situation."
"I really like Neosho because it is quiet and safe," Manu said. "All the people are amazing and receptive."
The students are keeping busy with homework, practicing, games, and something a little bit different - learning to drive.
"These kids do not drive at home, they are from large urban areas where public transportation is available. Driving the John Deere Gator is a special treat. I showed them how to drive it and said I would teach them to drive. My daughters learned how to drive in a John Deere Gator and so will these Brazilians," Clint said. "I let the boys take my John Deere Gator for a ride the other day, Gabriel yelled over his shoulder as the roared off, “Mr Clint see you in Brazil They came upon a group of white tailed deer and chased them with the camera rolling, as they yelled”I’m going to catch you” in Portuguese. Those poor deer had probably never been yelled at in Portuguese!"
The students appreciate both their hosts and the community.
"I'm glad Mrs. Mindy and Mr. Clint are helping us and the community as well," Natalia said.
"The students have witnessed the community helping them even though they have never met most of them. Their parents are so grateful. The students do not have the financial means to help us at this time. Their parents are not working in Brazil and the exchange of currency is awful," Mindy said.
"The students have jobs every week and are very helpful to us. This helps them give back and makes them feel good that they have contributed. "
And while they're here for the duration, there's a lot of emotion.
"It's a tough time," Natalia said. "I'm having to think about things I've never had to think about before," Natalia said.
"Actually, there is was no hard part for me, because I'm getting used to the changes that have been happening in my life," Manu said.
"I feel frustrated about not going back to Brazil," Gabriel said.
Clint summed it up by saying, "They are happy, fed and have a roof over their heads. This is a good place to ride out the pandemic."