Finding Joy in Tanzania: Eden Whitaker ‘28 Spends Spring Break on a Mission Trip

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Finding Joy in Tanzania: Eden Whitaker ‘28 Spends Spring Break on a Mission Trip
Alexandra Chuck
Sage Ridge student Eden Whitaker '28 with Amani Kids in Tanzania

Sage Ridge student Eden Whitaker ‘28 spent Spring Break with her father on a mission trip in Tanzania. The Whitakers traveled to Africa with Think Kindness, a Reno non-profit organization focused on action-oriented “kindness movements in schools and communities.” 

On their trip, Whitaker and her father spent about a week with Amani Children’s Home, a residential community center “for children whose parents have abdicated custody in a climate of personal hardship or abuse” that aids the academic endeavors, emotional development and physical wellbeing of each child with full-time care. 

The experience for 14-year-old Whitaker was life-changing. Between gardening and visiting with the children, Whitaker learned that Amani’s rent for a house is $9 per month and quickly realized that a year’s worth of rent is the equivalent of—or less than—a new pair of volleyball shoes. 

“I wouldn’t understand the value of things if I didn’t go on this trip,” Whitaker said. “This was a very eye-opening experience. It has taught me to be grateful and to think differently.” 

When Whitaker arrived at the residential care facility in the mornings, she began the day by sorting gifts for the children. 

“Brian Williams, the founder of Think Kindness, collects shoes and gifts for the children,” Whitaker said. “We provided each child with shoes. Many didn’t wear socks, so we provided those, too. When we gave the kids the gifts, they were so happy to get things like soap, pencils and soccer balls.” 

Whitaker learned a lot from the Tanzanian children on this trip. She learned how to count to ten in Swahili. She learned how to communicate with facial expressions and body movements when a translator or guide wasn’t around to help. But what she learned most was the power of finding joy despite challenges. 

“Amani Kids have their own farm and grow most of their food. They have a cow. They love farming and being outside,” Whitaker said. “They play tag, run around, and play a lot of soccer and I played volleyball with them. They are present in everything they do.” 

Whitaker’s first mission trip will not be her last. She is already considering her next service trip, with sights set on Costa Rica in a few years and a return trip to Amani. 

“I do want to go back to Amani because you bond with the kids when you’re there,” Whitaker said, sharing how she and her dad especially bonded with two kids. “It was great to see and experience together with my dad. I thought it was amazing and it was so insightful to see all of the kids and how happy they are at Amani. They are so happy despite everything they’ve been through. They’re good at finding joy in everything. They don’t know any different.” 

Eden Whitaker '28 and the Think Kindess volunteers at Amani
Sage Ridge student Eden Whitaker '28 sizes a shoe for child at Amani Kids in Tanzania
Eden Whitaker '28 spends time with Amani Kids in Tanzania during Spring Break


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