Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Heartfelt Thank You

andrews mom
By Andrew Lovedale

Home sweet home. Traveling all day yesterday to London to spend time with my family, workout, and visit with old friends I was exhausted. I know I promised to be back before the team because I had a workout scheduled with the Bobcats, but things took a new turn.

I was expecting my OPT employment authorization card, of which you are not advised to travel without upon expiration of your student visa. A little miscommunication with the American consulate, and the fact that my heart would not be at peace if I did not make the trip, sent me on the way, leaving my fate in the hands of the almighty.

Upon arrival, the American embassy said I could come back whenever my card was issued to
pickup
collect my visa and that nothing could be done without my OPT card. Hoping my card would arrive any moment from now, turned into the card being scheduled to arrive before the 1st of August.

Now, sitting in front of a computer in my brother's lounge in London with my two little nephews (Fortune and Favor) running around, I feel desperate to write because I am very accountable to those who made our trip possible and need to help you all understand why it's taken me so long to come back. I in no way regret the decision I made, because I would rather grow as a person spending time with all the volunteers blessing others, if spending a little more time outside the US was the price I had to pay.

shoes
What more can I say? I am humbled by the very kind words of Mr. King Mawhinney (a father-like figure to me), Mr. Chris Easterling (both of us became automatic body guards for Molly Duncan), Lauren Biggers (who could not stop hanging out with the little kids), Morgan Clark (who received a kazillion love letters) and Molly Duncan (who displayed such unparalleled charisma during the trip). These people and many more who made the trip were outstanding.

To be honest, I did not know how most of them would respond to my culture, but everyone adapted too fast to my surprise. We spent a couple of days in Nigeria, but we touched them forever. This trip might make all of us feel guilty for what we have or the lifestyles we live, but the ultimate is for us to understand how lucky we are and remain grateful to our creator. From an understanding of how fortunate we are and gratitude to our creator, we then develop habits that help us extend some of that luck to others who are less fortunate, thus redirecting their gratitude to our creator.

Always remember those faces that smiled and danced in the midst of affliction, because no
shoes
matter what you encounter in life, when you look back to those faces, you can always find a place in your heart to still be grateful, because somewhere out there, there is someone in worse situation still smiling. We were blessed by every one we encountered during that trip, but the truth of the matter is that they blessed us more than we blessed them.

Growing up in the midst of so little, I came to understand that the world would be a better place if we put aside our individualistic attitudes and embrace a sense of community. The bible says it all: "love thy neighbor as thyself." Putting ourselves in the shoes of others allows us to take a step back and reflect on the meaning of the trip. From slums, to awful athletic facilities, to rich suburbs to barely existing educational centers or the orphanage with very little. Yet in all this, the people were graceful and strived to be happy.

clinic
From this experience, we were blessed and even inclined to do more. Although a Nigerian who had first-hand experience with the economy and culture, I learned a lot more about where I am from during this trip than anyone could imagine. I knew people suffered but did not know it was that bad, I knew people were rich but I did not know they were that rich, I knew people could be faithful in little but I did not know they could give a lot of their little to others, and I knew God has a purpose but my faith was made bigger by seeing him manifest himself in those 10 days.

We were a group of people from varying backgrounds but sharing a similar goal and being
coach sue
passionate about it, made it such a huge success. Mr. Emmanuel Ohonme, his lovely wife Tracie and Dr. Iko Ibanga (pro-health international) were such an inspiration. These are people that have sacrificed a lot to see others happy, and I believe God is leading me to continue learning from these people because they have so much of what he has placed in my heart. Coach Sue of Florida state was amazing and loved by all because of the way she let go and embraced the culture and its people.

The list could go on and on, but the bottom line being we all came together and did so much in very little time through God's grace. On my part, I have a lot of people to thank. Davidson college students and staff, Davidson Athletics, my teammates (both current and past), my coaches, Davidson United Methodist church (thanks for helping revive our basketball court), Davidson Community school and all those who kept us in their thoughts and prayers.

frank and andrew
Not only did you make my stay at Davidson such a blessing, you welcomed Frank to Davidson and more than everything, contributed to extending that love to our hometown. I believe that I speak for Frank when I say thank you. Thanks to Samaritan's Feet for playing such a huge role in our lives and for making this a huge success. We all learned a lot and made new friends along the way. In short, we are family.

The pictures speak for themselves, the reflections dole out the individual manifestations, but in everything, I say thanks to almighty God for making this a huge success. See you all soon and stay blessed.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Talking Small Steps

By Morgan Clark

Well, I’m not sure I even want to follow up Lauren’s blog because she’s said it all so perfectly.

goal
It’s been an emotional time since we’ve been back, and I’ve spent the last two weeks super busy (from work to weddings to summer trips) – pretty much keeping myself busy so that I don’t have to write this blog.

Because writing this blog means I have to come face to face with the realizations from our trip; that I’ll have to try and balance my current lifestyle with my guilt and urge to fight for a better of quality of life for all people.; that I’ll have to realize that I might not ever be as truly happy as the people we met in Nigeria and so many others like them.

Life can seem unfair and unjust – my main mantra has always been that your quality of life
school
should NOT depend on where you were born – but as I grow older I am discovering what I didn’t want to know…that a lot of it IS all about where you’re born, what tools you were given or what you seek out (education, food, a house, health).

Some of the lucky ones rise above their poverty or their situation and make a great life for themselves and are able to give back to others. My next stride is helping people at home (and myself) open their eyes to the world that exists out there – the world that we tune out – the world that we need to give back to.

It could be a bum on the street corner by your house, a family in need of sustainable food, a neighbor that can’t pay their electricity bill, or a barefoot child – just look around you and take it all in – don’t continue to ignore it and think, “there’s nothing I can do.”

lagos
Poverty exists everywhere – and there’s no way that we will be able to eradicate it completely – but there are small steps we can take to help put a dent in it. Donating your income is great (and very necessary!!!), and I am much appreciative of all of our donors – but I urge everyone to become hands on as well.

There’s no way that I can make someone really understand what happened in that slum in Lagos, or that village school in Benin – they’ll tune it out and absorb it into the rest of their day (just like I normally would have). What you really need to do is become a part of the action (locally or globally) – make a difference and you’ll see what a difference it makes in you.
court


Andrew and Frank have impressed me so much, and I can say without a doubt that they are my role models. I look forward to watching them continue to shine and to what other endeavors the year will bring us.

Thank you to the Davidson community and to my personal donors for helping change my life, and so many others.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

now what?

slum
By Lauren Biggers

Standing in the middle of a slum in Lagos, Nigeria, in rubber boots and lab coats, outside a school run by Hands at Work in Africa (google it!) and a million miles away from our reality in Charlotte, Morgan looks around. “This has to be a different world,” she says. Wearing sunglasses and a smile to spare the kids my tears, I agree, “I’m not sure how much more I can take.”

I promised follow-ups and pictures of our trip to Nigeria with Samaritan’s Feet, and suddenly, it’s two weeks later. Words are my business, but I can’t find the right ones or hit the right tone.
shoes


Though I’ve said it before, thank you for reading. The feedback was better than I ever anticipated; you became an extension of our team.

Now, you ask, “How was Nigeria?” and I don’t feel like I give an adequate answer. Truth be told, I haven’t come up with one yet. But I’ve used a lot of adjectives trying.

backboard
It was rewarding to give shoes to children who so desperately needed them, but didn’t know it. Surreal to visit the basketball court on wire road in Benin where the whole thing started. Wonderful to work alongside new friends for a common purpose. Challenging. Humbling. Amazing.

I was so proud – so proud that proud isn’t even the right word – to watch Andrew lead hundreds of players in basketball clinics and Simon Says and Knock Out, to command attention and demand respect with quiet strength and confidence, but not the least bit surprised. Of Andrew, I knew what to expect.
knock out

My surprise was reserved for Frank. I didn’t know what to expect, but he was entertaining, engaging and equal to every task. In his hands, the lamented cards depicting the story of Noah and the Ark came to life, and the children loved every minute. He was an able photographer, tour guide and bodyguard. (Awesome! Fabulous!)

frank
There quite simply isn’t enough space to hit even the highlights. I loved getting to know Andrew and Frank’s friends and family and the pro-health volunteers that we spent time praying and eating with daily (We woke up at 5! I acted in a drama and sang “Happy Birthday” in front of the whole group!). I loved spending time hanging out in our “Queens Suite,” watching Africa Magic or CNN International on TV between bucket showers and power outages.
frank with kids

I loved fully experiencing the culture, from the INSANE driving to the food (chicken and rice or chicken and chips? I tasted snail!) to church (four hours! Crazy clapping!) to the clothing (real Nigerian outfits!). I loved getting to know Molly, Coach Sue, Chris, King, Manny, Al, Tracie and the whole lot. I loved ‘snapping’ pictures of the kids and showing them what they looked like on the digital camera, loved hearing people shout ‘oyibo’ at us and seeing their reactions when the white people waved back.

nigerian outfits
And as pieces of the trip have begun to fade —Frank wondered aloud at the airport just a day later, ‘Did that really happen? Were you girls really there?’ — Morgan and I standing in that slum is a moment I’ll remember vividly for the rest of my life. The culmination, almost, of a crazy idea we had a few months ago.

In trying to explain, I compared it to years ago when we found out my dad was sick. Melodramatic, maybe, but every bit as life changing, in a way that divides your life not so neatly into before and after, and binds you forever to those you share the experience with. It colors perspective, influences decision.
morgan

Never a terribly materialistic person, how can I possibly want for more now that I have seen those with so little, so happy? Usually a terribly vain person, how can I possibly care now that I have seen those unburdened, so carefree?

It’s a working analogy that I’m working to apply to my life. For now, I’ve decided on a small gesture to save money. Over time, I hope to put a dent in my $1,000 pledge to help build a school for the children served by the Hands at Work project in Lagos. Our entire team will raise a combined $13,000, which will be matched by an anonymous donor to Samaritan’s Feet, before spring.
lauren and morgan


For those of you who want to continue to be a part of the process, email me (labiggers@davidson.edu) or morgan (moclark@davidson.edu). Maybe we will take another trip for the ribbon cutting.

Crazy is as crazy does.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A View From The Stands

By Chris Easterling

I have spent the past three seasons sitting in the stands watching Andrew Lovedale play the game of basketball. His hard work and determination were evident each trip down the court. But nothing that I saw from Andrew on the court compares to what I was fortunate to “Witness” in Nigeria. His heart is that of a “Big Cat."

To see the pride in Andrew’s face as he led simple games or when the new basketball goals were raised on the court on which he played his first games. He has a vision to help the people of Nigeria fulfill their own dreams, and with his desire I see it happening. I was honored to play a small part and look forward to assisting Andrew in the future.

Benin City and Lagos are similar cities only different in the number of people moving around. From sun up to sun down there is activity in the streets from the street side vendors to the small business shops that fill the surrounding buildings. With the amount of poverty which the team witnessed you would think there would be more beggars holding “Will work for food” signs. Instead my feeling was most wanted to do something no matter how large or small to earn a living.

I was told from a financial standpoint there was an upper class and lower class but I was not prepared for the huge divide. The living conditions in some areas were unbelievable with trash lining the roads and waterways. The mission team’s focuses were in those places, the small villages and impoverish areas.

This is where the church pastors and lay leaders have set up churches and schools to care for the children. These dwellings are simple one room, open buildings but are filled with positive messages of hope and love. The teachers are the true heroes with the responsibility to help change lives.

The process of giving out shoes was the most humbling part. Sitting face to face with children and adults, touching them both physically and spiritually while at the same time yourself being touched by their gratitude. I will never forget the impact the simple gesture of giving someone a pair of socks and shoes can have. The smiles and laughter of the children will resonate in my mind forever.

This experience touched me more than I expected. Even with the incredible conditions in which most people live, there is a spirit of hope and strong faith that God will provide. There are those that want to help and will be there to carry out the mission which the team began.

And I left there with a new group of friends that will be forever linked together because of this journey. All with different beliefs and reasons for going, but who all were touched in some positive way. These will be my most cherished friends.

I know this will not be the last time the Davidson family will be moved to help, and I look forward to the opportunity to be there when it happens. Watching Davidson basketball games from my seat in the stands will never be the same.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The King's Musings

By King Mawhinney, Davidson alumnus

When I told people that I was going to Nigeria, I got all the typical responses, "Isn't that where the e-mail scams are generated?" "I heard they don't have a sewer system and the electricity goes on and off." "It's really hot there and they have malaria." "What will you eat?" "I hear you can't drink the water." While a number of friends and neighbors were supportive, many wouldn't believe that I'd want to go, much less be excited about going.

After a week in Benin City, I can say with authority that while some of the concerns above are true, they are hardly representative of this country. Benin City pulses with energy from early morning to late evening. It's culture is vibrant with both the traditional and more modern trappings. The dress is colorful, the food served with just the right amount of spice, and the hospitality second to none. The over one million people of Benin are warm, polite and excited to see people from the U.S.

There is tremendous need! It's surprising how much needs to be done to improve the life of the average Nigerian, but it is equally amazing how little it takes to enhance their current quality of life - a pair of shoes, a little love, a few more nairas (the currency). The adults and children I met were sustained by their faith and committed to working, especially as entrepreneurs. They were committed to helping their own people. All they needed was a little training and support. We asked for 30 volunteers on Sunday, and they showed up on Tuesday AND Wednesday to work with hundreds of children!

In conclusion, following Andrew Lovedale's lead has impacted me personally. Talk about a learning experience! I will never forget the people of Nigeria. I want to come back! If you have an opportunity to come here with Samaritan's Feet, jump on it - you will be better for it. And try a Nigerian breakfast of plantain porridge with spicy chicken or corned beef on wonderful white bread and pineapple juice. It and the work will sustain you.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

goodbye from africa

By Lauren Biggers

i have 10 minutes of time remaining in the hotel business center in lagos, which is basically nothing. it takes 30 minutes just to get signed into my email account...

so for now, let me just say on behalf of the entire team, thanks to all for reading. i expect we won't be able to write any more from nigeria, unless by divine intervention. we are off now to do a little souvenir shopping for momentos to remember the trip by, and then back to the hotel after dinner. we leave in the morning and will spend the entire day traveling (he's just not that into you is the inflight entertainment! suhhhweet!)

i intend to have everyone post a blog about the overall experience, so please keep reading in the next week. also pictures. also, more big news to come about a project to build a school in the community we visited yesterday (!!!!).

personal highlights for me include watching andrew lead the basketball clinic in benin and watching frank dance and sing with the children. they have both been tremendous. i have loads and loads of stories to tell, but i just got the 'five minutes remaining!!' so for now, though, so long from all of us, and good speed.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

hodge podge

By Morgan Clark

Last 5:30 am prayer session!!! After which we sorted through remaining
shoes (about 400) and got ready for the day.

We went to the hospital where pro-health was running their free health clinic to give shoes out to the children in the pediatric ward and those waiting for surgery or were waiting with their parents. Majority of these children did not own any pairs of shoes, so we felt very helpful at this site.

We set up in the pharmacy, and Lauren, King, Chris, and myself had a good shop running… we were able to keep it calm, and quiet, and efficient so that the children wouldn’t be disturbed as their feet were washed. We worked straight for 3-4 hours, tirelessly, and it really paid off.

There was a school nearby, and as soon as word got out that we were distributing shoes, we probably had about 500 schoolchildren submerging onto the hospital in eager anticipation.

Molly, Frank, Andrew and Tracie did an excellent job on crowd control…and believe me, it was tough. Molly shared a story about a mom taking another child hostage until her child would be given shoes. It took a lot of strength for them to face the crowds – it’s so hard to turn away such pleading faces.

We worked from 10-2ish and then went back to our hotel to pack up and get lunch on the way to the airport for our flight to Lagos. Before we left, we had a goodbye visit from Andrew’s family, which was filled with pictures, gifts, and so much love. We were really blessed to have them there (along with his church family), as they showed us an entirely different side of Benin City (plus Andrew’s nephew Dunamis is unbelievably cute!).

Andrew & Frank saw us off to the airport and we flew to Lagos, where we’ll stay until Monday. PS- you can only buy a ticket for your plane AT the airport ON the SAME day you want to fly (interesting concept?).

LAGOS
Well, I knew Lagos had about 14 million people, but flying in really put it into perspective (I couldn’t see it really when we first landed there on our way in from Atlanta)… I’ve flown into LA and NY, and they pale in comparison to the size of this “city.”

I had read some great articles about Lagos on slate.com before we came (thanks to my boyfriend’s research skills), but WOW… Lagos is something to experience. Such a BUSY, moving city. It’s definitely a lot like NY, but on a completely different economic level. The traffic is insane, the buildings, the people, it’s crazy! SOOOO different from Benin – it doesn’t even feel like the same country. Also, the electricity still goes out a lot here too – imagine such power outages in NYC and how they would go crazy – here it is the norm.

Anyway, we flew into Lagos arriving around 6ish, where our contact Henry met us. Henry volunteers with Pro Health and is awesome – what a funny guy. Coincidentally, he is flying to Raleigh next weekend for a week to visit a friend. I’ll actually be in Raleigh that weekend, so we have made plans to meet up – can’t wait to see him “on the other side”. Henry took us to dinner, to our hotel (which is very nice as I sit here using the internet, it’s actually fast!) and we all crashed for the night.

SATURDAY
Woke up this morning, and Henry took us to meet Pastor Rex, who works with Hands At Work in Africa, a charity sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline, that does some amazing things. Everyone, google Hands at Work RIGHT NOW because this is AMAZING organization that gives the tools to the community members to help better their lives.

Rex took us to the real slums of Lagos... to communities where so many kids have been affected by HIV/AIDS and to communities where they refer to them as “water people." Manny told us a quick story about how here, when a baby is born, some throw it into the “water” (which is like a giant sewage dump that you cannot believe is the Atlantic ocean) and if the baby floats up to the top, they keep it. If it doesn’t, they leave it. Insane.

We were given Hands at Work white coats and rainboots to wear as we walked around, to protect us from the slush we were walking through – the same slush that the kids were running through barefoot. I am still trying to process what we saw today… it’s hard to imagine that people can live like this. But still, the children were so happy to see us. They have the brightest smiles, and it’s really the only thing that makes me feel not terrible – to know that they are still able to be happy.

I don’t think I’ve seen children smile so genuinely before (other than a baby’s first laugh) like they do here. You can see it all over their faces how happy it makes them for us to sing to them, play with them, handshake or high five.

Pastor Rex and Hands at Work has established a free school for some children in the community as there are NO government schools in this “water” area. They also are able to feed the children, and we served
them their lunch today at their school. The school is a shanty that is divided into four “classrooms,” and they were learning English and math. Wonderful teachers. Heartbreaking though – this was a totally different level than the schools we saw in Benin City and the village there. Pastor Rex and his wife are an amazing couple, and I’m so glad to meet him. I will definitely be involved with Hands at Work from now on!

That’s all I have to say today... I am really still speechless so I’m glad I could manage this. Andrew has just joined us again tonight, along with his friend Moses (yay!), and we’ll hang with them until we leave. We missed Andrew & Frank a lot today, as they always have side comments or something to point out on our drives, that without them, we wouldn’t have noticed.

To sum up: LAGOS is CRAZY. I miss Benin City, haha. No, but I can see why Frank likes to come to Lagos – it’s definitely one big party in certain areas. Our hotel has a pool and poolside bar and plays lots of islandy music – very calypso – reminds me a LOT of the Bahamas. My college friends who went on spring break with me there – the hotel here is very similar. So funny. Lots of love to all!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

cultural exchange

By Lauren Biggers

i know you have missed me... sorry for the delay. yesterday was a travel day for us, as we moved from benin city to lagos (which is INSANE). morgan is writing about today (friday), as well, so keep reading...

I’ve been playing blog editor all week, organizing who is writing about what and when, and all of a sudden it’s our last day in benin. I have loved getting other people to write a blog (as I take a lot of heat for my pet projects), but I haven’t had the chance to write since we arrived! Sad.

I hope you are enjoying reading about our experiences (adventure! adventure!! adventure!!!... Nigerian advertising using a lot of progressive exclamation points, and well, I like exclamation points), almost as much as we are enjoying experiencing them. We will lose our computer today, so generously loaned by andrew’s friend moses, so I cannot promise that we will be able to write more until our return. Hopefully we can find an internet cafĂ© in lagos, where we travel tonight at 6 p.m. local time. Either way, please keep checking back, as I’m hoping the team will write final thoughts upon our return, and post pictures! (! !! !!!)

I’ve given myself the task of writing about Thursday, which included a visit to a local orphanage and a trade school associated with it, as well as a (HUGE) lunch at pastor ben’s (andrew’s pastor) house. Our day began with the usual wake up call. Despite being in a suite, we receive two individual phone calls, saying ‘moooorning. pro health… time for prayer.’ For the first time on the trip, I am not thinking of killing the person on the other end of the line, and we didn’t immediately crawl back in bed, as I seem to be adjusting to the early waking. I’m highly doubting I will take this habit home.

After prayer and breakfast, we board our bus to visit the orphanage, picking up pastor ben along the way. The orphanage, run by an amazing woman who must be in her 80s, houses 25 children from probably a year old up to 23 years old. The school –aged children are not around, and the babies were sleeping. This is probably for the best for me. I love talking with the people, but there is something about the children that really touches my heart. How much more the orphaned children. i am becoming more Angelina-jolie like by the minute.

We have spent a great deal of the week making sure pastor ben and his church are equipped to handle the shipment of shoes and the distribution when the container is finally released, so it is especially touching to hear him explain the mission of the organization, promising his return with shoes for all of the children. it is a great experience for us to serve the people of Nigeria, but it is even more special for the people of Nigeria to serve the people of Nigeria.

We do have shoes for the orphanage’s volunteers, about 15 of them, so we spend some time finding the perfect pairs for the ladies, replacing their worn out leather flip flops with brand-new tennis shoes. a brand-new pair of tennis shoes transcends all cultural boundaries, and no matter how many feet you wash, there is still something very intimate about the process.

Afterwards we are joined by some of the volunteers and escorted to a trade school associated with the orphanage, where the local people learn all sorts of vocations – welding, sewing, cake decorating, hairdressing. Morgan, molly and I buy necklaces from some of the ladies.

As you can imagine, we cause quite a scene wherever we go, as I think morgan mentioned before. (you wouldn’t believe the camera phones! It’s like Stephen curry goes to Nigeria.) Did she mention that we also travel with a security detail, taking a pair of armed guards with us at all times, keeping us and our shoes safe from harm? At first they were very standoffish, but we have succeeded in friending them. The first day we brought them along was cloudy, deemed by one of our team members ‘perfect for shooting.’ That elicited some sideways stares from our guards, clutching semi-automatics. But today, I was playing with a baby at the orphanage and lost track of time. I heard the typical ‘pssssssh psssssh,’ as I was summoned to the bus by the guard.

After boarding and unboarding the bus (we weighed it down too much to make it out of the driveway without getting stuck… too much chicken and rice), we left the trade school and drove into the palace complex. Morgan and I are natural learners, so this is an interesting thing to see – the people waiting to have the government hear their disputes, mostly about land succession. We are very curious about the culture, to the point where we nearly annoy frank and Andrew on a daily basis.

In the afternoon, we are treated to lunch and a time of fellowship at pastor ben’s house, where we are greeted by andrew’s family and some of the volunteers from the church. This is probably the fourth or fifth occasion we have been able to spend a significant amount of time with them, which makes saying our goodbyes even harder. After we toast to our new friends and eat multiple helpings of traditional Nigerian food (when you put your fork down, your plate is taken and you are given a clean plate and sent back to the kitchen for more. No thanks is not an option), andrew’s brother-in-law teaches us a gospel song in the local dialect. Frank wrote about my struggles with the clapping and singing, and I wish he were exaggerating, but I cannot tell a lie. I cannot conquer the Nigerian rhythm, much to everyone’s amusement. This church family has been more hospitable than they should, packing food for us to take, treating us to cake and ice cream, and giving us bronze-casted gifts, one of the most traditional crafts.

When we arrive back at the hotel, we find they have delivered the Nigerian outfits they measured us for the day we arrived (theme party?!). Moses has arrived, and his girlfriend, I-Y (I cannot spell it, this is how we were instructed phonetically to pronounce it) agrees to the task of tying morgan, molly and my head wraps. Friday is the final day of the project for pro health, and they hold a closing ceremony called ‘first timers night.’ Naturally, our whole team shows up wearing our Nigerian outfits. Naturally, we are a huge hit. if we thought we had taken pictures earlier in the week, we could not have prepared for the amount of picture requests these outfits inspire. Sitting with morgan and Andrew, both dressed in Nigerian clothes, in the dining hall of the hotel, I can’t help but wonder aloud, ‘how did we get here?’

But we did, and we have had a blast. Andrew acts as one of the emcees for the evening, and molly is called on stage to answer the question, ‘what are five things you have learned about Nigeria on this trip?’ her answers include: African time is very different than American time (by about three hours), and the water bottles are extremely full here. Our whole group performs the song that we learned earlier in the day, and I play a part in a drama, after being asked to do so earlier in the week. I think it was my performance of ‘happy birthday’ to a volunteer in front of the group (there is no end to my humiliation it seems) that inspired my invitation into the drama club. If you got it, you got it.

The night finishes with more pictures and more dancing, as we spend one final night of fellowship with our new Nigerian friends. Today is our last day in benin, and we are off to distribute, hopefully, the remainder of our shoes at the hospital where the pro health group is holding its free clinic.

the power just went off again, and I didn’t even blink. breakfast is over, and my suite has been invaded by Andrew and frank (who posted below as well!), again, so I’ve lost my quiet time for reflection. Time for another Nigerian culture lesson. ;)

in the heart of my mother land

By Frank Ben-Eze '12 (AKA papareze)

DAY 1. Back in Benin city... Wow... a city I once had a trade mark, a good one! (I think)...

Hot as ever, maybe even hotter than it was five years ago or maybe it’s just my perception because I have been out for a while. Home was bliss, with a reunion filled with dramatic moments, one that mere words couldn’t describe.

Driving to the airport to welcome our guests from the US was so much fun as I and Drew reminisce over special moments and events (good and bad) we have had here in Nigeria and how our dreams connected.

Waiting at the arrival area of the local Benin City airport not knowing if to start crying tears of joy seeing dreams becoming reality. This was a moment not everyone is opportune to have in their lifetime, and here we are at 23 and 19 and it’s happening.

As our visitors arrived, I was out of my mind excited because I couldn’t wait to ask questions. (1) about the hot weather? What they could say about the over-populated Lagos city where the team transited before flying to Benin.

I can see Lauren! I said to Drew, and she waved at us running out to meet us outside. Oh yeah... You should see how my fellow Nigerian brothers and sisters were staring at her… It was “oyinbo”- a word used to describe white people. I guess they thought she was jlo or better some American pop star.

Awesome day 2!... I called it meeting the Lovedale’s. The day started with worshiping at Drew’s home church. I couldn’t wait for this moment because as a Nigerian, I always knew that one place to really enjoy the diverse culture of any African community was the church. And yea! Our team experienced that.

Molly got the claps for the worship and praise songs perfect… Oh God bless her because as such at young age she discovered her true heritage..lol. Morgan, although “enjoying church,” couldn’t stop looking around her as it seems like she has just been ejected from her seat in baker sport complex into a strange jungle in Africa.

oh ...i love coach sue, not just because I love basketball,l but because she never had a second thought about any event. She danced as if she had received tons of Nigerian dance classes before embarking on this trip.

And lest I forget, not only was I an observer, I also became a “ teacher” giving some free clap classes to Lauren as she struggled with this strange combination of singing and clapping together…. to her it just wasn’t working.

Day 3 gets better... Not only did it come with joy but also one that was very emotional. Although the mission of the team was to reach out to these kids with sneakers and the gospel, it appeared to be more than that to me.

Growing up in this city, playing on that same court where the event was talking place, looking at the faces of friends, old and young. Seeing the tears on the eyes of people I knew so well as their feet were washed and new sneakers placed on them brought tears to my own eyes.

I was raised in different cultures in Nigeria and have had certain events in my life that were memorable, but this trip I call my best thus far and has placed a memory that would be with me for the rest of my life.

Giving is bliss!!

Monday, June 15, 2009

love and basketball, continued

By Andrew Lovedale

(with much encouragement, Lauren Biggers and Morgan Clark were able to get andrew to write about yesterday's basketball clinic, before his nap)

4pm was our estimated time for arrival at the basketball court but due to the fact that we left the hotel a little late, we got there at about 4.30pm. On our way to the basketball court, we saw Uche Gift (the boy that commented on the espn article: Davidsons other star) and gave him a ride to the basketball court.

The first time we went to the basketball court (on monday), we had about 150 people waiting for us, but this time around (wednesday), there were at least 200 waiting in anticipation that we will share shoes.

Before doing anything with the basketball, we called them together, said a prayer, and we all spent time working hard to put the new rims up. The basketball courts are in a lot better shape than they were the first time when we came.

This time around, the upright was painted and so was the court, with new basketball rims, a ton of basketballs and players with new shoes ready to take on the court. We prayed and before you know it, the basketball court was set up, looked new with spots filled and renovated and everyone excited for the evening. the backboard includes a painted dedication to davidson collge!

It was tough to make everyone play, so we decided to play a famous game called "simon says." This is where the essence of the trip comes in. These guys played basketball, but they do not know how to catch fun with the game without actually playing 5 v 5 or 3 v 3.

Like I told them before we started, it seemed silly doing it with over 200 people but as soon as we got going, the whole place became loud with people jumping all over the place and yelling. The last time I felt such an atmosphere was after the game against Gonzaga in 2007-2008 season. As Molly rightfully put it, "it felt like we were in Detroit all again with Davidson banners flying and witnesses relishing such rare moments that our lovely program will so strive to maintain.

Before the start of Simon says, the coach asked me if he should select the male players that could do anything, and I told him that even someone that cannot play basketball might even be able to win. He was nervous but again, a girl who just started learning the game, beat the experts and won a brand new leather basketball.

After Simon says, we split the players to four groups and played knock out. Again, the ladies came through as a girl (Amina) ended up winning a brand new basketball. The guys were very surprised but for me it was great news. (note from morgan: people were asked to choose sides to cheer for for the final round, and not only girls were cheering on the eventual winner - all the boys were excited too!)

We then proceeded to spend sometime playing basketball with them. Chris Easterling, Manny Ohonme, Uche Gift, Onaiwu (older player) and myself were on one team. It was such a good time as everyone got excited and wanted to beat us so bad. It was intense, the crowd was into it, everyone was happy, and we just cherished the opportunity to spend time with them.

One might wonder what th ladies were doing while we played basketball! Well, Molly was busy forming a little cheerleading group with our two little friends, Lauren was busy stealing babies, while Morgan was busy chatting with the guys who wrote here letters asuch.

One guy claims in his letter that Morgan was his Blue-eyed Angel(Morgan has green eyes by the way) and that he saw five attributes in Morgan that made his world namely: Her eyes, her smiles, her words, her heart and her friendship."

Molly also recieved a gift and a letter from a guy, and it was really appreciative of our presence and all we came to do for basketball in the state. he also gave her a bronzed gift, which was a nice touch.

After everything, we hopped on the bus and drove back to the hotel. We were so happy. Words are not enough to express how we felt because we talked about it all the way to the hotel. They were such a beauty to behold and even with very little that they have, there is one thing that they do not lack and that is gratitude that flows from knowing that despite tough times, they are still loved firstly by God.

The reward for stepping out of our comfort zone to say here I am, use me, is present in every muscle used by an individual to smile after touching their lives in one way of service or another. We did not give anything at this session except the basketballs and the renovted basketball court as well as equipments, but playing Simon says, getting to know them better and just loving on them, meant more than anything money could ever buy. What a glorious day!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

love and basketball

By Andrew Lovedale '09 (with Lauren Biggers)

This is one of those days when you sit back and just look at how much God has been able to accomplish through the use of his vessels of nobodies like myself and others who made sacrifices to attend to the needs of others.

I intend not to go into details about our early morning rituals because Molly, Lauren and Morgan have already shed some light on it. However, our routine today took a slight twist.

We are patnering with pro health, a religious organization that is committed towards providing free health care to families across Africa. Pro health is carrying out a 10-day free health project here in Benin, while Samaritans feet is also doing "shoes of hope distribution."

We woke up at 5.30 am as usual, Lauren and Morgan were pumped for morning prayers because through bad communication, they thought it was my turn to lead praise and worship' and it turned out I did not, which left them disappointed.

Unknown to Lauren that I was supposed to lead praise and worship before bible study, she somehow skipped because she needed the rest. One cannot blame her for resting because everything is tough but the joy of the lord that emanates from our service, provides us with the strength to keep marching on.

Manny's wife (Tracy Ohonme) led bible study, and it was a great time. After a wonderful breakfast, we took a little break, sorted out the bags some, and hopped on the bus. We drove to church where a school called "logos academy" was also situated and handed out 200 pairs of shoes just loving on them and telling them how much God loves them.

Frank went to Abuja to collect his Visa so Molly talked me into reading the story of Noah to the kids while thay awaited their turns for ministration. One cannot help but marvel at the joy on the faces of these little ones whose future looks so bright. Some little kids got white shoes and would use their hands to dust off any dirt on it every 10 seconds or so even if there was non present.

The church volunteers turned out in their large numbers, which made things move fast. At about 12.30, we were done with giving out shoes and spent some time outside the church taking photographs with members of the church as well as others around.

Then we drove to VICS for lunch, of which it rained on our way and Molly could not help but take pictures of the flooded roads of my city. Truth be told, Morgan was sort of scared and that came to light when she saw other cars hesitate to drive in waters ventured by our driver as she said " those people are all going back because they are scared. Sunny (our driver) is the best."

We got back at 2.30 and had to be ready to leave for the basketball court by 3.30pm. During the one hour window, i went into "the queens suite" (MML) and just picked on Morgan for all the countless love letters she has recieved from my fellow Nigerians.

Whie cracking up and just chilling, the last thing i remember doing was taking a picture of Morgan curled up in a sofa in a weird way. After passing on the sofa, I woke up and asked Lauren how long I had napped for and she said 10 minutes. Although 10 minutes, it was worth it.

I ran out of their suite because it was time to go and before you know it, we were on the bus to wire road to go assist with the newly renovated basketball court, play games with the folks and just love on them.

and now, this is lauren... i intended to have andrew write about the day, but wasn't sure he would get it done. certain things have not disappeared even though we are worlds away, and the depedency of andrew and frank on morgan and i is one of them. (lauren, can you please... morgan, where is..., etc. etc.). as frank so accurately observed one of our first days as molly, morgan, andrew and frank and i were waiting outside of the internet cafe, 'it's like we are sitting in your office in baker, and yet we are on some random street in benin.'

i intend to write the blog for today, and thus, include some more details from wednesday's basketball clinic. for the first time since we have been here, i have not wanted to commit a crime when getting a 530 wake up call. (i also cannot believe how clean we look in the blog picture!) i am off to breakfast now, and then we are scheduled to spend our day visiting orphanges. i'm sure it will be an emotionally challenging day, but we hope to distribute the remainder of the shoes that we brought with us on the plane. everyone sends their love home!

Friday, June 12, 2009

frank and molly go marching two by two

By Molly Duncan '11

Hello again!! We are officially halfway through with our trip to nigeria, and time has been flying. i apologize upfront about the lack of punctuation...the international keyboard is not friendly to my american-trained fingers.

all of us just wanted to send a quick update about our ventures yesterday (tuesday). sorry we are late in posting, it has been difficult to find time!!

Yesterday morning began at 530 with prayer, as always. Although we are all fairly exhausted so early in the morning, there is something very peaceful and comforting about prayer and reflection so early in the morning.

After praise and worship, we went back to sleep for about an hour. after breakfast we took off for an elementary school of about 400 students. they were all so orderly and were lined up waiting for us when the bus arrived...

as you can imagine, we make quite a scene whenever we go anywhere. Manny and Andrew both talked to the uniform-clad children who listened so intently...the children admire them so much.

we then got the chance to lead the children in song. schinamarinkydinkidink (try sounding that out....its an old song from lambchops) was quite a favorite, as was father abraham. the children were so happy and eager to follow all of the hand motions in the song.

we washed the feet of about 200 of the children and gave them a new pair of shoes. we also trained local volunteers from andrew's church that will eventually finish the school and will distribute more shoes once we leave. the church members are so hospitable and they have picked up the process so quickly. it is definitely comforting to know that people will be able to take over what we are doing after we leave.

while church members learned how to wash feet and run the process, the kids (me, morgan, lauren, frank, and andrew) were put in charge of the schoolchildren. we loved leading them in songs and picking them up and spinning them around.

even in the rain, the children loved running around in the schoolyard and jumping all over us. some children had to be carried from one building to another to get their feet washed. lauren, morgan, chris easterling (a huge davidson fan) and i loved carrying them from one porch to the other so that they would not get their bare feet wet and muddy. they jumped into our arms and squealed as soon as we opened up our arms.

frank was busy picking up a new hobby...story telling. using picture cards, frank told different groups of children the story of noah's ark. their favorite part was definitely the animals and mr and mrs noah walking onto the boat. the sight of 6'10'' frank and 5'9'' blonde molly strutting onto the imaginary boat was apparently hillarious.

after we finished at the school, we went to the local hospital where our partner team is working to give free medical treatment. we grabbed some peanut butter sandwiches for lunch and were thrilled to have a cold coke as well.

at the hospital, morgan, lauren, and i (with occassional help from andrew and frank) helped put pills into bags for the pharmacy to dispense. we were at the hospital to wait for the governor's wife who we were told was "right around the corner." Three hours later, she arrived. When she finally arrived we were so relived because even our creative minds were out of ideas to entertain the children for one moment longer.

After she gave a speech, we had the chance to demonstrate what Samaritan's Feet does by washing the feet of a few children in front of her. It was really difficult to only choose a few because everyone waiting in line outside the hospital wanted so desperately for their children to receive a pair of shoes. turning away crying mothers is one of the most difficult things to do.

on a happier note, we had the chance to meet the Governor's wife and take a picture. for dinner, we returned to KFC (not what you are thinking....kada fried chicken is a local fast food chain). we were so grateful to return back to the hotel for a much-needed early evening. after relaxing, we headed to bed for the night....but not before checking morgan's email (luckily). a young man, joseph, we met yesterday sent one. the subject line: "Hi Queen Morgan."

Thursday, June 11, 2009

notes from nigeria

By Morgan Clark

Well, i can say that it has been quite a busy few days. i can't promise any writing as good as lauren's, but i will do my best..thanks to andrew's friend moses, we are really lucky to be able to even be continuing this blog! (we are not able to just walk to an internet cafe, and it takes too much stress/time to find someone to take us). as i am writing this, the power just went out - came back on - and went out again- came back on! this happens often here..don't know if lauren mentioned, but we are somehow blessed with air conditioning in our rooms - which amazes me! it is a nice contrast to the hot heat.

on monday, we started our teaming up with pro health international (a group full of such wonderful people) by waking up at 5:30 am..yes, i said 5:30...for singing, prayer, and devotion.. hey, when you are here, you live by their rules..and no one is allowed to miss it. they are deeply religious and very passionate about their religion. when that was over (around 6:15), we were able to go back to our rooms to prepare for the day (we just slept some more!) and then at 7:30 we rose again for bible study followed by breakfast. they tell us that we will be doing this everyday (really!). andrew says it was the norm in his household growing up

we loaded up the bus and drove to the benin sports stadium, where andrew's old coach and friends play sports. the basketball court in the stadium - which is like a big complex that has tennis, swimming, and offices - is flooded. not just today, it is always flooded and they have no way to fix it. so instead, they play ball on wire road. but before we can go there, we have to go to see the commissioner to get her blessing for what we will be doing. we always cause quite a scene wherever we go, and this was defintely one that was an important visit captured on both parties cameras and videos. everywhere we go, we feel like celebrities..nigerians LOVE to take pictures!!! some common phrases they also use are "that is ok" (for good) and "you are welcome" (at first we wondered what for, and then we realized they are saying you are welcome here in nigeria, here in the sports stadium, here in our school..).

we finally make it over to the courts on wire road, way behind schedule, to see not the 50 people we thought would be there, but the 150 people there waiting for us - since 9:00 (it's like 11 at this point). the courts are basically some cement slab with some marks on them (i think thanks to andrew). you can tell they have started to paint the courts from the money andrew has brought with this trip, but have held off continuing because of rain the night before. the day is a bit disorganized as we think of what to do with our new numbers on the fly. coach sue, andrew, frank, and chris easterling do an excellent job running some scrimmages and teaching the nigerian players some new moves.

while some are playing on the courts, we have set up the foot washing station, where we get to know the people and are able to deliver them a new pair of shoes. i think andrew is pretty satisfied with how the day went. unfortunately, the nigerian goverment has delayed our container of shoes, and we only have the basketball shoes that we brought on the plane with us to give out. the other 500 basketball shoes remain in port (where they have been for the past 1.5 weeks) in lagos until the government decides to review our paperwork (again) or accept some payment (think thousands) - welcome to africa - you never know what will happen! we just recevied disappointing news - confirmation that we will not get the container until after we leave. luckily, andrew's church has about 40 AMAZING volunteers (these are really special people) who will finish the mission for us and deliver shoes to all of our targets (not just basketball shoes, but the other thousands of regular tennis shoes too!!!).

ok, sorry for the sidenotes there. we hung out at the wire road courts for the majority of the afternoon, making conversation with all of the players after we were done with the shoes. the ones that didn't get any are still very excited to get some next week. we just hope that they get into the right hands, and not into some of the corrupt coaches. these players work so hard, and play so hard, and have such big dreams. it was heartbreaking to not be able to bring them all to the US to play like andrew has. BUT as Frank said best, they can shine in nigeria too! it is an honor to play for your country (like frank has), and they were reminded of this. we have nicknamed Frank BenEze the Poparreze, because he is allllllllways taking pictures. also, many refer to andrew as drew or andy. everyone idolizes him (and frank), you can see in the players eyes, you can hear it in their voices. he is truly an inspiration for all and i feel so lucky to know him and frank. they have both continued to amaze me. after seeing where andrew came from - you think you have an idea, but you really don't- he and frank have even more of my respect (if that's possible).

the people of nigeria are amazing. there are very few white people here, so when we go places, we get stared at a lot. but, if you wave and say hi or smile at those staring faces, they burst into smiles and energetic waves - they are so friendly and happy, it is so heartwarming. and they may not have what we have at home (think - children taking baths in the street, running around barefoot, very little electricity - yes, on andrew's street too..everywhere), but i think they are probably way more satisified and happy in life than the majority of americans i know. i only hope one day to be fulfilled in life in the same way that they are. all of the nigerians i have met are the most loving, welcoming people!

when we were done at the courts (i think we will return tomorrow to fix them up some more) we grabbed a quick bite and headed to a village outside of the city, about a 2 hour bus ride. we drove on a cement road most of the way there but roads into the village are all dirt, potholes, mountaints..i don't know how our bus did not get stuck. the school we went to was a primary school filled with 800 children, who were waiting to welcome us. manny (samaritan's feet leader) spoke to them with an inspirational speech about how he,andrew,and frank were native nigerians, and what they have been able to achieve because of their success in school. encouraged them to become doctors, engineers, etc..to be a superstar for nigeria. it was like out of a movie - those kids are amazing. they are so good, sweet, and eager to learn. so many questions to answer for them, we were basically mobbed in their eagerness to learn about these strange visitors. i wanted to kidnap a good few many children - but i'll leave that to molly or lauren to talk about. to sum up, words can't describe the experience at that village school. once the container makes its way to benin, those 800 children will all receive a pair of shoes from us, which will be wonderful for them. however, they have no electricity( the govt neglects the villages), no computers... if they just had 1 or 2 of those, they could do so much. it makes me think deeply about a- what else i can do for them and b-what would all of the american parents feel or think if they had to put THEIR child in these conditions.

this has gotten long, has strayed off course, but you'll have to forgive me..there is so much to think, feel, and try and get across to you. one thing is for sure, and that is how PROUD i am of andrew and frank. these 2 will be in my life forever and for that i am thankful...that they will always remind me of how to be a better person. frank especially has made me proud, as i have seen such a different side of him than he showed at davidson..he is in his element now, and really shines. he is definitely a future leader!

oh, and moses wants to come to the us for graduate school..he will be taking the gre and i have told him that i will send him some gre study books, so all you friends of mine that have those laying around - i need one or two to send to him. moses is special, like andrew and frank, and i will not rest until he gets what he wants!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

a day in the life of andrew lovedale

By Lauren Biggers

today was our first full day in nigeria, and sitting on one of our four blue, velvet chairs in the living room of our suite, i have a little more clarity about what the rest of the week will look like. for sure, ill be tired and without question, dirty.

the day began with a 6 a.m. wake up call on the travel alarm clock i remembered to pack, thankfully, as the usually more responsible morgan did not (to her credit we have needed three of the things on the list that i deemed not worthy). but actually, the day began much earlier than that when morgan shook me awake with a whisper of "someone is in our room." after an hour of us sitting alert and prepared to strike (whom or with what i'm still not sure), we pegged our intruder as our roommate sue and her blackberry. um, sigh.

team breakfast is at the hotel, after a quick meeting about the day's activities. the room is tiny. and when i say tiny, i mean, there is zero space between my dress and the table and the wall. lets call in quaint. for breakfast, we are each served four pieces of bread (its really sweet and really good. and andrew has stocked our room with a loaf. score.) and really good butter. there is also a vegetable omelet and coffee (double score!).

after breakfast we pile in our team bus, which is always one of my favorites parts of traveling on these types of trips (big windows maximize viewing pleasure), and head to andrew's church as directed by the man himself, navigating the bus from the front. we are a little bit late, because of breakfast, but we arrive in the middle of sunday school, which is a quickly paced, call-and-answer type service. she doesn't call on me.

afterwards, there is a service in the same room, and one of our team members, derek, is called upon to share a little about his faith. at some point during the four-hour service (four hours just flies by, doesn't it, lauren? andrew asks afterwards. ha.), our team is also called to the front to dance (it really happened) and pray for those who come forward. i think about kidnapping a few of the children (kidding. i think.), and morgan and i continue to pass back and forth andrew's eight-month old nephew. (so cute!)

once church is over, we pose for plenty o'pictures with the children and finally board the bus for lunch. morgan and i order meat pies, after a successful experience yesterday, and some rice (everything comes with rice). she gets coconut rice, mine is an orange variety. "what's it taste like?," i say. "it's spicy," comes the standard reply. everything is spicy.

after lunch we come back to the hotel where we relax a little before dinner at andrew's house. molly and sue duck into their room for a nap, but we are treated to andrew's friends' presence once again in the common room. andrew eventually leaves to take pictures of the basketball facility we will be renovating tomorrow.

when he returns, the team boards the bus for his mother's house, where there are probably 30 of his friends and family waiting to serve us a dinner of traditional nigerian foods. andrew has told me of the customary practice of eating with your hands, and morgan and i are completely game for giving this a whirl on pounded yam (sort of a wad of mashed potatoes) and spinach-type casserole dish. there is also a bean dish, fresh pineapple, pepper soup and a beef dish. the food, and the company, is wonderful, and as we head to board the bus, we have become mini celebrities, our bus surrounded by neighborhood children, who want nothing more than smiles and hugs. and pictures with the white people.

about 30 minutes later, we are on our way back to the hotel, where we change and gather for the final meeting of the day. after a devotion by chris eastlering, we head over to the hotel's "big room," a wedding hall type establishment, to meet the pro-health international team with whom we will be partnering for the week. tomorrow's logistics, which include a basketball clinic and shoe delivery and a health clinic are discussed, and we spend some time getting to know the other team members.

during this time, morgan is asked a question by one of the pro-health volunteers which she believes to be "whats in an apple?". which she naturally believes the answer to be "seeds." after much laughter, it is told the question was "whats up," in pigeon, the nigerian version of english that just drops words without much reason and mixes others together. eariler, after the congregation widely reacts to something at church, franks asks me 'what did she say?' i look blankly at him with "i have no idea," to which he reminds me, "it was in english." um, right.

it's 11:30 p.m. here and im fighting sleep, but i wanted to write nonetheless. andrew's best friend in benin, moses, was kind enough to leave me with a laptop, which means i don't have to make the death journey back to the internet cafe (good idea: i'd like a diet coke. bad idea: crossing a nigerian street at night, even with a nigerian). even so, despite his insistence that "the internet is everywhere," the internet connection is not great (holy third world country, batman).

tomorrow begins at 5:30 a.m. (yes, you read that right), so in case morgan decides to wake me for another night watch shift, i'd better call it an evening. i'm hoping to write daily, and hoping to pull in some more voices to give you a broader glimpse of the journey as the week goes on. i cant offer too many personal insights, yet, but i can tell you that however impressed i thought i was at the person that is andrew lovedale, i cannot fathom how i could be more impressed with the person that he has now become. until probably tomorrow.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Touch Down

By Lauren Biggers

The team has arrived safely in nigeria!

After a flight to atlanta, a 12-hour flight to lagos and another hour-long flight (with lots of traveling tales in between) to benin and a 20-minute ride to the hotel, we safely checked into our hotel around 3 p.m. local time (which is around five hours ahead of eastern standard time). it's been a long couple of days of traveling, but i can already tell it's going to be worth it.

you'll have to forgive my misspellings (spell check isn't active!!) and my going all e.e. cummings on you, but this international keyboard i'm typing on has the shift key located in a place my fingers do not readily recognize, while my hour of time is too-quickly slipping away on the ticker at the top of the screen.

our journey began when morgan's mom picked molly and i up at my apartment early friday morning and delivered us to the charlotte airport, where we connected with the rest of the charlotte-based crew, including manny and his wife, tracy. it took quite some time to get all 21 bags of shoes to meet the 70-lb. weight limit, but we finally got the green light. security was a breeze (we wore our flippy floppys...) and before you know it, morgan's hunting down a cinnabon. (totally worth it).

in atlanta, we connect with the rest of our team, which includes a videographer, al, and sue, head women's basketball coach at florida state, who has also been tasked with sharing a suite with morgan, molly and myself, and by default, andrew lovedale, frank ben-eze and their nigerian posse.

after a quick, er "quick," bite to eat (that's worth locating the shift key for) at tgif friday's - where morgan is kind enough to order me both a diet coke and a water in my absence... she's a keeper - we set about gathering necessities for our 12-hour flight. for morgan, newsweek, gq and mentos. for me, us weekly and chocolate, natch.

the 12-hour flight is as painless as one could hope, especially once we learn the third person in our row doesn't exist and make friends with the flight attendant manning the beverage cart. the movie selections are unfortunate, something with the rock in it (no, i can't smell what you are cooking) and something about a hotel for dogs, but everyone tries to buy some sleep. apparently, i am the most successful, but i cant help it if i was the most prepared.

in lagos, we get through customs with impressive ease, though not speed. the 21 bags of shoes seem to slow us from this point on, as the baggage attendants insist on matching tag numbers and bags. (yeah, yeah..) eventually we get enough cabs for the team and the bags, and we are on our way to our fourth airport of the journey for our third and final flight.

andrew's brother is traveling from england to benin, and we meet him on this flight, before finally connecting with andrew and frank on the ground in benin. (annnndreeeeeeew!!!!) all load the bus for the short trip to the hotel, which is a pleasant surprise, except for the frequent, but abbreviated power outages that elicit only laughs and cheers of "welcome home" from andrew and frank. the four girls on the team have been assigned to the "queens suite," rightly so, with morgan and i in one room and sue and molly in the other. (we have cnn!)

after a quick lesson from andrew on why there are buckets in the shower (fill one, pour from the other), we change and make a quick visit to the wedding reception in full swing and local color at our hotel. the bride, a volunteer with pro health international, the medical clinic we will be working with, insists that we jump on the stage and take a photo with her, so naturally, we oblige.

then it is time for the team to grab a quick bite at kada chicken, nigerian equivalent of kentucky fried chicken, which neither frank nor andrew have experienced. after a couple pieces of fried chicken and french fries, andrew decides we must try meat pies and fried doughnuts. too. (so much for my nigerian weight loss plan). they are worth the taste, even as frank continues to make fun for my giving approval prior to tasting.

four of andrew's friends, including his best friend moses (or burning bush) hold court in our living room for a while after dinner, and sue is gracious in allowing the davidson athletic contingent to keep her from sleep. frank discovers he played with one of florida state's nigerian players on their national team, along the way.

frank, andrew, molly, morgan and i piled (and i do mean PILED) into a truck for the ride to the internet cafe to make this report before heading back to the hotel and craaasshing. i'm also typing in the dark, here. fyi.

tomorrow's day kicks off with a 6:30 a.m. breakfast before a visit to andrew's church. i'm not really sure what the rest of the week will hold, but so far, we are having a blast. i love visiting new places and experiencing new cultures, and i am even more excited about seeing nigeria through frank and andrew's eyes. thanks for reading.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Why I'm Boarding the Plane Tomorrow

By Molly Duncan '11

For a few months, Morgan Clark, Davidson’s Assistant Sports Marketing Director, had a link posted at the bottom of all of her E-mail messages that led viewers to a web site set up to raise funds for this 10-day trip to Nigeria. Written right below this link was the quote: “Kick’s From ‘Cats-The Final Stage.” And for so many of us, this trip is.

For Morgan and Lauren, what began as a running joke and far-fetched dream will become reality when they step on the plane tomorrow.

For two renowned college basketball coaches, a vision of progress through basketball, academics, and the power of relationships will become a reality when they step on the plane tomorrow.

For Bruce Bodman, one of our trip leaders and our organizational mastermind from Samaritan’s Feet, the role of trip planner has recently transformed into that of active participant — tomorrow that will become reality.

So where does that leave me? I’m only 20 and am often (two days ago, most recently) mistaken for 16. I am the only Davidson student (besides Andrew and Frank who will meet us on the ground) on the trip, and my contributions to this trip — and to the world, for that matter — pale in comparison to the 13 others I’m traveling with.

But I’ve always had passion, so that’s where I’ll start.

I have three major passions that are relevant to this story: Davidson basketball, Dr. Kathie Turner and children.

My dad played basketball for Davidson, I grew up playing and watching basketball, and I do not miss Davidson home games. I was at the 2008 SoCon tournament when a few hundred of us knew that team was special.

I, of course, was in Detroit.

I relish the fact that my Chapel-Hill residing friends do not believe me when I say that here, everyone knows everyone, and yes- #30 is included. I love Davidson, and I love Davidson basketball.

This is where Dr. Turner comes in. Dr. Turner, for those who have not had the privilege, is self-proclaimed “queen of the Communications department,” owner of the largest Dum-Dum lollipop fleet on campus, and a second mother to me.

After receiving an E-mail one morning from the queen herself, I hurried in to her office. Knowing of passion #1, she asked if I would be interested in producing a two-minute segment for ESPN-U about Andrew Lovedale and the upcoming shoe drive.

Jumping at this opportunity, I agreed, barely hearing that it was set to air in one week. After a few interviews and 30 hours with my invaluable technical assistant/savior Ross Lackey, we had a two-minute clip. For those of you who have seen the clip, you have glimpsed the compassionate spirit that Andrew Lovedale possesses.

One thing, that unfortunately got cut, was this quote that has stuck with me since February: “When they receive that pair of shoes, I only wish you could see the smiles on their faces for yourself.”

So, here I go.

I love children, and that’s why I’m boarding the plane tomorrow.

I am infected with the passion that Andrew has spread on this campus, and that’s why I’m boarding the plane tomorrow.

I believe that we can, and that we will, make a difference. And that’s why I’m boarding the plane tomorrow.

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