Buba Misawa, David White '77 and Nicole Seaman '09 deliver women's soccer uniforms to children in The Gambia.
The women's soccer team clinched its third consecutive Presidents' Athletic Conference championship in November by defeating Westminster College 3-0 in front of a packed house on its home turf at Alexandre Stadium.
Head Coach Pete Curtis and the Presidents were ecstatic about bringing another conference title to the campus and making the ensuing trip of 139 miles to Denison University's Granville, Ohio, campus to face Illinois Wesleyan in the opening round of the 2010 NCAA Division III Tournament.
A bit farther away (4,264 miles to be exact) on the southern bank of the Gambia River, some of the Presidents' biggest soccer fans would soon be rejoicing as well.
Tendaba is a tiny village in The Gambia, approximately 100 miles from the capital of Banjul, which is mostly rural, dusty and poverty stricken. Buying a school lunch, estimated at two cents per day, and purchasing school uniforms are required for enrollment into the school system. However, many children never receive an education because of the area's economic hardship.
Spearheaded by the tireless work of Buba Misawa, Ph.D., associate professor of political science at W&J, Presidents' athletics teams are responding to some of the needs of Tendaba's children, including the women's soccer team, who donated the uniforms worn during the PAC championship "three-peat."
Misawa, a naturalized U.S. citizen who spent his early years in Nigeria, made his first trip to The Gambia in 1999 and initiated a drive to help support the village. He has made a majority of his trips during W&J's Intersession term, a distinctive feature of the College's academic calendar that occurs in January and offers sharply focused courses designed to be a change from the standard curriculum. During their four years at W&J, students are required to take two Intersession courses, which can take the form of an on-campus class, a college-sponsored course of study off-campus, or a for-credit internship.
"Soccer is indeed very popular in The Gambia, just like most of Africa, and every little inch of dirt is considered a soccer pitch," Misawa noted. "Anything that could be made into a soccer ball, becomes the focal point of that moment. This is the pastime of the kids in school and in the village."
During a recent trip to the village, Misawa was accompanied by W&J alumni David White '77 and Nicole Seaman '09. The W&J trio helped hand out soccer uniforms and Adidas equipment bags to the aspiring young athletes.
"The joy and happiness experienced and expressed by these kids is unimaginable. It is indeed, priceless," Misawa said. "Their sense of appreciation is very deep. The community itself has shown collective appreciation of our efforts to support them in various speeches to my visiting group."
During a 2009 trip, White brought a co-worker and New Haven, Connecticut, resident Douglas Hausladen with the group. Hausladen was inspired to make a difference for the village residents and established the "Run For Tendaba Village," a 5K/ 20K road race designed to raise funds for the village schools. Misawa hand-delivers 100 percent of the money raised by the race each year.
Misawa's Intersession groups have adopted the two village schools and the community as development projects, providing various forms of support, including used/new clothing, shoes, school uniforms, school supplies, school lunch, as well as team uniforms for the schools and village.
Numerous W&J athletics teams have donated apparel and equipment to Misawa for previous trips to The Gambia. Head Coach Ian McDonald's men's soccer team provided team uniforms four years ago, while Head Coach Mike Orstein's swimming and diving teams and Head Coach Mike Sirianni's football program has donated athletic apparel and equipment for a number of years. It has turned into a tradition that Misawa, as well as Director of Athletics Bill Dukett, would love to see continue.
"We are thankful of Buba's efforts in Africa and we are very happy to help in any way we can," Dukett said. "Buba, our alumni and our athletics teams are providing opportunities and putting smiles on faces of children in need. We are very proud of the work Buba has done."
Misawa participates in W&J's faculty/coach mentor program instituted by Dukett in 2007. He serves as the faculty mentor for the Presidents' wrestling team in the winter. During the W&J-Thiel match on Feb. 4 at the Henry Memorial Center, Misawa sat on the team's bench. The faculty/coach mentor program allows faculty members to serve as advocates for students participating in a given sport and fosters a working relationship between the faculty and coaching staff.
"The athletic department of the college has been great to me and my Intersession groups as well as different community sport clubs in The Gambia and Senegal," Misawa concluded. "I continue to appreciate that honor and support for these projects."
For more information on helping the children of Tendaba Village, please contact Misawa at firstname.lastname@example.org.