Hockey Player Learns Life Lesson in Tanzania

“What’s it like in the United States?”

It was simple question, but as he looked at the boy who had asked, a boy who was about 13 or 14 and had left his village of Bagamoyo, Tanzania, only a handful of times, Sam Goodwin couldn’t come up with the words to describe a place that was so very different from the places the boy knew.

This was a defining moment in a journey that started as an adventure but became a life-altering experience for Sam, a senior communications/French major from St. Louis, Mo. He had heard about a trip to Tanzania that a friend had taken the year before to volunteer at a village school, and he was intrigued. He asked his friend to help him arrange a similar trip for himself.

“I’ll go anywhere, especially if I haven’t been there,” Sam says. “Traveling in general and seeing new places is something I enjoy. That whole idea is what interested me.”

So, just days after completing his classes in May, Sam boarded a plane in Chicago and landed some 18 hours later in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. There, he met Charlie Sloan, a former Peace Corps volunteer who had established the school where Sam would work for the next three weeks, and with whom he’d stay while in the East African country. Although Charlie’s house had some modern conveniences – a kitchen, family room with TV, running water – Sam says it was nothing like home.

“For three weeks, I can honestly say that we lived like they did,” he says. “It was frustrating because there were times when we were pretty hungry, but we wanted the experience and we got it.”

Sam spent the majority of his time at Nianjema primary and secondary school, where his main responsibility was to help the students improve their English skills. He’d assist the older students with their classroom work and play games with the younger ones.

When he wasn’t at the school, Sam worked out to keep in shape for hockey. The Purple Eagles forward would run, despite the 90-degree heat, and kept up with his conditioning routine in Charlie’s small workout room.

“Hockey is the number 1 priority in my life,” Sam says, “so I had to make sure that things with that were okay before I did anything else.”

By the time his three weeks were over, Sam was ready to return home. But he returned with a new perspective and a greater appreciation of how fortunate he is.

“You really realize how good you have it here,” he says. “I learned how much they appreciate simple things that we just completely take for granted. It’s really hard to explain unless you’re there.”

 And he says he still thinks about the boy and the simple question he asked.

“I still don’t know how to answer the question,” Sam says. “I still don’t know where to start.”

Read more about Sam's journey here and here.