By Emily Dobrowski, Titans Online
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — When driving into Latin America’s largest landfill from the civilized streets of Guatemala City, Titans wide receiver Damian Williams least expected to see children living in a village of trash.
“It’s hard not to be hurt to see it,” Williams said. “Once you start to drive through it and navigate it, it’s shocking. You see the people and you see the way they’re working. They are diligent workers; they just have nothing.”
Williams and his girlfriend immersed themselves in the severe poverty conditions of Guatemala City, Guatemala this offseason during a mission trip with Hope Renewed International.
Deviating from the volunteering norm of professional athletes, Williams and his girlfriend ventured to Guatemala City hoping to aid the children inhabiting one of Central America’s largest garbage dumps.
“The people live in whatever they can find to make their houses out of scrap metal or wood. All of their houses are basically made of trash, and that’s where they get their meals. It’s one of those things that you hear about it, but you don’t expect it to be as bad as it sounds,” said Williams.
Locally referred to as ‘the Dump’ or ‘the Mine’, the Central American wasteland is inhabited by thousands of people and is a viable residence to Guatemalans due to its free cost. Throughout the trip, the group assisted various Guatemalan city orphanages; however, the volunteers primarily focused on the children of the landfill who live in the devastating conditions.
Williams witnessed the children scavenging for food amongst the waste.
“That was the most heartbreaking part to see, because they can’t really do anything about the situation. At least the adults can go out and work, but these kids don’t have an education; they can’t go to school, because nobody will take them there. They can’t afford food.”
Because the children were clearly deprived of stability and daily resources, Williams and the other volunteers wanted to provide them with something permanent and a break from their daily hardships. The Hope Renewed International volunteers constructed a playground in the village of the dump by the end of the trip. The volunteers’ contribution allowed the children to finally partake in an ordinary and overlooked activity enjoyed by youth in developed countries.
Hope Renewed International is a religious nonprofit humanitarian and relief organization dedicated to helping at-risk developing cities. Williams’ participation with the organization was initiated by one of his home mentors from Springdale, Ark.
“This was the first time that I had ever gotten involved with that organization. I’ve heard about them for years and have been in correspondence, but I had never actually gotten the chance to meet those people or get involved,” he said.
Williams hopes to recruit some of his Titans teammates to join him next off-season in Guatemala, as he plans to return with Hope Renewed International, especially because the of the trip’s powerful impact.
“It was probably the best trip that I have ever made in my life. It will probably be my yearly trip.”
Although it was Williams’ first mission trip, his participation in the religious community is central to his life. Prior to living in Arkansas, Williams grew up in Louisiana, where a family with a strong faith surrounded him.
“My whole family all lived probably within a block together and we would all go to church together. That’s just what you did. You couldn’t do anything during the week if you didn’t go to church.”
After leaving Arkansas for the University of Southern California, such a reliable religious community became absent from Williams’ life. Perceiving the religious community on campus as insufficient, he was compelled to institute the campus bible study group ‘Generate USC’ with fellow teammate Matt Barkley.
Supported by his involvement with Hope Renewed and Generate USC, Williams said actions reveal a person’s faith better than words.
“If you’re a man of God, it should be shown through your actions, it should be displayed, and people should know about it,” Williams said. “You don’t have to say it, it should be displayed by the way that you carry yourself.”
Williams arrived in Tennessee after entering the 2010 draft and being selected as the Titans’ third-round draft pick. As compared to the preceding levels of football, he noticed an apparent eclipse of faith by economic focus throughout the league.
He, however, has been pleased with the religious respectfulness and presence throughout the team and believes second-year head coach Mike Munchak has instrumented it.
“I think that’s the direction that Munch wants this team to go — for guys to have faith and for guys to believe in what we’re doing, and I think that’s a great testament to him.”
Williams commended Munchak for never failing to remind the team and coaches of the daily services or the weekly Bible groups. Williams, along with fellow teammates and coaches, hold a team Bible Study every possible Thursday. Williams dignifies the support of the group as an invaluable resource of his professional career.
“Obviously, in this profession, a lot of things come up, at this point of the year especially, people battling thoughts in their head, battling friends, family, temptations outside, whatever the case may be, and it’s just nice to have a core group of guys you know who you can talk to and who can relate to what you’re going through.”
SectionsFeatured Story, NFL, Sports, Tennessee Titans
TopicsClarksville, Clarksville Sports Network, Damian Williams, football, NFL, Tennessee, Tennessee Titans, Titans
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