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Oh The Places This Blue Tarp Will Go

March 3, 2017

Camping under a tent is a rite of passage for many Duke students. Young people brave the elements for months in a tent community called Krzyzewskiville (K-Ville) in order to attend the Duke/UNC game at Cameron Indoor Stadium. This is the story of how one of the tents ended up far, far from home.

Video: Katherine M. Zhou and Carol Jackson

In 2015, one of the largest tents in K-Ville was called “Das Boot.” The “tent” was actually a cleverly designed structure covered by a huge blue tarp. 

Duke University housekeeper Donna Hudson saw the tarp each day on her walk to work in the Sanford School of Public Policy’s Rubenstein Hall. Hudson has worked at Duke for 12 years as a housekeeper and she knew exactly what she’d do with the tarp if it was hers. She imagined transporting it to her home village in Guyana, South America, where it would be used as a roof for the local Vacation Bible School.

Top: Das Boot, Duke. Bottom: Das Boot, Guyana.

Hudson grew up on the Pomeroon River. There aren’t any roads in her village. "I went to school in a canoe," Hudson recalls, “I never went to school with shoes on my feet.” Life is much the same in the village now as it was when she was a girl. The summer is hot and often rainy and children gather outdoors under a piece of plastic or a roof concocted of huge leaves for their Vacation Bible School.

Back in K-Ville, once the Duke/UNC game was over, lots of items were left behind. Staff and faculty of the Sanford School, which is adjacent to K-Ville, volunteer each year to glean usable, unclaimed items from K-Ville and donate them to charity. To her joy, Hudson noted the huge blue “Das Boot” tarp was left behind. Duke staff approved the use of the tarp as a charitable endeavor and helped Hudson secure it. She brought it to her home in Durham, packed it in a barrel and spent more than $200 to ship it to Guyana. A few months later, Hudson flew to South America and canoed hours up the river to her home village.

When she saw the structure the villagers had built, covered by the huge blue tarp, she couldn’t believe it. “It almost looked like “Das Boot!” she exclaimed. “I and the people there, we were so grateful."

Video produced by student Katherine M. Zhou and Carol Jackson.

Additional videography by Julie Schoonmaker. Music: "Log Cabin" by Silent Partner; "When I'm With You" by Scott Holmes; "Angel Share" by Kevin MacLeod. All used used with Creative Commons license.