SACRAMENTO, Calif. – He traveled to Tanzania, Africa, on a mission to help improve a home for orphans but returned feeling those children gave him a much greater gift – a lesson in strength, humility and kindness.
The recent two-week trip to Tanzania was the second such service trip to Africa for Brian Poole, a supervisory engineer in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District engineering division.
Through his church in Yuba City, Poole learned about Samaritan Village, an orphanage established 18 years ago by a Tanzanian woman who now lives in Yuba City. This summer’s trip for the Northern California team focused on construction projects for the orphanage, so Poole was a natural candidate for the mission.
Poole admitted he loves construction so much that if he were asked to choose a mid-life crisis dream machine “it would be an excavator – not a Corvette.” Poole’s 17-year-old daughter, Brianne, accompanied her dad to Tanzania this year. She hopes to be an engineer, also, and began classes at San Diego State University three weeks after returning from Tanzania.
Poole’s family has a heart for service. He, his wife, Patti, and Brianne were also part of a mission to Kenya in 2012. That first experience meeting the people of Africa left the California engineer eager to return.
The orphanage at Samaritan Village is located just east of the Tanzanian city of Arusha -- midway between Cairo, Egypt, and Cape Town, South Africa. The area is lush with vegetation and sits at about 4,500 feet elevation on the grounds of a former banana plantation.
During their time in Tanzania, the Yuba City team was able to build new playground equipment (painted with the colors of the flag of Tanzania); construct an access ramp for delivery of heavy items like 150-pound bags of donated rice; and place a retaining wall to provide a better area for children to play soccer.
Beyond the construction work, volunteers shared activities with the children and let the youngsters know that “people care for them and value them,” said Poole. “The kids hold Americans in high regard and treated us like we were rock stars!”
Many of the orphans were given up by their parents due to financial or cultural constraints, Poole learned. Since they have no birth record, each child is given a name and a birth date when they arrive at the orphanage.
The single strongest memory from the trip for Poole was becoming well acquainted with Moses – a 14-year-old orphan boy whose quiet, deliberate and unassuming nature left a huge impression. Moses was brought to the orphanage as a baby after his mother abandoned him and he was found inside a small box the size of a pet carrier.
“Moses knows what he wants to accomplish in his life and I have no doubt he can succeed,” said Poole. The inner strength and kindness of the youngsters in Samaritan Village was phenomenal, said Poole, adding, “they have very few material possessions and are happy; whereas, we look around here, see so much stuff -- yet many Americans are sad and want even more.”