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Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie recently took a philanthropic trip to Africa. He documented his day-to-day experiences and is sharing them with GlobalGrind. Read on for more: 

On March 14, 2011 I departed from Miami, FL in order to pursue a mission that is beyond a dream come true. My first stop was North Carolina to London and eight hours later, I finally reached my destination, which was Uganda, Entebbe. Yes, Africa was my home for a few days.

On March 15, 2011 at 10:00pm, I arrived at Entebbe International Airport and went through the process of gathering my luggage and heading to my hotel. I arrived at my hotel at 11:15pm. My original roommate was Santonio Holmes but he switched rooms with Krystal Coleman (my publicist). After a long trip, I finally showered and went to bed around 12am.

March 16, 2011

My day started at 6:45am. Less than an hour later, I went down for breakfast and loaded the bus at 8:30am. At 9:00am, we departed for the Market. The next stop for the day was the Corner Stone Girls Academy. We were there for a little over two hours and then back on the buses. Finally, it was time to sleep and I slept with a net around my bed to keep the bugs away from me.

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March 17, 2011

My day started at 5:45am. We all skipped breakfast as a group and relied on snacks that we packed. Even though we skipped breakfast, it did appear to be appealing. There were bananas, pineapple, watermelon, sausage, fried potatoes, kidney beans and eggs.

At 8:30am the scheduled meeting with World Vision started, where we were prepped on what would take place throughout the day while at Mercy Village School.

Finally, the mission starts and what an amazing journey once we arrived at Mercy Village. There are over five hundred students that attend the school with five bathrooms but only two are able to be used. The school is in jeopardy of being closed by inspectors because of the lack of restrooms for the students. We passed out shirts, snacks, beverages and filter straws. Filter straws are used to filter dirt out of drinking water. Of course, there is a catch to the filter straws. The initial sip cannot be swallowed but once that slight inconvenience is handled the children are able to freely drink clean water.

At 1:00pm it was time for lunch and the lunch was pretty traditional. We were served fried chicken and fries. While at lunch they were playing Mary J. Blige and a lot of Whitney Houston and I do mean a lot of Whitney Houston.

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After lunch, we were taken to St. Monica. The children of St. Monica face different forms of oppression. There are children that are the result of rape, deaf children that are left there but there are parents that return for their children. The students of St. Monica are polite, respectful and very well-disciplined considering their circumstances. A remarkable highlight is that regardless of the taxing circumstances, the children and teachers have faith. They hold a high concern for God. The teachers at St. Monica speak openly to their students about God. They may not have the resources that American students disregard or take advantage of but they have faith that is not determined by material items.

After visiting the classrooms, it was time to set up a place to provide the children with hearing aids for the following day but there were thirty children in need of hearing aids so there was no time to waste. I learned the different levels of hearing aids, how to test them and how to apply them. I was astonished by the look on the children’s faces, when they noticed that they could actually hear sounds. They were hearing for the first time and I was completely taken back by the fact that I was able to help five children hear. Often, we take for granted what we live with daily but seeing their excitement makes me more than thankful that I was able to provide them an opportunity to hear for the first time. We provided the children with a supply of batteries that will last them a year.

Their excitement was displayed by facial expressions, sign language as well as vocally for those that spoke.

After applying the hearing aids, it was time to load the bus in order to prepare for dinner. I missed dinner along with my publicist Krystal. I wanted to spend time working on my journal so that I could share my experience. I did not want to forget anything or lose one moment of that day. The night ended early for me but was interrupted by the temperature in the room. Can you believe that I had to turn off the air conditioner?

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March 18, 2011

I was awakened by Krystal’s alarm clock at 5:40am. Around 7:00am, I was informed by Krystal that our coordinator, Bill Horne was suffering from food poisoning so there was a bit of a delay. We loaded the buses a bit late but that not disturb our mission. The mission of the day was to dig wells for water at the Restore Academy, learn to make cement and build a foundation for a new building. The day was filled with hands on manual labor but it was nothing that I could not handle. A few of the future students for the building that we were laying the foundation for stopped by and danced for us. We took a few photographs before departing to St. Monica for lunch. I enjoyed my lunch, which consisted of fish, cabbage, string beans and potatoes. After lunch, we did a food distribution with Feed the Children that consisted of flour, beans, salt and oil for 2,500 people.

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The day ended early so that we could take the opportunity to visit different shops downtown with the group but as always Krystal and I did not go with everyone. We stayed behind in order to play basketball with a guy named Dennis (he works at the hotel). Keep in mind, that we were informed to travel in groups but not us. So, you can just call us the rebels of the group. I’m not really sure if the impromptu decision to walk around town before going to the basketball courts was the best decision but I can say that it was an experience. The walk started to become long so we decided to catch two cabs to the basketball courts. SMH! The cabs were motorcycles and we had to ride back to back with the drivers. My cab driver must have been in race by himself because he literally left Krystal behind and I had to ask him to stop so that she could catch up. Finally, we arrive at the courts but Dennis is nowhere to be found. We stood around for about five minutes and realized that is was getting dark. Again, we found ourselves walking until we found new cab drives (motorcycles). There is really no other way to say it so here it is, “we didn’t know the name of our hotel” so I had to direct the cab driver. I’m thankful for my sense of direction since I cannot say my memory. LOL.

We arrived back at 7:30pm and it was dark but everyone was back at the hotel in the lobby playing cards or on their computers. I took the chance to jump on twitter. I had not been on twitter the entire trip because of the busy schedule and trying to keep everything in my journal. An hour later after catching up with the world of twitter, I was back in my room and in bed by 9:30pm.

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March 19, 2011

My day started at 6:50am. I was thankful for the extra few hours of sleep but not as happy when I looked outside and noticed the rain. We were scheduled to play soccer with children at a school that was near out hotel but the rain ruined the experience but did not stop our day. We went to St. Monica to continue providing hearing aids as well as being interviewed. Our day ended pretty early (2pm) and started late so we relaxed at the hotel. I listened to music from my label B Major and took the opportunity to listen to music with Santonio and Tommie (they have record labels as well).

Around 7:15, it was time to depart the hotel for the farewell dinner at St. Monica. They thanked us for our help, performed a few dances and sang. We left St. Monica’s for the last time around 10:00pm and went back to our hotel where everyone packed for our departure in the morning. We would be headed to Rwanda in the morning.

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March 20, 2011

My day started at 7am so that I could finish some last-minute packing before hitting the road. Around 8:30pm the bus came to take us to our fourteen passenger plane. At 9:00am, we took a private flight from Gulu, Uganda to Kisoro, Uganda which was an hour and a half flight. Once we reached Kisoro, Uganda we had drivers waiting to take us to across the border into Rwanda. Once we crossed the border we had like a forty-five minute ride to our hotel. The passengers in my truck consisted of the driver (of course), A.P. Tommie, Krystal and Shaq (my assistant). Since it was a day of travel, we just chilled out played cards and dominos. Dinner was at 7:30pm and afterwards it was the same thing just playing cards and dominos so around 10:30, I went to my room and prepared for the next day.

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March 21, 2011

My day started at 5:40am and I thought that I would be handing out hearing aids. Man, I was so wrong for that assumption. I got a knock on the door at 6:40am and was informed that I would be joining the Gorilla Group. Luckily, I was almost finished getting dressed and I would not have to miss out. At 7am before going to see the Gorillas we attended a brief seminar about the Gorillas.

We had to hike up a mountain in order to see the Gorillas and it was a very challenging hike. I am not a small guy but eventually I made it. I never thought in a million years that I would actually be that close to Gorillas. My size is nothing compared to the Gorillas or the experience but I can say that even if the hike was challenging and a bit taxing, it was well worth the effort.