Lynn Athletic Director Devin Crosby recently interviewed Ruth Zijlstra, a Lynn volleyball player that positively impacted refugees with the power of sports.
Zijlstra is a big part of the Lynn volleyball program. She helped lead her team to the best season record
in history and a conference championship before COVID-19 shut things down. When the 2020 season was canceled, Zijlstra had the choice to either go home and work or to follow her heart and touch the lives of those less fortunate. She went to Lesbos, Greece and volunteering at a refugee camp that is overflowing with people who must endure horrid living conditions.
“I have always felt that it is not fair that I have all these opportunities, but so many people in the world do not have these opportunities,” said Zijlstra.
Having grown up in the Netherlands and studied in Amsterdam before coming to Lynn, Zijlstra realized that she had lived a life with luxuries that many do not have. The experience of serving in the camp truly opened her eyes and grew her passion for helping those in need worldwide. While she was in the camp, she witnessed over twenty thousand people live in poor conditions, massive fires, flooding and other terrible things, which encouraged her to find a way to ease the refugees suffering.
“I could not believe that people had to live in those kinds of conditions, such misery, and it really touched me,” said Zijlstra.
While Zijlstra lived among refugees from nations around the world, such as Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and Congo, she found a perfect unifier and distraction for them in sports. She organized volleyball and soccer games with the camp people, which brought joy and friendship to the people who often did not have much reason to smile. Zijlstra could not give any of the refugees a new life, but she showed up in their lives and helped them cope with their unfortunate circumstances, which made them feel loved and important.
“In the camp, it is hard because every different nationality has to deal with each other, but when they play sports… it does not matter,” said Zijlstra.
To learn more about the hope and compassion Zijlstra brought to the refugee camp, check out the full interview between Devin Crosby and Ruth Zijlstra in Lynn Fighting Knights “The Process” on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=43fXv3JUVNs