Two trips that changed three Georgia Tech athletes

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One brought home a painting from Haiti.

The other two brought home a wooden giraffe from Namibia.

Three Georgia Tech athletes spent part of their summer vacation learning that happiness doesn’t always come from having.

The giraffe the volleyball players bought in Namibia.

The giraffe the volleyball players bought in Namibia.

After seeing children in Africa wearing the same clothes day after day, or others in the Caribbean whose stomachs were distended because of malnourishment, football player Chris Tanner and volleyball players Jordan McCullers and Alison Campbell learned that sometimes contentedness can be found in difficult circumstances.

The hard part was when McCullers and Campbell had to tell some children that they were out of food.

Several days a week for a month, they drove from McCullers’ brother’s home to a youth center in Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, to prepare food in a kitchen the size of a walk-in closet for the 200-400 children that would show up each day.

One of the children, just 5 years old, would come in carrying an infant in a pack on her back because her parents weren’t around.

McCullers and Campbell would put rice or noodles into a stew and work on preparing the meat that would eventually be doled out in cube-sized portions to the children, most of who wore the same clothes every day for a month.

On their first day – the hardest day – they said 400 kids showed up. There simply wasn’t enough food. After feeding the youngest first, the oldest came through the line. All that was left was a bit of the stew.

“They were just looking at us,” Campbell said.

But it got better…for everyone, at least for a little while.

Namibia is located in the southwest corner of Africa.

Namibia is located in the southwest corner of Africa.

Despite Namibia’s official language being English, most of the citizens in Windhoek speak a regional dialect, making communication difficult.

But the Americans had two things in their favor: McCullers’ blond hair, which fascinated the children, and sports.

They said in Namibia, which is located on Africa’s southwest coast, men play sports and women don’t. McCullers saw some boys playing soccer, one of them wearing a single dress shoe because that’s all he had. She wanted to play.

The boys wouldn’t let her.

Finally, one of them, Phillip, relented and waved her over. After a few minutes, in broken English, he paid her a compliment:

“You play like a man!”

The Tech players taught the kids volleyball and made friends. Two children in particular won’t be forgotten: a little girl named Oma (it’s hard to tell ages because of malnutrition) and a girl named Kennedy who liked to play a never-ending game of tag.

An unhappy elephant.

The unhappy elephant.

When and McCullers and Campbell weren’t helping the children they were able to go on a safari. Seeing a bull elephant, ears flared, standing a bit too close to their vehicle made McCullers’ legs go numb.

But it was a giraffe that serves as  an example of a lesson learned.

Before they left in June, Campbell bought the wooden trinket in a marketplace for $10. They named it Herald.Though it’s one more object they have, it reminds them they they don’t need everything. The children taught them that.

“Be happy with what you have,” Campbell said. “Don’t always want more.”

McCullers (left) and Campbell with some of the Namibian children they worked with.

McCullers (left) and Campbell with some of the Namibian children they worked with.

The painting is full of colors, reds, blues and whites that sparkle on the parchment. They are so pretty that it’s easy to miss the face, a self-portrait of the artist, that forms the left edge of the artwork.

It’s an image of a Haiti that the painter, a boy named Junior, hopes to see one day. Complete buildings along a clean beach with a sunset in the background bringing another day in paradise to a close. It’s a far cry from the devastation caused by the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that hit Haiti on Jan. 12.

Tanner bought the painting for $50 at a market. He has no idea where Junior got the paint.

Haiti was hit by an earthquake on Jan. 12.

Haiti was hit by an earthquake on Jan. 12.

But after spending a week in Haiti this summer on a mission trip, he said it’s amazing what the  people can do with so little.

He and 14 people from his church went to the port city of Jakmel for a week this summer to teach children how water affects their daily lives.

On the first day they taught the children the importance of washing their hands before meals. One boy had lost an arm. He stood at the bucket and rag, not sure how he was going to clean himself so that he could eat. Tanner said a little girl came up, washed his hand and took him to get the meal that had been prepared: a broth with a few ounces of meat. It was a feast for the children, who can go days without food unless they scavenge for something.

Tanner said every day in Haiti is about living to see the next. The parents don’t have much time to spend with their children because they are trying to survive. The children want affection.

“If you didn’t have five Haitian kids on you then something was wrong that day,” Tanner said.

Tanner said many of the children would walk 2 ½ hours each way to get to the camp for the 7:30 a.m. start.

Tanner’s group taught the children about earthquakes.

Tanner said they had the kids lock arms and then try to pull apart. When a gap occurred they explained that is like an earthquake. They showed them safety positions should another quake occur. At the end of the session, a few of the little girls practiced what they were supposed to do.

“They have a desire to learn,” he said.

Before he left, Tanner drove through the capital of Port-au-Prince that was near the epicenter of the earthquake.

He said he wasn’t sure what he was going to see. The devastation, well-chronicled, was there. But what he didn’t see was the most eye-opening.

Despite the rubble and the challenges of just trying to live, the people were friendly. They may have been washing their clothes in pools of water formed in pans, but they would take the time to wave as Tanner’s vehicle drove past.

“That was my biggest surprise,” Tanner said. “It went against everything that I had been introduced to by the media. Not a single positive spin. The negative was the earthquake happened. The people there are great.”

Much like Junior, Tanner said he hopes to one day see a Haiti that’s brand new. As an economics and international affairs major, he hopes to have a hand in the rebuilding.

Tanner is building a frame for the painting. It’s at his parent’s house now. It will eventually hang in his room. Campbell keeps the giraffe on a nightstand, a few inches away from where she sleeps.

But it’s the kids who are thousands of miles away that Tanner, McCullers and Campbell remember the most

“It really is a beautiful thing,” Campbell said. “They are so happy, and they don’t have anything.”

Chris Tanner works with the children in Haiti.

Chris Tanner works with the children in Haiti.

42 comments Add your comment

Reality

August 11th, 2010
2:43 pm

GA Tech football players doing things like this. UGAg football players getting arrested. You be the judge.

QUESTION

August 11th, 2010
2:45 pm

How will God judge…each one of us?

Burdell

August 11th, 2010
2:56 pm

Great story…thanks for sharing Doug.

Put a giant bugzapper on North Ave

August 11th, 2010
2:59 pm

Dawgs still own you

Dawg House

August 11th, 2010
3:12 pm

Reality…..

It’s sad that you arent able to read a good story like this without expressing your hatred and envy for a rival school’s football program (who owns you on the field) who had NOTHING to do with it.

One day, you Tech fans will get so sick of UGA whopping you that you will give up on your little “To Hell With Georgia” obsesion, and give your team your full support. Until then, continue to enjoy the empty seats in your “stadium” and the disappointment of having your Thanksgiving weekends ruined.

Nice story Doug, I enjoy seeing positive impact that student athletes can have in the world.

GO DAWGS!!! See you in November.

AJ

August 11th, 2010
3:31 pm

Hey Reality,

So two women play on your football team?

Alabama Jack

August 11th, 2010
3:51 pm

Hey dawg house, bite one.

Battle Axe

August 11th, 2010
3:58 pm

Well done Doug, very well done. Thanks for writing this, I needed it today.

(i didn’t need most of these comments made so far… grow up people!)

SatchelBuzz

August 11th, 2010
4:03 pm

Hey dawghouse,…don’t worry about us,….just know we hate everything about you bunch of arrogant jerks. It’s a new day,….and a great day to a ‘Jacket. CPJ doesn’t forget,…so enjoy the upset victory now,..in fact savor every minute of it,……payback’s coming.

THWG!!

mwh6767

August 11th, 2010
4:04 pm

Dawg house you try to poor mouth Reality for his statement and in you own mine take the “high road” but yet you can’t resist getting in a “we own you dig” as well as a slight about Tech’s “stadium”. You are no better than Reality and prob. worse. Also you made a statement referring to the “to hell with Georgia” that ends tech fight song. Have you ever listened to UGA’s fight song??? You do realize it ends with “and to hell with Georgia Tech”? And it has for about 100 years now. If you don’t want to see what reality has to say then get the crap off the Tech blog!

anybody but gt

August 11th, 2010
4:10 pm

One more thing. Colorado won the 1990 National Championship ! I have many bumper stickers to prove it.

mwh6767

August 11th, 2010
4:19 pm

Anybody, You have a colorado bumpersticker for 90 nat. champ? Funny I have a tech one as well as a 08 Acc Champs one and enjoy watching a winning team. Tell me what has Colorado done since 90??

anybody but gt

August 11th, 2010
4:37 pm

mwh6767, I sure do. Actually I have many bumper stickers that proclaim Colorado the 1990 National Champs. I also have a brand new T shirt that proclaims UGA the 2008 ACC champions. In case you haven’t heard, UGA beat gt in 2008. In addition, Colorado has done much since 1990 by virtue of the fact that is not the sucky gt or of the pansy ACC. Bumper sticker are available for one thousand dollars each. Want one?

What Year??

August 11th, 2010
4:42 pm

Didnt all that happen in 2009 not 2008 or am i crazy?

anybody but gt

August 11th, 2010
4:47 pm

2008,2009, UGA beats gt down so much it all runs together But, you are right, I stand corrected. UGA is the 2009 ACC champions.

dagnabit

August 11th, 2010
4:54 pm

Anybody couldn’t find his butt if he used both hands.

anybody but gt

August 11th, 2010
5:00 pm

dagnabit, how do you know?

--- NESBITT ---

August 11th, 2010
5:10 pm

Enter your comments here

Hotel Shreveport

August 11th, 2010
5:11 pm

Anywhere but Shreveport.

Athens, Georgia

August 11th, 2010
5:12 pm

.
Nesbitt for Heisman
.

Jack G.

August 11th, 2010
5:24 pm

Come on folks—-If you cant say something nice about these three young people who went to Africa and Haiti, dont say anything.
This is not a school hateing blog, Its a feel good blog.

SAINT SIMON

August 11th, 2010
5:39 pm

UGA 30 – GT 24!!!!!!!

UGA 73 – GT 66!!!!!!!!

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!

WE RUN THIS STATE!!!!!

Not Disappointed

August 11th, 2010
5:46 pm

Thank you Jack G! Great Story Doug!

Ramblin Wreck!

Charleston Jacket

August 11th, 2010
6:35 pm

My, my you UGA clowns really are ignorant……. no I take that back because if you were ignorant you could be educated, so that would be inappropriate – what you really are is stupid. Since you are stupid you are pretty much stuck. Sad place to be as you attempt to navigate life.

GIVE ME A BREAK

August 11th, 2010
6:45 pm

Good to read about college students that realize there is more to life than drinking and partying. Thanks Doug.

Tech Guy

August 11th, 2010
7:07 pm

These three students make me proud to be a Jacket. Thanks.

STUCK IN SC

August 11th, 2010
7:12 pm

All Techie nerds are gutless wonders.

STUCK IN SC

August 11th, 2010
7:14 pm

GT stands for get mugged five days a week. The projects of north avenue trade school.

GT Woman

August 11th, 2010
9:38 pm

Great story about GT players! Thanks Doug.
Dawgs-go troll your own blogs.
Go Jackets! Sting’em!

TDone

August 11th, 2010
9:54 pm

Stuck in SC, if I had a dog that looked like you, I would shave it’s butt off and make it walk backwards.

Bitemedawgfans

August 11th, 2010
10:58 pm

Great Story and its good to see that the student athletes making the State of Ga proud. Unlike the AD at UGA what color where those panties? And Mrs. anyone but gt fan, the only reason you still have bumper stickers from 1990 is because its still on your mothers car you drive.

macrotech

August 11th, 2010
11:31 pm

I’m willing to bet that “Anybody” has his entire car covered in bumber stickers….he sounds like he’d be THAT guy!

macrotech

August 11th, 2010
11:32 pm

STUCK IN SC, bless your little heart!

Dwight Schrute

August 12th, 2010
2:24 am

Dawg House, Your an idiot.

anybody but gt

August 12th, 2010
8:29 am

I just want to celebrate the true, rightful 1990 National Champions, The University of Colorado.

bubble boy

August 12th, 2010
12:31 pm

anybody but GT- collecting bumper stickers and t shirts is nothing to brag about. But you have your hobbies and I actually get laid. Cheers loser!

Congrats to these upstanding GT athletes for their fine work off the fields and courts! And to all GT and UGA athletes who give back to communities around the world.

anybody but gt

August 12th, 2010
5:00 pm

bubble boy, no brag, just fact. Maybe you should look at the scoreboard before calling a UGA fan a loser. Especially against gt. Please do not capitalize, gt doesn’t qualify.
YOU get laid? I’ll bet most dog fans step across better than you have ever seen.
Thanks to the fine UGA athletes who do many good things. The gt ghetto thugs don’t deserve any praise.

Yunkas

August 14th, 2010
3:27 pm

Yunkas

August 14th, 2010
3:54 pm

73-66

August 14th, 2010
11:44 pm

One trip that changed all Trek basketball players lives and brought them to the reality that their fellow “athletes” at historically terrible grant field already know.
UGA runs this state
30-24
8 of 9
60-39-5

macrotech

August 16th, 2010
3:21 am

73-66, would you be referring to the team that made the ncaa tourney? Nice little win, though!

Anybody, does your extensive collection of bumber stickers hold your car together? We could take up an offering for those lacking in funds! By the way, who are the uga atheletes that “do many good things”….couldn’t help, but to notice that you lack examples. Of course, we are WELL aware of all the ones that do bad….their stories have lined the bottom of bird cages throughout georgia! What a joy for all those birds!

Jeff

August 16th, 2010
12:37 pm

30 years…..