The End

As we return home and reflect upon our trip, it is difficult to use words to describe this experience . The word “Ubuntu” truly does sum up this adventure. There truly is universal bond that unites cultures and energies and it is true that I am because we are…

During our final days in Zimbabwe, we departed from Hoops 4 Hope and Zim Kids to enjoy safari and outdoor adventure activities.
While we viewed beautiful animals in their natural habitats, watched elephant families play in the water, hippos and buffalo existing together, rafted the class 5 rapids of the Zambezi River, viewed Victoria Falls, watched Gianluca bungee jump from the Zimbabwe/Zambia bridge and ate decadent meals, our hearts were full from our time with Hoops 4 Hope and heavy with the understanding that we will be leaving soon.
On our final night, after returning from our “vacation” we spent a beautiful evening with our friends from Hoops 4 Hope. We danced, sang, played ball, ate amazing traditional foods, shared stories, exchanged contacts and hugged and cried. My heart was personally over full with the joy I learned each day interacting with Hoops 4 Hope and the children they serve and deeply saddened, fearing I may never see my new friends again.  As I watched the faces of our students, it was obvious that so many of them were truly changed and that they had made emotional and social leaps, while discovering they could step out of their comfort zones, open their hearts to strangers and be loved and respected simply for being who they are.
In the words of musician Jeff London, I am so grateful to have “felt the drug of being whole” during our 15 days in Zimbabwe and so proud of the students for embracing each day with an open mind and an open heart.
Hailey London

You don’t know what you don’t know.
Before this trip I was scared to leave North America. I was scared to go to Africa. I was scared to fly on a plane for 20+ hours. I was scared of what was waiting for me.
I now know I made the right choice. Working with Hoops4Hope been incredible and invaluable. What I have learned from the staff and children from Hoops4Hope and the people of Zimbabwe has been indescribable. The pure joy and happiness from everyone here is contagious and inspiring. My perspective and appreciation for life has been forever changed.
Taking life for granted is a luxury we can avoid. Hoops4Hope proves that people impact lives more than any material possession. Ultimately, it is not what we do, but how we do it that matters.
Tatenda Hoops4Hope, Zimbabwe and the amazing group from Ross that made this journey just that; a journey. See you soon.
“Ndati jumba mfana; Tiri kujumba mukoma…”
Max Krieger

Our hearts are full; mine certainly is. Even after being back in the U.S. for a week, I keep catching my mind wandering back to Zimbabwe. I think about the generosity and kindness of the people, the amazing landscapes, and the impact that both the Ross School students and the Hoops4Hope staff and children had on each other. Not a day goes by where I haven’t seen Ross students humming a Hoops4Hope song or telling stories of their travels. The impact that this experience has had on our students has been great and far reaching. Hoops4Hope and ZimKids both provided amazing opportunities for our students to engage, to smile, and to have their hearts filled up. This group of students grew tremendously over the course of the 15 days on the ground and I could not be prouder of them.
To our friends in Zimbabwe, thank you for opening your hearts and welcoming us in your lives.
To our Ross School students who made this adventure exceptional, thank you for being open to trying new things and being tremendous throughout.
Kevin Snyder

Although we do not remember days, we remember moments; Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every moments with love, grace, and gratitude.
Haotian (Jason) Liu

I had no idea that I would make such close friends in Zimbabwe who I would eventually come to know as my brothers on this trip. I want to return to Zimbabwe and continue to do more work with Hoops4Hope as soon as I can. The experience was truly life changing.
Jared Goldsmith

In Africa, it feels like you have no choice but to live in the moment. Maybe it’s the constant proximity to danger and death that allows the life there to flourish in such an incredible way, where everything that’s alive feels more energetic and vibrant than it does anywhere else. The trees, the animals, the clouds, the people, and the sunsets are all deeply saturated and intense. Being a part of such a beautiful landscape every day made me feel more and more human. Ater a few days I stopped to care about the cuts, the dirt, the bites, and the bruises that I would let appear on my body throughout the day, because feeling self-consciousness or disgusted by it all would’ve taken too much time away from enjoying the childish happiness I could get from  running jumping playing laughing and exploring. I forgot my limitations and now that I’m back, all my problems seem petty and solvable. I loved Africa, and I can’t wait to go back.
Manny Benard

Our actions will impact lives for years, but our memories will live on forever.
Audrix Arce

Working with Hoops4Hope was an amazing experience. On the first day of working with the kids, we were all overwhelmed by the huge numbers of boys and girls singing and dancing. When we walked up to them, they were extremely friendly and curious about us. They asked what our names were and where we had come from. They all wanted to hold our hands when we formed circles. They were so full of joy, and life, and music and energy. They loved taking selfies with us, were super curious about our technology, and loved seeing themselves in the pictures. I loved that the girls were just as athletic and eager to participate as the boys. They all loved singing and tried to teach us a few of their songs. It took us a while but eventually we sounded pretty good too.
Alex Lawson

Working with Hoops for Hope has had such a positive impact on myself and the other students. I think using sport to teach kids about important life skills, HIV, and to stay away from drugs and alcohol is a great way to educate the children. Becoming friends with hundreds of kids and getting out of my comfort zone by dancing and singing with them is an experience I will always cherish. I will never forget the faces and smiles of the kids that come to play basketball with Hoops4Hope every day and I am already planning a trip back to hoops for hope in Zim.
Jonas Linnman-Feuerring

Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.

-Malcolm X
Georgie Briere

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world?”- Anne Frank
Maria Mekdessi

“Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy” – Anne Frank
Deborah Casares

ZimKids

  
On Saturday we traveled to Bulawayo specifically to visit an organization called Zimkids. Zimkids is a wonderful program that helps orphans from Zimbabwe and gives them a place to play and feel safe. Tanashe, the director of Zimkids, explained to us how they first started helping kids by playing with them under a big tree in the neighborhood. After a little while, he had over 100 kids that participated in the activities, but he still wanted to do more. So, the leaders of Zimkids came together and bought land that was used as a garbage dump. They cleared the space and built beautiful buildings filled with collages and sculptures. These wonderful kids are filled with so much love and happiness while they might not have the best home lives, Zimkids gives them a “home away from home” where they can play, learn, and bond with one another.
   

“It was truly amazing to see the connection Ross had with Zimkids, with all the Ross school shirts they wore, it truly felt like we were part of their community.”  – Rachel 

“Zimkids was an eye opening experience, just the way that the kids had positive attitudes throughout the entire day in the scorching heat made me realize how grateful I should be for everything I have.” – Alejandra 
“It is a great organization that helps educate kids beyond the classroom and better prepare them for the outside world.” – Jared

“I saw hope and it gave me hope.” – Gianluca

“Zimkids was a very tranquil and beautiful experience, the buildings were well maintained and filled with amazing art” – Georgia

“I was impressed by the way that it progressed from a dump site into a big center that the kids can enjoy and learn from as a home away from home”  – Michael

“Zimkids was such an amazing experience for me and the kids were so bright and I loved interacting with them.” – Chris F

“The vibe of the kids was so touching and it made us feel happy to celebrate their joy with them.”- Luis

“It is a safe haven and separate community for kids of all ages, I met Delight, a girl who had a really tough upbringing and she told me how Zimkids helps take her mind off of the problems in her life and focus on being happy in the moment.” – Dani

    

Day 10: How far we’ve come

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Photo by Alex Lawson

The Zimbabwe Field Academy began this morning with a educational tour of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital. We visited the National Art Gallery of Zimbabwe, where we saw both historic and modern Zimbabwean art. We then moved onto the Zimbabwe Museum of Human Sciences, where we saw the many exhibits that discussed the evolution of life on the continent of Africa. It was great to see how the history of Africa connected to other time periods that the students had been studying while they were in school. Finally, we stopped and ate a late lunch at the Zimbabwe National Botanic Gardens, which was a great way to end the morning and relax before we headed to another Hoops4Hope activity.

Today we went to the community of Kurwadzana. When we arrived at the court we were immediately swept onto the court and joined the children in songs and dances. We also shared some “positive vibes” with each other and it was a great to see so many students both from Ross and Zimbabwe share so many positive things. Some of my personal favorite vibes included the idea that “education is power” and a reminder to “work hard”. After putting these vibes together we were able to share them with the entire Hoops4Hope group. We then had an opportunity to see several primary schools scrimmage against each other for a short time. The scrimmages were intense and Ross students had a chance to participate in the game as coaches, referees, and scorekeepers. The cheers that erupted from the crown as every point was scored were incredible. It was clear that winning and losing was not the main issue here, but rather cheering on each other and working together as teams to accomplish more together was the primary focus.

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Ross students Joao, Deborah, Maria, Oscar, Chris, Georgia, Bruce, Luis, Audrix, and Gianluca giving Coach John of Hoops4Hope some of the supplies donated to them.

This morning while riding on the bus towards downtown Harare, the Matchbox 20 classic “How Far We’ve Come” played over my headphones. This song has always been a special one for me and I do not think that it could have played at a better time. You see, the students on this trip have come such a long way from when we landed in Zimbabwe just one week ago. They have grown into energetic leaders, role models, and have come to understand their impact on the world around them. It has been important for our students to come to Zimbabwe and see the pure joy that is elicited on the faces of the children here every single moment of the programs put on by Hoops4Hope. Our Ross students have been learning what is important not just in these activities, but even in life.

Sneakers? Don’t need them.

More than 10 basketballs for over 200 children? Not important.

A court that doesn’t have potholes in it? Unnecessary.

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Photo by Alex Lawson

Instead, what our Ross students have come to understand is that these things are just small tools that do not complete the entire picture. While these items certainly make things easier, they do not make people happier. The children in Zimbabwe show so much joy and enjoyment in whatever they are doing: singing and dancing, shooting and dribbling, thinking and sharing. It has been an eye-opening experience to see that attitude in these children. It has been incredible to see the energy and dedication of the H4H staff every single day while we are here. That energy has crossed over into our Ross students and has shown in every single activity that they have done this far. They most certainly have come a long way over the course of this trip and I am excited to see how they will continue to grow as we begin our second week in Zimbabwe.

– Kevin

Day 9: Rocking the Boat

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A special note from Hailey London:

We started this morning’s meeting off with the discussion of the following quote:

“What others are doing around you seems very important when you have not found your own steadiness. You want to say to them, “Don’t rock my boat! If you rock my boat, I can’t be steady.” But the truth of it is, you’re the only boat-rocker in your world. Only you can rock your boat.”

I am overwhelmed with how beautifully all the students on this adventure have found their own steadiness.

Watching the transformation that each and every student from Ross has undergone in just 6 short days, in the presence of the Hoops 4 Hope All Stars and MVP’s, is powerfully rewarding. There’s not one student who hasn’t displayed beautiful growth in one area or another. What Hoops 4 Hope does daily is truly heroes work and I am humbly blessed to have the honor to be here with them and the 21 Ross students who couldn’t be a better team if we had hand picked them.

Today I witnessed a spontaneous magical day, as it unfolded. Dancers, musicians, children, rain and joyful play ruled the day.

Watching Deborah and Maria in a circle of children singing and smiling with pure bliss on their faces.

Julia, Alejandra and Rachel learning playground dance games from the kids and showing their growing confidence in the center of the dance circle, their faces proud now, instead of embarrassed.

Manny, Joao, Audrix, Alex, Luis, Jonas, Gianluca, Bruce and others, not letting the rain stop them as they charged to the soccer field, like pied pipers a trail of children followed them, cheering and dancing.

Dani learning the drums and playing them with confidence. She also changed a young girl’s life in a mere hour. As she said goodbye to her new friend she was told “I will never forget you, not even when I die” The young girl, sacrificed her special bracelet so that she could give her new friend Dani a present.

Jared, his new brother Tida, Oscar, Chris, Jason, Michael, Jonas and Alex commanded the hoop with a three-point shooting contest with the Hoops 4 Hope MVP’s as small children cheered around them.

Georgia, dancing with MVP Mildred, smiling ear-to-ear and oozing confidence.

And Michael, encircled by a pile of kids mesmerized by his hair as they ran over just to get a feel and compare his hair to theirs.

Bruce, again, stealing the show by dancing with the traditional dancers, showing his skill and his growing confidence. I am convinced that Bruce is good at everything and he has been the first to dive head first into every activity and experience.

Chris F, pushing passed his comfort level to dance in the center of the traditional dancers.

Audrix, Gianluca and Michael learning to drum as Bruce, Oscar, Joao and Luis explored the miramba.

Overall, it was a very special day at the Glen Norah Community House, as all of our days have been.

Yesterday, Gianluca stood in the center of a large circle of about 90 children and spoke to them about how to achieve happiness. He had them repeat after him as he reminded them “I am strong, I am smart, I am loved, I am happy, I will be happy”.

“Nobody else knows your reason for being. You do. Your bliss guides you to it. When you follow your bliss, when you follow your path to joy, your conversation is of joy, your feelings are of joy — you’re right on the path of that which you intended.”

– Hailey

Day 8: Making Moves in Mabvuku

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Bruce doing work on the potholes in Glen View

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Gianluca working hard on the court.

Today was a beautiful day in Zimbabwe. We began our day at Glen View Community Center where we all pitched in with repairing a pot hole ridden basketball court. To start we all had to sweep the court of excess gravel and gather buckets and buckets of water to mix with the cement. The entire process was done by hand, whereas at home the court would be done in no more than an hour with the help of a machine. We all removed our shoes so that they would not get cement all over them and while doing so we were able to empathize with the children who have to play basketball on the hot courts with no shoes. Mother Nature had it in for us once again and it started to raining just as we were mixing the cement. We left the courts and went to a small shopping center before we headed back to the Hoops4Hope center for a lunch of pizza, rice, chicken, and squash. From there we headed to Mabuvuku to work with children. Today we learned some new games as well as played old ones, and I personally taught a group of kids the “hit my hand” game, which they found be very amusing. As soon as we boarded the bus after a few hours of playing we all took a moment to reflect on how lucky we really are.
– Dani
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Julia and Alex giving supplies donated by the Ross group to Owen.

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Owen thanks Hailey for the donations!

Here are some quotes from today’s travels:
“Its crazy, I dislike wearing the Ross wellness uniform because I think it’s ugly, meanwhile these kids couldn’t be happier about getting one” – Rachel
“I think that everyone was very tired at the beginning, we were all asleep on the bus, and at first none of us were really looking forward to jumping around but we quickly got into it and had an amazing time” – Dani
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One of the most special moments on this trip so far has been Bruce sharing his love of dance with the children of Zimbabwe. Here is a short video clip and Bruce’s explanation of what happened:
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Bruce getting his dancing feet on.

The crowd started chanting my name to get me to dance. In the beginning I was a little nervous,  but then the energy of the crowd got in to me, and my body began to bounce. The rhythm of Africa and the young, free, pure and wild energy was rushing in to my body, and my body was filled with it. I started to dance.
The feeling that I have and things I received are indescribable. It’s great to sharing your energy with the group and the things you receive from letting go of everything to act yourself.
I am really enjoying this.