As a culture, when considering the Jiu Jitsu family as a whole, you’ll not find a collection of people who are more committed to the spirit of giving and service to community. Our diversified group is united by those two kindred embodiment. This article highlights one of our sisters who seized the opportunity to help others and it takes her halfway across the globe. Meet Tara Arrington.
Tara is a brown belt Jiu Jitsu practitioner who embarked upon her journey almost ten years ago. As a birthday gift to herself, she signed up for classes at Mohler MMA and BJJ and the rest, as they say, is history. Tara traveled to Cambodia with a group of ten including her teammate, Amber Stautzenberger Grimsley, with the Hope for the Silent Voices Impact Trip. The goal was to cater to the needs of those considered discarded and lesser, to give them hope and to make an impact. Tara heard about the organization’s cause through her friend, William. She wasn’t able to make it that year for various reasons but the following year, she would seize the opportunity and make it happen. Utilizing personal savings, creating a causes page, doing self-defense seminars, contacting local businesses and just plain word of mouth all contributed to Tara being able to make the trip. Tara was, specifically, to teach self-defense to boys and girls who had experienced trauma. Tara and her teammate Amber where the first females every to teach self-defense via Hope of the Silent Voices.
She understood that her approach would have to be purposeful when considering that her students would have experienced abuse and maltreatment. She initially just wanted to gain their trust. The organization she traveled with was trusted and that relationship lent itself to Tara’s ability to forge a trust with the Khmer villagers. As BJJ practitioners, we understand and respect one’s personal space…most of the time. Tara really had to expand and adhere to that approach. Tara endeavored to make sure that her students felt safe. She did not grab or control her students while presenting technique. Tara always put her students in the power position if control was required for the demonstration. She made sure not to re-traumatize. These young warriors gained confidence and seemed to walk a little taller at the end. Job well done!
In preparation for her journey, Tara needed a series of immunizations to include typhoid, hepatitis and tetanus. Luckily, she was very healthy to begin with. Cambodia, though, has a rudimentary water supply system and a underdeveloped sanitation system (Koshland, 2015). Getting immunized would be the first defense to staving off any waterborne diseases and ailments.
The first time entering the village was a bit overwhelming for Tara. You’d have to understand and visualize makeshift flats built atop a garbage dump to grasp the magnitude of what she encountered. As Tara began a tour of the village, a young girl, about eight years of age, grabbed her hand and held it the entire time. She walked in solitude, never smiling or talking, but Tara could sense she wanted a connection and love. Tara was amazed at this little girl’s bravery.
Tara collected donations of clothing and school supplies with the help of co-workers. Hope for the Silent Voices was able to host “a feed” for 500 needy people. They provided basic sustenance and hygiene. The sobering thought for Tara was that due to the need being so great, there would never be enough. Hope for the Silent Voices is looking to increase the number of people they will help by 100 in the next year. An undertaking of this magnitude can really only be broached one bite at a time and the organization seems to have this steady approach down to a science.
Traveling across the pond away from first world comforts and its safety net is a huge encumbrance. Tara didn’t seem to think about this for a second. She wasn’t sure of the impact that she would have in a matter of two short weeks, if any at all, yet she still felt compelled to lend a hand. While uncertain of the impact she had on the people she encountered, Tara was most certainly impacted. What resonated with Tara was how her worldview changed. She saw that everyone across the globe was connected. What is happening to brothers and sisters at every corner of our planet was also happening to her. This thought now drives everything that she does in life.
As the old saying goes, “it takes a village to raise a child.” Tara wanted to note that her journey to help the children was not achieved by her alone. She credits Denton Smiles, Village Chiropractic in Highland Village, Kristine Felts who helped organize self-defense seminars at her academy, Peak Performance, Coach Allen Mohler, Shawna Mohler, her parents and a whole host of other folks who contributed to the effort.
Koshland. (2015). Safe Drinking Water is Essential. Retrieved March 1, 2015 from: https://www.koshland-science-museum.org/water/html/en/Treatment/Sanitation-and-Hygiene-in-Cambodia.html
Girls in Gis staff writer
Sharicka Long-O’Neill, is a blue belt with the Kompound Training Center out of Littleton, CO. She has been a jiu jitsu practitioner since July of 2012. She is a mom and a ten-year veteran of the United States Navy. Her hobbies include fitness, cooking, and traveling with her husband of five years.