July 22, 2013
Ashley Vega, a rising junior on the Vanderbilt soccer 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. Vega gives her perspective on day 8 of this unique experience.
Tanzania Journal: Trip Archive | Day 7 | Day 6 | Day 5 | Day 4 | Days 1-3
"Hakuna matata"...what a wonderful phrase. Native to possibly the best movie of all time, this expression is repeatedly heard throughout the country of Tanzania. For those of you who do not know (or for those of you without a childhood), "hakuna matata" translates to "no worries" in the native language of Swahili. Through our experiences here in Kigoma this week, it is evident that locals take these words to heart and although they may lack material possessions, their positive outlook on life more than makes up for it.
Today, we took part in our final distribution. What is this?! I feel like we just got here! We walked to a school started by an organization called Hope of the Nations for those children who are in the most vulnerable of situations. What differed from our previous locations was the fact this was an English speaking school that taught Swahili and Tanzanian culture only as separate, single subjects. This was obviously a breath of fresh air for us as we felt like we could now communicate on a much deeper, personal level.
During the visit, I was fortunately able to have a great conversation with Casey, one of the American teachers on staff at the school. Only in her late-twenties, this woman has already made an impact on hundreds of children's lives in Kigoma and continues to be a living blessing today. Moving from Iowa to Tanzania close to four and a half years ago, she is the prime example of what it means to be a light for the Lord. Placing others above herself, she is a living sacrifice, devoting all her time to giving these children hope for a better future.
When we told the kids we were delivering toys and shoes (finally able to communicate in English), they leapt from their seats and cheered, smiling from ear to ear as if you had given them the world. After some morning porridge and beautiful songs, we began our final shoe distribution. We ultimately moved onto handing out all sorts of toys, stickers, dum-dum pops, and of course, BUBBLES. Listen, if you ever want to entertain a child for hours, give them bubbles...works every time.
SIDENOTE! Ashleigh Antal and I stumbled across a hidden talent today. Turns out, although we are used to being fantastic in front of the camera, we are equally as brilliant behind it. Shout out to Brandon Barca: thanks for supporting newfound passions and changing lives.
Anyways...it is pretty unbelievable to see how thankful these children are for even the simplest things in life. Who knew a pair of shoes could make such an impact. The kids we have met on this trip have been so loving, energetic and never cease to radiate joy. They really do encompass what Tanzania is truly about and do an awesome job of upholding the Swahili phrase "hakuna matata." I mean after all, it is a problem-free philosophy :)
P.S. We went to the local Kigoma market today. Lots of culture...and even more fabric.
Day 8 Photos
Commodore student-athletes showed off their photography skills once again Monday with a terrific series of photos of the last shoe distribution stop of the trip. Thanks to Liz Saffold (bowling), Abby Carr (soccer) , Nick French (men's cross country), and last but not least, the dynamic duo known as "One Team, One Operation" ... the Ashleys (or is it the Ashleighs?)