Friday, February 29, 2008

Hello everyone. There has been a bunch of things going on over the last week with regards to the Africa project. These events are pretty cool because it’s great to have the opportunity to learn more about the situation in Africa, but mostly it is just really exciting because these events remind me that we are actually going to do this in less than 3 weeks. I can’t wait.

Last Monday (February March 24), F&M Alum Dr. Barbara Marston gave a lecture on the HIV epidemic in Africa. The lecture was in the new life science building and a bunch of us soccer players went. She gave some background info on what exactly HIV is, and then talked a little about the treatments available for the virus. She also talked a little about her work for the CDC in Kenya. They’ve been able to have a pretty big impact on the community she is working in, so it was encouraging to see a group have a positive impact on a community like we hope to some day. It was also great to learn a lot more about the virus itself, and drugs used to fight it. It’s pretty amazing that there are drugs that can reduce the amount of HIV in a patient’s blood to an almost undetectable level, but it is scary that certain strands of HIV are developing immunity to certain drugs. If you have any questions about HIV, ask Ryan McGonigle, he managed to stay awake for a good part of the early portion of the presentation, haha. We also got to see some pictures of some very cute lion cubs, which was a real treat as well.

The following day, all the players and some parents coming on the trip with us met in Stager for a little orientation for the trip. First, Dr. Mike Levi, Danny Levi’s dad and one of the nicest guys ever, came and gave a presentation on HIV. This presentation was very informative and was a bit easier to understand than Dr. Marston’s, which was nice for those of us who are not bio/chem majors. Dr. Levi’s presentation was followed by a presentation by Government Department Professor Dicklitch on some of the recent history of South Africa with a focus on Apartheid and the country’s current situation. Professor Dicklitch seems like a real cool professor. It was a good presentation because the country’s history, and its present economic and social position certainly have a lot to do with the HIV epidemic there. To me, the fact that South Africa avoided civil war after the fall of Apartheid is unbelievable.

Lastly, President Fry and Dean Trachte set it up so that the seniors on the team could present before the Board of Trustees on Friday (February 22). The original plan was to have lunch with the Board, and then give them a presentation on what exactly we would be doing in South Africa. Because of the bad weather on Friday, the presentation got pushed back to Saturday morning. Giving a presentation on a Saturday morning is no college student’s dream, but we were excited for the opportunity to tell these heavy hitters about the project we are so excited about. Saturday morning came and the presentation started with an intro from President Fry. I have to say, from everything I’ve heard and experienced, President Fry is the man; so glad that he is our President. He had some unbelievably nice things to say about our team and the project and then turned it over to us. Now, before the intro, President Fry asked senior Chris Walters something to the effect of- “So you think this will be about 15 minutes or so?” Walters just kind of nodded yes. We ended up presenting for at least twice that long, which was definitely longer than they were expecting. Nonetheless, they had a bunch of questions after we presented and really seemed to enjoy the presentation and feel proud for what we are trying to do. Many of them seemed like pretty cool people too; while they were asking us questions one gentleman raised his hand and said, “I just wanted to say sorry for having to move the presentation to this morning (Saturday morning), I know you guys probably couldn’t go out last night.” Haha. But it really is great to feel like the Board is behind us and the project (and if they want to throw out some bills to the cause that wouldn’t hurt either…).


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Brian Fisher Update

Hey everyone, my name is Brian Fisher, I’m a senior business major here at F&M and I play defender for the F&M Men’s soccer team.  I’m going to be blogging a little bit about some of the things going on before we actually go on our Africa trip.  This is a really exciting time as we are rapidly approaching March 14, the day when we will leave for Africa.  For my first blog, I’d just like to give a little background on what exactly it is that we are doing in South Africa and why we are all so excited about it.

About a year ago, Coach Wagner came to all of us and proposed the idea of going on a trip to a foreign country before preseason in the August of 2007.  Possible destinations included Brazil, Argentina, or Europe.  We were all very excited about the prospect of going to another country together to play soccer.  However, things changed when Coach called us together for a meeting last spring and started off by showing us a video of U2 lead-singer Bono describing the HIV epidemic currently going on in Sub-Saharan Africa.  After the clip (which was probably about 8 and a half hours long—Coach has a huge crush on Bono) Coach brought up the idea of going to Africa for Spring Break of 2008.  This trip would be about much more than soccer.  One of the main facets of the trip would be to perform community service with a non-profit organization called Grassroots Soccer, which uses soccer as a means to spread HIV prevention information to a community in Africa.  Originally, many of us were a bit reluctant about the idea because we had really been looking forward to going to South America or Europe before the 2007 season, but it was impossible not to be excited about the opportunity to go to a community desperately in need of help and to possibly have a huge, positive impact.   

Things began to pick up as we decided on a location:  Khayelitsha, South Africa.  Khayelitsha is a terribly impoverished township of South Africa.  During Apartheid the black population was forcibly moved from their homes to townships like Khayelitsha.  Khayelitsha is the third largest township in South Africa with a population of about 500,000, the majority of which live in self-made shanty-homes and earn less than $2 a day.  We began figuring out the basics of the trip, attempting to raise funds, and collecting soccer equipment to donate to the community we would be visiting. 

On August 15, 2007, an event occurred that would change the Africa project, as well as much of the F&M community, forever.  Our good friend Chris Campbell passed away the day before preseason began.  It is impossible to put into words how tragic this was and how much pain we felt.  Campbell was a great kid and a great friend to many of us and he will forever be remembered and missed.  However, even in his passing, Campbell was able to have a positive impact on others.  His death greatly expanded the scope and capabilities of the Africa project.  His amazing parents began a foundation in his memory:  CTCTen, through which they have been tirelessly working to raise funds for a soccer complex similar to the one next to the ASFC that we play on.  The complex includes one full-length field, two smaller fields, a clubhouse, lights, and fencing.  This will clearly serve as a great resource for the community, and it never would have existed without the Campbells.  

This past fall the F&M soccer team had an unforgettable soccer season, and a great amount of gratitude is owed to the F&M soccer community and students for all their support, without which we never could have had the year we did.  Since the season, efforts have been focused towards raising funds and awareness about the project.  The Lancaster Intellegencer Journal ran a story about the project, as did CBS 21 News, which was really exciting for all of us and may serve to kick-start the acting careers of Ryan McGonigle and Jason Keil. At this point, thanks to the generosity and hard work of a lot of people, we have collected tons of soccer balls, uniforms, and other equipment to take to Khayelitsha, and have raised over $150,000.  In addition to the soccer camp run for local children with Grassroots to spread HIV prevention information, the soccer complex, and the soccer equipment; we are also raising funds to send an intern over to South Africa to work with Grassroots Soccer, and to hold a seminar for Grassroots to train 20 coaches and 2 master trainers.  The intern is going to be Ryan McGonigle, and the internship will begin July 1 and last for a year.  The hope is to send an intern over every year, and for the whole soccer team go back to Khayelitsha every 3 years.  

As we are currently less than 3 weeks away from our departure, I can’t even begin to explain how excited we are about this trip.  The facts describing the affect HIV has had on South Africa are startling.  In South Africa, one out of ever five adults is infected with HIV. Seventy-one percent of all deaths of 18-49 year old South Africans are attributed to HIV.  The average life expectancy for the nation is around 48 years.  We are literally going to have the opportunity to save lives and change the future of a community that is in desperate need of help.  I cannot help but feel that I live a relatively selfish life here as a college student; thinking mostly about the activities or exams or whatever else I have going on over the next week.  I think it is rare in life that we have the ability to make such a genuine and significant contribution to the well-being of another group of people and to be a part of something that is so much bigger than one’s self.  To describe the merit of this project in words is certainly beyond the scope of my ability; I am just grateful for the opportunity to be apart of it and for all the support we have received.  

Anyways, I hope you will follow the blog as we continue to post updates about everything leading up to the trip, and the trip itself.  Thanks for tuning in.


Friday, February 22, 2008

Chris Campbell Memorial Video

The Franklin & Marshall Men's Soccer Team suffered a devastating loss before the start of their last season with the passing of All-Conference senior Chris Campbell. The video below was made to give many a reminder of the great life Chris had, and to give others a small opportunity to learn what a great person, player and friend Chris was.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Welcome to the F&M Soccer Africa Project Blog

When Dan Wagner first approached me about the Soccer Africa Project in the spring of 2007, it was a small community service project with humble goals. All of that changed in August. One day prior to Franklin & Marshall’s men’s soccer team’s arrival on campus, rising senior and returning All-Centennial Conference choice, Christopher T. Campbell, passed away.

The night before Chris’ passing, I had loaded action photos of returning soccer players into Netitor, the backend of the site. His shock of red hair left me confident he would be easy to spot on the field, and that he would be the one identity I would be certain of as I embarked on my first soccer season with the Diplomats. The day of Chris’ passing, I was writing the soccer preview for the web site, and had quoted Wagner on Campbell being, “the cog in the center,” and “the catalyst on offense.”

That preview was never posted.

Everything F&M soccer changed on that day. The team and its coach were clearly in shock, and there were more questions than there were answers to go around. After the initial grieving, something very positive, and equally organic, began brewing. It was a celebration of a great life rather than the mourning of a great loss.

I had never met Chris Campbell. I had never seen him set a cleat on the pitch. But on a warm September evening, I watched a community larger than soccer and athletics pour out its heart in celebration of a friend and roommate. The healing had begun and the direction of Dan Wagner’s humble project pivoted.

F&M’s Soccer Africa project is no longer about collecting soccer balls, cleats, and uniform sets, though donations are still appreciated. It is no longer a project hoping to secure traction an ocean away. F&M’s soccer Africa project has raised over $150,000 USD. Plans for a Christopher T. Campbell Memorial Soccer Complex in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, South Africa, are well underway. Ryan McGonigle, Campbell’s best friend and roommate, will spend a year as an intern, tending to the soil these seeds are being planted in. Wagner’s long-term vision of lifting up a community through education and soccer is being fulfilled.

"What people don't realize is so unique about the Grassroot Soccer approach is that soccer is a minimal component," says Wagner. "This is not a sports plus education program, this is an education program, plus sports."

There is work yet to be done. More money needs to be raised to make the Campbell Memorial Complex a reality, but with Wagner on point, it is clear the dream will be realized.

The next step in realizing the dream is the trip. F&M will send 53 Diplomats to Africa for Spring Break. Between now and then, Survivor winner and Fox Sports Soccer Analyst, Ethan Zohn will come on campus to speak on Monday, March 3. Zohn is heavily involved with Grassroot Soccer. A fraternity and a sorority will sponsor yet another fundraiser to donate to the cause. On this site, several F&M soccer players will share their experiences and photos from now through the trip’s completion and beyond.

This site will be the home of the voice of the foot soldiers. We hope you’ll follow the project as it grows, but we’d rather you become involved!

Franklin & Marshall Soccer Fighting HIV/AIDS in Africa

Franklin & Marshall College's 28 varsity intercollegiate sports teams compete under the nickname Diplomats. The men's soccer team is living up to its namesake, preparing to embark on an 11-day goodwill tour of South Africa to combat HIV/AIDS.

The Diplomats have raised $98,000 in less than six months and are well on their way to fund the $330,000, lighted turf facility in Khayelitsha Township in honor of the late Christopher T. Campbell. A rising senior and returning All-Centennial Conference player, the Narberth, Pennsylvania native unexpectedly passed away one day prior to the start of the 2007 season.

Campbell's family requested donations be made to F&M's Soccer Africa Project, which began with the Diplomats head coach, Dan Wagner, whose epiphany came during a service at Lancaster County Bible Church. A 1995 graduate of Messiah College, Wagner conceived of a mission to provide HIV/ AIDS prevention education to children in South Africa while instilling life-long leadership skills and a deeper understanding of global issues and culture among Franklin & Marshall student-athletes.

Wagner partnered with Grassroot Soccer ( in 2007 to begin making his idea a reality. Using the power of soccer in the fight against AIDS, Grassroot Soccer provides African youth with the knowledge, skills and support to live HIV free.

53 Diplomats will leave for Khayelitsha, Cape Town, South Africa on March 14 to run a series of HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention soccer clinics, as well as to break ground on the Christopher T. Campbell Memorial Soccer Complex. They will also take with them donated uniforms and soccer equipment for use at the complex and throughout the region.

The only men's team to receive the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Ethics Award following the 2007 season, Franklin & Marshall finished the year with a record of 15-4, making their second straight NCAA Championship Appearance. With his team carrying a national ranking throughout the 2007 campaign, Wagner was named the NSCAA/adidas Mid-Atlantic Region Coach of the Year for the second consecutive season.