Story: Transportation Insight Executives Serve with Samaritan’s Feet
HICKORY, NC, Dec 4, 2009 – The relationship between Transportation Insight, LLC, and Samaritan’s Feet began in 1996. Manny Ohonme, President, CEO, and Founder of Samaritan’s Feet, met Reggie Walker, now Director of Business Development for Transportation Insight, while they both were working at a software company in Charlotte, NC. Since then Reggie and Manny’s relationship has stayed strong. In November 2003, Reggie introduced Manny to Transportation Insight’s CEO, Paul Thompson. Inspired by Manny’s perseverance and drive, Paul encouraged Manny to fulfill his calling and his dream – to encourage children around the world by carrying a message of hope and by providing 10 million new pairs of shoes to 10 million impoverished children in 10 years.
The main purpose of each Samaritan’s Feet trip is to meet with children to encourage them and share with them the love of Jesus Christ. Members do this as they wash each child’s feet, get to know each child just a bit, pray with them, and put a new pair of socks and shoes on their feet. It is a life-changing experience for the children and for the volunteers as they share the love of God expressed through the act of washing feet and the supernatural connection of human hearts.
In January 2008, Paul Thompson and his son accompanied Manny on a shoe distribution trip to Lima, Peru. After that inspiring trip, Paul approached the executives at Transportation Insight about volunteering with Samaritan’s Feet. That February, Jay Wilson, Vice President of Processing Services, and Chad Burel, Director of Marketing and Corporate Sales, left with Manny heading to Valparaiso, Brazil.
A major event during Jay and Chad’s ten day trip to Valparaiso, Brazil, was to accompany and support Manny as he preached and presented his testimony at a week-long youth camp outside of Valparaiso. During the daytime, the Samaritan’s Feet group visited different orphanages in the area to encourage the children and to distribute shoes. At their visit to the first orphanage, Jay and Chad became attached to the 45 orphans living with broken windows and leaky roofs. Despite these conditions, Jay remembered, “All they wanted was to hold our hands or be hugged.”
After leaving the orphanage late the first day, Jay and Chad were determined to return with Manny so he could share his story with the teens at the orphanage. When they arrived back at the orphanage that Thursday, the children and teens were ecstatic to see their new friends. Wanting to share, the children pulled the visitors to their rooms by the hands. Up to eleven children lived in each room with each child’s entire worldly belongings stored in half of a shared 2’ x 2’cubby. While reflecting on the experience, Jay said, “They are happy to be alive and have what they have. They don’t know what they don’t have.”
The most touching moment of Jay’s first trip was when Manny preached to the 30 teens at that particular orphanage. Jay said, “Manny’s piece of advice to the children was to dream big and to go for those dreams.” Manny presented his own life as an example: “Against all odds, a painfully poor boy raised in dire family and social circumstances in Nigeria, is now answering the call to travel around the world and give back the same life-saving message of hope that was given to him by a missionary so many years ago; a message proclaiming that every child has hope, a future, and a great destiny in Jesus Christ.” One particular moment that still brings back strong emotions for Jay is after Manny’s testimonial when 15 of the 30 teenagers accepted Christ. “There is no better feeling,” Jay said, “than washing their feet, telling them the good news about Jesus, giving them their first pair of shoes, and then seeing them accept Christ as their Lord and Savior.”
Locally, passion for God’s work being done by Samaritan’s Feet has spread throughout Transportation Insight. Jay has worked with Christ United Methodist Church and Morning Star Baptist Church to lead a similar shoe distribution for children around the Hickory area. At one weekend event the church held a cookout, rented inflatables for the children to play in, and distributed 225 pairs of donated shoes. They had 150 shoes in surplus and donated all of them to Samaritan’s Feet to further the cause of getting 10 million shoes to 10 million children in 10 years.
The next Transportation Insight trip with Samaritan’s Feet was in February 2008 when Chris Mendenhall, Vice President of Pricing Services, and Reggie Walker went to Brazil. They landed in Sao Paolo, went to Brasilia, and continued to Valparaiso. Like Jay and Chad, they spent 10 days distributing shoes to children in the orphanages. An orphan boy named Michael said to Chris in his broken English, “It is good shoes you bring, but it is very good Jesus you bring.”
Many of the orphans in Brazil have been abused and taken from their parents or guardians. On Chris and Reggie’s first day in Brazil, a little boy who was no more than 3 years old climbed into Chris’s arms and refused to be put down. For the 10 days they were there, this boy wore the same hooded sweatshirt in the heat and humidity. He kept the hood tight around his head, hiding the scars from where he had been beaten by his grandmother with a metal spoon. In light of all this, Chris realized that these children “just want someone to acknowledge they exist.”
Chris’s most moving experience was when the Samaritan’s Feet group visited a church in the area of Brazil where armed guards stood watch at the doors and barbed wire covered windows and entrances. He explained how the church service began with three people walking in the doors: the first carried an Israeli flag to honor God’s chosen people, the next carried a Brazilian flag to honor their country, and the last carried an American flag to honor Americans, who many Brazilians feel are the most God fearing, giving people in the world. Next, a group of four entered dressed as people from the streets in rags. They walked to the front of the church and lay down in a circle. An immaculately dressed priest followed by a woman in high fashion walked around the circle in disdain. Then a man in a Samaritan’s Feet shirt came to the four in the floor and washed their feet. The last man to have his feet washed stood and removed his rags to reveal white, pristine clothing underneath; on his hands, scars from the crucifixion were visible. The message of the service was about loving people and doing kindness for them as described in Matthew 25:40 when Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.”
In April of 2009, Chris also went to South Africa with his son and many Transportation Insight executives and their families. During this trip, the group split their time between distributing shoes and helping to build houses. Chris said, “It is heart breaking in Africa.” Roughly a third of the population is HIV positive. Many children are orphaned because all their relatives have died from AIDS. It is hard to find anyone over 40 years old. Chris was most touched by a boy named David, who was the same age as Chris’s 17 year old son. David had lost absolutely everyone, yet he still got up every day hoping to make something better of himself. Chris said that David had no food in his house. His school provided him only one small daily meal of milly-mill, a cross between grits and Cream of Wheat, but with a bland taste and little nutritional value. Reflecting back, Chris said, “They smile constantly. They don’t understand what they don’t have.” Chris also described how the group wrapped a house in a tarp to keep out the wind and rain for three brothers. When it was finished, the youngest of the three (also named David) began to cry as he looked at his house. Chris asked the interpreter why David was crying, and was told that David was saying, “You’ve made my house so beautiful.” Chris said that the number one thing about these kids is that they want to know “someone cares about them.”
Nearly every Transportation Insight executive and many other employees have volunteered with Samaritan’s Feet. New human resource programs at Transportation Insight have been put in place recently to make it easier for all Transportation Insight employees to share in the blessing of serving children with Samaritan’s Feet. Local volunteer opportunities have been taken by groups of Transportation Insight employees who helped to pack shoes for overseas distribution, and who participated in a Samaritan’s Feet World Walk in Charlotte, NC. Through all of this participation, a stronger sense of community has been forged within Transportation Insight. Employees who have served together with Samaritan’s feet now feel a special kindred bond because of their shared experiences. One employee summed up the alliance between the two organizations by saying “This experience is good for Transportation Insight and for Samaritan’s Feet.”
About Samaritan’s Feet
Samaritan’s Feet, based in Charlotte, NC, is a humanitarian non-profit relief organization dedicated to equipping the feet of impoverished children in the United States and around the world with shoes, and to delivering a life-changing message of hope.
Samaritan’s Feet was started in 2003 by President and Founder Manny Ohonme. As a child growing up in Africa, Manny received his first pair of shoes at the age of nine from a missionary. He started playing basketball and other sports with the new pair of shoes, and he earned a spot on a traveling basketball team as well as his high school team. Upon graduating high school, he was offered a scholarship to play basketball at the University of North Dakota (Lake Region) where he received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.
Manny spent 10 years in the marketing and logistics business before he founded Samaritan’s Feet to help give children what he received earlier in life: a pair of shoes and a message of hope.
The goal of Samaritan’s Feet is to provide 10 million pairs of shoes for 10 million impoverished people in 10 years. In addition to work in the United States, nearly 3 million pairs of shoes have been distributed in over 42 other countries including: Tsunami- Sri Lanka; Romania; Ukraine; Haiti; Nigeria; Kenya; Ethiopia; Ecuador; South Africa; Jamaica; Guyana; Mexico; Brazil; Ecuador; Peru; Malawi; Gambia and Burundi.
Visit www.samaritansfeet.org to see what a single pair of shoes can do to change a child’s life somewhere in the world.
About Transportation Insight, LLC
Transportation Insight, LLC, improves client profitability and competitive advantage across the North American marketplace. Transportation Insight’s goal is to lower clients’ logistics costs, automate business processes with state-of-the-art transportation management system (TMS) applications, provide enterprise-wide business intelligence, and enhance customer service. For more information about how Transportation Insight can assist your company, please visit www.transportationinsight.com or call 828-485-5000.