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Southmoreland junior headed to Haiti on humanitarian mission

| Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, 10:25 p.m.
Southmoreland junior Paige Bowman will travel to Haiti in February to assist earthquake victims as part of Project Help. Paul Paterra | Trib Total Media

High school band members nationwide are quick to tell and retell their favorite stories, tales they will relate at class reunions and for children and grandchildren. Few, however, have stories about being scarred for life — by an instrument.

Southmoreland junior Paige Bowman is the exception. As a member of the Scotties' marching band last year as a sophomore, Bowman recalls that exact moment, the one that made a considerable impression, literally, for life.

Walking alongside a band equipment trailer on the way to a band competition, Bowman, using one hand to stabilize several instruments, was forced to step from the paved surface onto the uneven roadside. Momentarily losing her balance, she looked up as a cymbal started falling from the trailer bed…in her direction.

“I caught it with my face,” Bowman said with a chuckle, adding that there was some blood. “I still have a scar on my nose right between my eyes.” Her ordeal resulted in a short-lived headache, but all was well by the end of the performance.

Bowman, however, will have a more poignant story to tell this February when, as part of Project Help, she will spend a week in Haiti to assist victims of the devastating 2010 earthquake that ravaged the nation. Bowman will travel to the third-world Caribbean nation with the Mt. Pleasant Church of God.

Bowman attended a Church of God summer camp and counselor Kim Barclay outlined the trip to Haiti.

“I said I wanted to go and help,” Bowman said. “I've wanted to go on a mission trip of this nature and told my mom (Pam) I was going. She agreed and I'm looking forward to the opportunity to help the Haitians.”

Barclay, a nurse by trade, worked in that capacity in Haiti following the earthquake and is making her sixth trip to Haiti through Project help.

“Paige has a strong desire to make this trip,” Barclay said. “She is committed to the program and feels she is being called to do this. This will be a real eye-opener for her and she will find poverty, poverty, and more poverty, but there is a maturity about her that she will do well. I'm not worried about her being able to adapt to the circumstances and be able to function in those the conditions. We won't know specifically until we arrive, but Paige will either work at a soccer camp or in a Bible-school capacity.”

As she prepares for her Haitian adventure, Bowman, a three-year veteran of the Scotties girls soccer team, is collecting soccer balls which she will send prior to her visit.

“I've been playing soccer since I was four and I love the game,” Bowman said, noting “it's the main sport in Haiti and I thought it would be cool to take them soccer balls. Playing all these years I have acquired more soccer balls than I need and I'm giving some of my own. Alex Kitta, who is on the soccer team, donated two garbage bags full of balls and I've accumulated more than 20 so far. My church (Bowman is a member of the Alverton Church of God) is helping and I'm distributing fliers in school and the community, to local businesses and soccer clubs which are donating extra soccer balls.”

Sunday school classes at Bowman's church have also chipped in with a donation.

Bowman added that Barclay agreed that sending the soccer balls was an excellent idea.

Becoming involved in the Haitian excursion is typical of Bowman's club involvement at Southmoreland, where she is a member of the Faith in Action Club, a Christian-based organization helping promote her trip, and the school's community-oriented YEA (Youth Educators Association) program which raises funds for various programs, including autism research and programs for special needs children.

Bowman's commitment to soccer and her Christian faith mirrors her commitment to the band, where she began playing the mallets in high school.

“I play all percussion instruments,” she said, noting that she continued in the footsteps of her grandfathers, parents, sister, and cousins as a member of the Scotties band, “but the mallets was not available in middle school. When I reached high school I had to learn how to play it and I had to know it. Even though I've been playing for several years, it's still challenging when the notes are faster and sometimes it's hard to match notes with what I am playing, but I enjoy it and spend as much time as I can with it.”

Foregoing the marching band in favor of the concert band this year, Bowman's work as a percussionist has not gone unnoticed by Southmoreland marching and concert bands director Jamie Gore, who is more than familiar with Bowman.

“Paige is always willing to learn new percussion instruments and strives to excel at all areas of music,” Gore said. “She is hard working and dedicated and holds herself to high standards daily. She continuously works to make improvements in her music. Paige is an athlete in addition to being a musician. She is always well-prepared despite being a very busy individual.”

There is more, however, to Bowman that has caught Gore's eye.

“Paige continues to impress me,” Gore said, noting the humanitarianism she sees in her percussionist. “She is always quick to get to know others and truly goes out of her way to relate to people. She is caring and always ready to help anyone in need. In class, she continually offers guidance to our younger students.”

Bowman's busy schedule includes her involvement as an East Huntington Township firefighter for nearly two years. In fact, even though she is two years removed from college, she hopes to land a scholarship through her firefighting background. But her interests range far beyond percussion instruments and firefighting. With her experience as midfielder and striker with the soccer team, Bowman has her sights set on playing as an interior lineman for the Pittsburgh Passion women's professional football team.

Perhaps she could serve as the team's one-person band during halftime intermission.

Les Harvath is a freelance writer.