SILOAM SPRINGS, Ark. – For nine days in May 2013, the John Brown (Ark.) Golden Eagle women's basketball squad took their basketball shoes, practice jerseys and talents on a 30-hour trek across the Pacific Ocean to reach out to aspiring young basketball players in the Philippines.
Sharing their love of basketball, messages learned from Champions of Character training and their faith was a life-changing experience for the student-athletes.
Upon arrival, the women partnered with Buhay Sports, a local organization that has sponsored more than 400 basketball games throughout the Philippines as part of their ministry in the country. The women conducted a week-long camp for girls aged 10-19 while staying at the Jazz Home, a local orphanage.
The impact of the trip was personal for sophomore forward Morgan Ankrom, whose JBU jersey came home in a very memorable condition. "I came back to the orphanage one day not knowing where my jersey had gone," recalled Ankrom. "I finally found it being worn by my best friend at the Jazz Home,Shiela. Although it was smelly, it was precious to see her in it and even more so to discover that all the girls had signed it for me.
"This trip has forever changed my life; these girls and how they handle their circumstances have opened my eyes to what is really important in life."
When not teaching skills on the court or participating in a five-game exhibition schedule that included the Filipino national team, the women assisted in distributing food in the squatter villages in Manila.
"It was definitely an eye-opener seeing what conditions these people live in," Ankrom said. "They basically put together a house with anything they could find and it was unbelievable how they can survive like this day in and day out. Although their living conditions were poor, the people were so friendly and thankful for us for helping out their community.
"Interacting with the community was incredible. Seeing the children's faces light up, knowing that we were helping in what little way we could, was a heart-lifting experience."
Information courtesy of Nicholas Robinson, Director of Sports Information, John Brown University