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By Scott McGuinness
Washington and Jefferson College clinched its third consecutive Presidents’ Athletic Conference Women’s Soccer Championship last November by defeating Westminster (Pennsylvania) in front of a packed house on the Presidents’ home turf at Alexandre Stadium.
The Washington and Jefferson women's soccer team donated their jerseys worn during its Presidents' Athletic Conference title run to children in the Gambian village of Tendaba.
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 also soon be rejoicing.
Tendaba is a tiny village in Gambia, about 100 miles from the capital of Banjul, which is mostly rural, dusty and poverty stricken. Buying a school lunch, estimated at about 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 Washington and Jefferson Associate Professor of Political Science Buba Misawa, the school’s athletics teams have responded to some of the needs of the Tendaba Village children, including the women’s soccer team’s donation of its uniforms worn during its PAC championship three-peat.
The jerseys donated by Washington and Jefferson enhance the playing experience of the village children's favorite sport.
Misawa, a naturalized United States citizen who spent his early years in Nigeria, made his first trip to Gambia in 1999 and initiated a drive to help support the village. He has made most of his trips during Intersession at Washington and Jefferson, a distinctive feature of the academic calendar that occurs mostly in January. It offers sharply focused courses designed to be a change from the standard curriculum. During their four years at Washington and Jefferson, 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 Gambia, just like most of Africa, and every little inch of dirt is considered a soccer pitch,” Misawa said. “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 Washington and Jefferson alumni David White ’77 and Nicole Seaman ’09. The 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, Conn. 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.
In addition to jerseys, Adidas bags were also donated to the Gambian children.
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 Washington and Jefferson athletics teams have donated apparel and equipment to Misawa for previous trips to 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 have donated athletics 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,” said Dukett. “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 Washington and Jefferson’s faculty/coach mentor program Dukett instituted in 2007. He serves as the faculty mentor for the Presidents’ wrestling team in the winter. During the match with Thiel College 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 athletics 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,” said Misawa. “I continue to appreciate that honor and support for these projects.”
Scott McGuinness is the sports information director at Washington and Jefferson. For more information on helping the children of Tendaba Village, contact Buba Misawa (firstname.lastname@example.org).