Mercer Women Prepare for Ghana Trip | News
In about a week and a half, the Mercer women's basketball team will head out on a three-week journey to Ghana, Africa to work with the Fuller Center.
It's not unusual for sports teams to do mission work overseas, and many individual students have done "Mercer on a Mission" all over the planet.
But what makes this story unique is that the Bears are the first team to carry out an assignment, and they're also making the record books in some other ways.
The kids will play ball, learn about the African culture, and ultimately help out folks that could use a hand with day-to-day living.
Mercer Coach Susie Gardner admits when the chance to go to Ghana came up, she thought about the basketball benefits for the squad.
An extra week of practice in July is like a bonus to any team.
"We're working on fundamentals, but I feel like I'm giving them the Cliffs Notes version, so we're throwing in some offenses, we're throwing in some out-of-bounds plays," Gardner said.
They've got to get it down because the girls will head out July 27th, fly over five-thousand miles, and land in the capitol with three games on the schedule in the first week of their adventure.
The Bears are excited to play.
But what really has them bouncing off the walls is what they will see in Africa and how they will give back to folks they've never met.
Alicia Williams in an incoming junior guard.
"I think one of the most important things is what I'm going to learn about is myself," she reflected. "My whole mentality will change when I come back. It will be great to see how people live so you can appreciate what you have."
Ana Anderson heard about the trip after she made a verbal commitment to Mercer last year. She is an incoming freshman and excited about the immediate opportunity.
"My love is kids, and we get to spend a whole weekend at an orphanage. It's going to open my eyes to see how blessed we are here and how much we have here and take so much materialistic things for granted," Anderson explained.
The girls will work with the Fuller Center, which is like Habitat for Humanity.
Last weekend, they went to Plains, Georgia for a tour.
They saw the stark conditions people live in everyday in Africa and they also got a glimpse of a house much like the one they will build in Ghana.
But the highlight of the day came when the team had one-on-one time with former President Jimmy Carter.
"He sat us all down and talked about how he had been to Ghana over ten times, and he told us how great an experience it was, and he was way more personable than I thought he was going to be like, and he gave us insight on Ghana and how to be successful in life overall," Anderson explained.
"Any time you meet a world figure, someone who had had so much power, so much control over the things we see everyday, it was amazing, and the fact that he took the time to talk to us is something we will never forget," Williams added.
"He talked about his experiences with Habitat for Humanity and the Fuller Center," Gardner said. He was so down-to-earth, and he knew about our team. He's on the board of trustees and knew we had a successful season last year. He knew we were moving into the Southern Conference, and as wise and wonderful as he was as a president, it was like he's one of us as well."
What Carter couldn't prepare them for is the looks the ladies will get when they break out basketballs.
This team is notching a place in Mercer history.
"Everything we're doing as this progresses, I'm finding out, is a first," Gardner said. We're the first team from Mercer, we are the first women's team to go to Ghana. We found that out last weekend. We were told the Ghana people will be shocked and amazed and want to touch our players and say, "Women basketball players?," so we are going to be excited about that has well."
The memories, the experiences, and the pride may last a lifetime.
But this team is coming off a twenty-win season. Gardner hopes the trip will help them next winter when they try to accomplish even more on the court.
"We are going to be over there three weeks. There is a possibility we won't have contact with our families by phone for sure," Gardner projected. So we are not going to have that day to day interaction with the people we know and love, so we're going to be all we have. Two things could happen: we could get on each other's nerves, or we could become this amazing unit when times get tough in November, December and February that we've got each other's back."
Professors are also traveling with the kids, and they will take classes and get college credit.
As for the games, they will go up against the Ghana National team.