Brooke Henderson, a 12 year old with a love for soccer, had to put her passion on hold to have brain surgery for what ended up being a benign tumor. During her recovery time she found that soccer and faith were great ways to cope, and the reason she regained health so rapidly. Brooke expressed that without soccer she wouldn’t of had the huge support system that she was extremely grateful for during this tough time. She had many families come visit and lots of help from the community due to soccer. Thankfully, her recovery was a miraculous one and she was able to get out of bed, walk around, and even kick soccer balls through the hallways just hours from waking up from surgery. She left the hospital only three days after her craniotomy. Due to her extraordinary recovery, Brooke wanted to do something to give back. When Brooke heard that her church, The Grove, was putting together a trip to Malawi, Africa, she couldn’t help but jump on the opportunity.
Brooke explained that in Malawi the easiest form of communicating was soccer. For the last several years, Live Love Malawi has worked with villages near the African Bible College Campus. Sport is truly a common language. Over time, a trust was built. Now, many teams travel to Malawi to aid with fresh water, medical needs, justice issues and sharing the gospel. As soon as Brooke grabbed a soccer ball, tons of kids surrounded her with smiles and laughs wanting to join. She was able to play with older guys who have never seen girls play soccer before just because she brought out a ball. She described how the guys were allowing her to join in, helping her out and praising her with high fives. Brooke stated that this was the first year that they were able to bring so much soccer gear. They brought 700 pounds worth of gear, including soccer balls and nets donated by Bownet. They hope that this gear will be enough until they can go back and provide them with more.
Malawians testing out their new Bownet Lite Ball's
Going through such a difficult experience gave Brooke a more positive outlook on life. She now takes advantage of any opportunities she can. She explained that everything fell into place after surgery. Now she doesn’t sweat the small stuff and is just thankful to be alive and walking. Going through this experience forced her to grow up faster than her friends, which was sad for her in some ways, yet positive because it allowed to her go to Malawi at just 12 years of age. It also allowed to her to realize that she wants to grow up to become a nurse due to the lack of nurses and doctors in places such as Malawi.
Brooke’s advice to other kids going through any struggles is to have faith, love, and hope in your heart. She had three rocks in the hospital with her, each labeled faith, love, and hope. She believed that “as long as you have faith in what you believe in, love from the people around you, and hope for the future, you can get through anything”. She recommended staying involved with your community because you’ll never know when you will need their help, or they will need yours. It will also allow you to become aware of any volunteering going on around you. Staying active in school with clubs and sports also helped her meet a lot of people around the area, who gave her an abundant amount of support after her surgery. Lastly, she thinks it is always necessary to be a good family member.
Brooke praised Live Love Malawi for giving her the opportunity to help others and providing her with the trip of her life. The founders, Paul and Melinda Gunther, make sure everything runs smoothly from getting into customs and villages and getting back home again.
“If you ever get the opportunity to do something like this, even if it’s not on as great of a scale or just helping out your community, go for it. Because you’ll never know what experiences your going to get by helping yourself and everyone else around you. Going to Malawi changed me in a permanent way, you meet the most amazing people ever and you get so many amazing experiences.” - Brooke Henderson
To get involved or for more information please feel free to email Greg or Brooke Henderson at firstname.lastname@example.org