The idea for the nonprofit Through Our Eyes started when seven African-American NFL players, all good friends, took a ski vacation together to Steamboat Springs, Colo., in 2015. The men included Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall, New York Giants cornerback William Gay and Tony Carter, who is now retired. On the vacation, they had lively discussions about how minorities were stereotyped as non-travelers.
The athletes eventually established Through Our Eyes, which aims to illustrate the cultural and educational importance of travel and also show that minorities travel and enjoy it. "We wanted to share travel from our perspective, and thought that the best way we could do this is to travel together and document our journeys by video," Marshall said. "And it was important to us that these trips incorporate some charity work."
On their first such trip, to South Africa in 2017, the players visited an orphanage in Cape Town. Last March, they went to Montego Bay, Jamaica, where they teamed up with Granville 404 Project, a nonprofit started by two local Hyatt resorts to support underprivileged students at Granville All Age School.
The following are edited excerpts from a conversation with Marshall, 29.
How did you and the other players choose South Africa as the destination for the first Through Our Eyes trip?
South Africa is someplace that interested all of us, and we thought it would be cool to go together. We ended up having the most incredible time. We went on a safari in Kruger National Park, shark diving in Gansbaai and spent a few days in Cape Town seeing all the sights like Table Mountain.
But the best part was when we went to an orphanage in Cape Town, the Abaphumeleli Home of Safety, and spent time with the children there. We brought them clothes and shoes and toys like Frisbees, and they were elated and appreciative. These are things that are so basic to us, but to see the reactions that these kids had was so moving. The visit made us feel blessed about what we have and grateful that we were able to help, even only in a small way.
Why did you want to include a service component on your trips?
We all truly believe that giving back makes travel more satisfying because it forces you to get out of your own life and connect with others who really need it. You see the place that you’re visiting differently, but you also see your place in the world differently — our time in South Africa really put our lives into perspective.
Will these trips be annual, and how will you continue to pick where you go?
Ideally, we want to do two getaways a year, and we’re picking places that we all want to see, like Jamaica, where we all really wanted to go to. Once we have the destination, we will find a local charity to work with there.
What did you do with the schoolchildren in Jamaica?
We held a fitness day with the kids at a local school in Montego Bay. We lead them through football drills, stretches, a relay race and other activities that promoted teamwork and staying active. We also visited an orphanage and donated suitcases filled with clothes.
Where else do you personally want to go?
Definitely Europe. I’ve never been there.
Is there a secret to having a successful guys’ trip?
Honestly, the seven of us have never had any issues. We’re all a pretty laid-back bunch. When we want to hang out, we do; and when we need space, we take it.
Did you grow up traveling?
Not really. I lived in Las Vegas, and the first vacation I remember taking is a cruise to the Bahamas when I was 15. My first real taste of traveling was a tour of colleges. I went to Florida, Georgia, D.C. and Virginia and saw America for the first time.