July 18, 2013
Ashleigh Antal, a rising junior on the Vanderbilt women's tennis team, is one of more than 20 Commodore student-athletes and staff on a 10-day journey with Soles4Souls to deliver shoes to those in need in Tanzania, Africa. The international service trip is the first for Vanderbilt athletics in which the student-athletes are solely providing service and not participating in any scheduled athletic competition during the trip. Antal gives her perspective on day 4 of this unique experience.
Tanzania Journal: Trip Archive | Days 1-3
After six flights, four days, three continents, multiple layovers, and lost baggage, we're finally in Kigoma! We crossed Tanzania Thursday on a three-hour flight in a prop plane to be greeted by a rocky runway and our guides who exchanged our handshakes for hugs.
We climbed into a yellow bus, and proceeded to our first distribution site: a home for children without families. The 15-minute drive was eye opening for all of us. It was an experience really unlike any other. This was our first actual taste of Tanzania, and the poverty we are bound to encounter throughout the rest of the trip. The initial silence on the bus ride was soon broken by excited greetings from people watching us drive by, which quickly allowed our excitement to set in.
Pulling up to the orphanage, we could hear the beating of drums, and soon a group of dancing children came into view. We were told the ritual they were going through was usually performed to welcome a king, which left us all feeling rather undeserving, but overwhelmed with appreciation. Upon officially arriving, there were introductions, tours and explanations. These came accompanied by a variety of sights and experiences that words really can't do justice, but eventually we were able to get down to our work with Soles4Souls.
The whole process of handing out shoes is relatively simple. There are four jobs: sizers, washers, sorters and shoe givers. So basically everyone just takes a job and gets going. At first, our efficiency was less than ideal. Getting a group of 30 student-athletes with completely different personalities and different team backgrounds to get on the same page took a bit of trial and error, but after a few awkward minutes we hit our shoe-distributing stride. We flowed through the process relatively quickly, and came away from it feeling accomplished, and with a greater understanding of just how important this work is.
After we delivered all of the shoes to a new home, we got to know the kids we were there to help a little better. There were swings, races, drum lessons and butchered attempts at Swahili phrases that filled our time with these unbelievable children. The few hours we spent with them were such a blessing, and for everything we were able to do for them, they ended up doing far more for us. We gave them shoes, and they gave us perspective.
Most of us came away from the visit amazed by the outlooks these children had on life...and a whole lot of selfies of kids who really love cameras. So when it was time to leave, I can say for sure that not one of us was ready. Getting to love on these kids for the day completely erased the craziness of our journey to get here, and has left us all so ready for the rest of our trip.
Tomorrow will surely be humbling, inspiring, heartbreaking, yet incredibly hopeful all at the same time, but we are all loving every second of it. The `Dores are taking on Tanzania, and we can't wait to see what else this trip has in store for us!
Brandon Barca's Day 4 Photo Blog
The Commodores made their first shoe delivery with Soles4Souls Thursday afternoon, handing out new footwear to 45 children at Sanganyigwa B in Kigoma, which is located on the western border of Tanzania.
Sanganyigwa B places a strong emphasis on family, as four girls and four boys stay together with one house mother in charge of each unit. This is a much better setup than other orphanages visited by Soles4Souls; sometimes dozens of children can be crammed into one living space.
After VU's energetic group finished the distribution and played games with the kids, the Commodores traveled to its home for the next week: Kigoma Hilltop Hotel. This fantastic private resort features everything from zebras and monkeys on its grounds to a breath-taking view of Lake Tanganyika, which is believed to be the second largest freshwater lake in the world (by volume).
Enjoy photos from day 4 of the trip: