Heart and Soles

They May Not Know a Commodore from a Razorback or a Nike from a Reebok—but Friendship Is a Universal Language

Photo essay by Brandon Barca and Abby Carr

Vanderbilt University Athletics partnered in July with Soles4Souls—a global nonprofit organization that fights poverty through the distribution of shoes and clothing—to send student athletes on a 10-day journey to deliver shoes to those in need in Tanzania, Africa. The trip was the first during which Vanderbilt student athletes solely provided service and did not participate in scheduled athletic competitions.

Brandon Barca, one of five staffers on the trip, is director of online services and promotions for Vanderbilt athletics. Abby Carr is a senior soccer player from Miami. They documented the experience in photographs.


In sports terms, our trip to Kigoma, Tanzania, was one giant head-fake. We thought we were going there to give shoes to those less fortunate. Instead, we received more than we had imagined.

There were four jobs: foot sizers, foot washers, shoe sorters and shoe givers, and we all spent time doing each. The first distribution was a profound experience. The first person was a little girl, about 5 years old. She placed her toes on the mat but kept her heel in the air. I went to push her heel down and realized her foot was deformed so that only the ball of her foot touched the ground. That was the moment I realized the weight of what we were doing.

In Kigoma, an orphanage and school director showed us their library: eight books on a shelf in a tiny room, but to them it was a library. Facts like these break my heart and prompt me to wonder if enough is being done. There is so much need across the world, and even right here at home.

—Abby Carr, senior