We are so inspired by Dave Mark’s R.I.P.P.E.D. journey. From practicing just two old seasons in a tin-roof shack to helping create a fitness program for an entire community of women in Belize, Dave has truly brought our mission around the world: to provide fitness that is fun and accessible for everyone.
Learn how Dave impacted a small village with R.I.P.P.E.D.:
Hey R.I.P.P.E.D. family! I have wanted to write and share this story for years now, and after having the online instructor training with Terry Shorter on May 23rd, that was all I needed for motivation to complete it. At the beginning of the training (during introductions), I gave my quick one-minute R.I.P.P.E.D. story, and Terry said it gave him goosebumps. I wanted to extend my story to involve the whole picture which involves my R.I.P.P.E.D. background, a tiny village in the jungle, and a stay-at-home-mom with a seventh grade education who was born to be a R.I.P.P.E.D. instructor.
R.I.P.P.E.D. and Me
I will never forget falling in love with R.I.P.P.E.D. It happened in a tin roof shack that was used as a storage shed for soccer equipment. It had only been a few months since I became a Peace Corps Volunteer, working as a Community Health Educator in a rural village in Belize called Guinea Grass. This had been my first time living outside of Idaho and away from my family, so needless to say I was dealing with homesickness. As I was getting integrated into my village, I had a lot of extra free time. Now, extra time and homesickness don’t go along well so I had to get busy! I had no computer, internet, or a plethora of books to keep me distracted BUT I did have a mini DVD player and the R.I.P.P.E.D. Seasons 3 & 6 DVDs.
I had taught R.I.P.P.E.D. classes before my Peace Corps experience, and I was an OK instructor, but in that tin-roof shack, I absorbed myself in those seasons. It was such a highlight in my day – and an escape from my homesickness and cultural adjustment issues. I loved feeding off of Terry’s positivity and energy from those videos. Needless to say, I got so good it became time to share R.I.P.P.E.D. with my village.
A Tiny Village in the Jungle
Part of my job as a Community Health Educator was to find ways for the locals to become healthier. This was done by health and PE classes at the schools, health-talk home visits, working at the health clinics, etc.; but my favorite was forming a women’s fitness group. We would meet up at 5:30 in the morning to do some type of cross-training workout in the soccer field or go under the palapa to do a R.I.P.P.E.D. workout (that I now knew from heart) – and what a success it became! I became a “super-instructor”. The women loved the R.I.P.P.E.D. workouts and eventually wanted more seasons than just 3 & 6. I came to learn season 10 & 12 as well. This was a great influence on the women of the community, especially my host mom, who took exercise, health and commitment to another level.
My Host Mom
Seidy Lopez grew up in the village as one of the youngest of almost two handfuls of siblings. At the age of seven, she began taking care of all her siblings and helping her mom with laundry, cooking and cleaning. Basically at seven she held the responsibilities of a village mother. Seven. Her father didn’t believe in girls getting an education (still very common in the village), so he had her stop school after seventh grade. After getting married at an early age she was overweight with lots of health issues. In fact, she almost died while delivering birth to one of her daughters. When I moved into her family’s household she seemed interested in exercise and implementing it into her daily life. She could not do a single pushup, but she was ready to make positive changes and get going! So when I began teaching R.I.P.P.E.D. she would rehearse with me in our house before classes and became so good she eventually had all of the seasons memorized! She could do pushups all day long and had reached a healthy body weight.
The Impact Of R.I.P.P.E.D. On The Community
A bigger goal of the PC mission is sustainability. For me, the question was how will people continue to become/increase/maintain health and fitness after I leave? The answer came to me with my host mom – Seidy Lopez! As my last few months of service were coming to an end, I finally got Seidy to start taking control of the women’s group. She was nervous but did so well! She would keep the weekly workouts fun and keep the women’s fitness group alive and strong with my sustainability goal in check. Fast forward 4 years after I left and Seidy has become the fitness guru of the village. She has created a group facebook page for the women and is in charge of weekly exercise classes. She even helps other Peace Corps Volunteers who now work in that village to get healthier and more fit! The ladies and young women look up to her so much – she has incorporated exercising and healthy eating into her daily lifestyle and truly loves the journey. She has been an example of how change is possible in the village. I am terribly proud of her. As when she was seven, she has unselfishly given her time and acts of service to others so that they may have a better quality of life. She has done laundry, cooked, cleaned and (now) taught exercise without ever receiving or asking for anything in return – not a dime – just to help others. Because that’s the kind of person she is.
Love, peace, health and fitness,
R.I.P.P.E.D. Instructor and Enthusiast Return Peace Corps Volunteer, Belize 2013-2015 Master of Health Education PE Teacher at Private School in Kuwait