Barrett Jones Lends A Hand
Instead, Barrett Jones headed to Pignom, Haiti, to aid in the relief efforts of a country struck by a devastating earthquake on January 14, 2010.
Jones earned Freshman All-America honors last fall as a redshirt freshman starter at right guard for Alabama's football team. He helped the Crimson Tide put together a 14-0 season and capture the school's 13th National Championship. The 4.0 student was second-team Academic All-America.
Not long after Alabama had finished celebrating its 37-21 victory over Texas in the BCS National Championship Game, Jones began planning a mission trip to earthquake-ravaged Haiti, looking for a way to give back.
"I saw the destruction and felt that there had to be something I could do," said Jones. "So I started looking for an opportunity, a way to get over there to help."
He found it with the mission group called, Eikon Ministries, based out of his hometown in Memphis, Tennessee. Director Soup Campbell had traveled to Haiti three times since the earthquake performing mission work, and he was someone Jones felt had the experience to take him and his friends. Jones' friends were his fellow teammate at Alabama, Hardie Buck, a walk-on wide receiver, and James Gannon.
"I felt that he (Campbell) was really experienced, and he was hooked up with a guy named Caleb Lucien, with Hosean International Ministries, who is a missionary in Haiti," Jones said.
A very enthusiastic Jones embarked on his journey Saturday, March 13, just one day after the Crimson Tide opened spring football practice. He soon found it was not going to be easy. When scheduling the trip, they found that the Port-au-Prince airport in Haiti was closed, so Jones' group flew into Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. But from there the group still had quite a trip before reaching its destination city of Pignom.
"Puerto Plata is about a 10 hour trip [to Pignom]," said Jones. "The first three hours were in a taxi and then the last seven were in the back of a truck. It was seven of us, with nine pieces of luggage."
Pignom has become somewhat of a refugee camp for the children who lost their families when the earthquake struck. Jones' group spent the first day building showers; they dug the holes and began to lay the pipes. The next couple of days Jones spent his time with the kids, showing them there are still people that care.
"There was a wide range of kids anywhere from newborns to 20," said Jones. "We taught them how to play Uno, played soccer with them, a lot of them just kind of needed to be loved."
And when Jones traveled to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, he saw first-hand the reason why.
"I was definitely more shocked when I saw it in person just because on TV it seems so far away; but in person, it is real," said Jones. "Seeing people who had lost it all; they live in big fields filled with tents called tent cities. You see thousands of tents. It is where they live because all their houses are in shambles or condemned."
The group spent the rest of the week in Pignom, performing different relief projects and continuing to form bonds with the Haitian people, until it was time to return home.
Jones returned to Alabama this week, to not only classes, but to spring football practice. Spring practice recommenced on March 22, and will continue until the A-Day Game on April 17.
Is Jones wishing he had spent his spring break relaxing, maybe going to the beach with his friends?
"Definitely not," he said. "There will be plenty of other times to go to the beach, but this was the experience of a lifetime, something I may never be able to do again, and an experience I would never take back."
Alabama Coach Nick Saban commented on Barrett's trip and how it could affect the entire team. He said, "I think it would be an experience for the team to understand. I think Barrett made a tremendous sacrifice. It shows what kind of person he is and how he's willing to sacrifice his spring break to go to Haiti. He was very touched and moved and said this. It makes us appreciate what we have, realtive to what we take for granted and relative to how people have to live in other parts of the world, especially after that tragedy. It was a woderful experience for him, he really enjoyed it. I think there is a lot more for the rest of the team...to have compassion for other people, to be able to give back in so many ways, and how much self-gratification you get for doing things like that."
EDITOR'S NOTE: Jaclyn Sunseri, a student assistant in Alabama's media relations office in the athletics department, is the daughter of Bama Assistant Coach San Sunseri.?
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