|For Joe Ives, summer vacation was hardly a break.|
A half-dozen Division III student-athletes spent part of their August in Kenya. They teamed with Travelbond, a non-profit organization started by Brian Murphy, assistant men's basketball coach at Franklin and Marshall.
Eastern Connecticut State senior basketball point guard Joe Ives, Washington U's Max Needle, Elmira's Matt Newell, Hampden-Sydney's Patrick Corrigan and Max Brewer and Ed Early from Franklin and Marshall.
Travelbond is a non-profit organization which was founded this past April and their mission statement is “to create, provide, and sustain opportunities and good health for the women and children of poverty or disaster areas both locally and globally.” The organization was founded so that student-athletes and volunteers could embrace the idea of giving back to communities in need around the world.
While in Kenya -- a country located in East Africa and home to a little over 43 million people -- the members of the Travelbond team would wake up early to start their day exploring the beautiful, wild animal lands of Kenya. In addition to staying in Nairobi -- the largest city and capital of Kenya -- the Travelbond team made stops at Lake Nakuru, Sagam and Kolego.
The group visited local orphanages in Nairobi, in an effort to give back to the community. Each afternoon, Travelbond ran basketball camps for two high schools and two colleges. At night, it would scrimmage the players that the athletes helped hone their skills earlier in the day.
Ives characterized the youngsters as “good, very athletic and extremely tall.” Upper Hill High School, the host site of the camp, was the best team that Travelbond faced, according to Ives.
Ives, a six-foot point guard majoring in sociology, observed after returning home: “We realize how lucky we have it over here. Complaining is something that just shouldn’t be done.”
While Americans complain over simple things like their phone not working or not being able to get into a showing of a movie, they aren’t faced with many problems like those who live in parts of Kenya. Some people over there don’t have food to eat or running water to use. In the orphanages, the young kids were sleeping three to a bed on the metal bedsprings. They didn’t even have a mattress or blanket to sleep on.
"The poverty in Kenya is unimaginable; the infrastructure is non-existent and the people are constantly fighting for their next meal and a place to sleep,” Needle said.
“Just to be able to help out over there was really special,” Ives exclaimed.
|Washington U.'s Max Needle was one of a handful of Division III student-athletes on the trip.|
At the end of the trip, all of the Travelbond players gave their basketball shoes away to five lucky players and Joe said of this that it was, “really rewarding to see the smiles on their faces.”
One of the biggest things that Ives said he learned was about the culture in Kenya. “You have visions of what it might be like, and those visions are not even close to reality,” Ives observed in regards to living in a third-world country.
Ives summarized the entire experience as “a blast.” From sight-seeing to experiencing a safari, to helping out in the communities, there was never a dull moment in Kenya, he says.
"This trip forever changed my perspective on life and has
inspired me to continue to help the less fortunate around the
world,” Needle said.
"It gave me such satisfaction to be able to help those kids realize their potential and give them the slightest bit of hope,” he added. “The children always had smiles on their faces and had greater attention spans than almost all the children I've ever seen or coached in America."
As for his final season on the basketball court at Eastern, Ives wants to continue the success which has produced 20-win seasons in each of his first three years and a trip last year to the NCAA Sweet 16.
As a senior, Ives plans to continue to develop his leadership skills which will be vital to a team which has lost four veterans.
“Joe is just a great kid, an all-around true student athlete,” Ives' coach, Bill Geitner, says. Last year Ives gained institutional, conference and national recognition for his academic success. Geitner went on to say that he thinks Ives was fortunate to see first-hand the struggles that exist in an undeveloped country.
Last year’s starting point guard in 29 of 30 games, Ives averaged 4.2 points per game and only 2.8 turnovers per 40 minutes.
“Joe is going to be one of seniors, one of leaders, one of our captains. He will come every day to compete and play hard,” Geitner predicts. “He handles the ball well and gets us into our offense, but the nice thing about Joe is that he makes the other four guys on the court better.”
On a daily basis, Joe represents our program and Eastern the right way,” emphasizes Geitner.
And even though Ives is back at Eastern, a piece of him remains in Kenya, and the bonds he created in Kenya will last a lifetime.
Contributing: Jason Tierinni, Eastern Connecticut State; Chris Mitchell, Washington U.