YORK, Pa. - Driving past houses made of sticks, through swampland and around run-down shacks that double as real estate offices are just a few of the sights you could expect to take in while visiting Kampala, the capital of Uganda.
In this third-world country the population is divided by wealth. Money can mean the difference between privacy in a hospital and not having a curtain around your gurney. Regardless of your prosperity everyone must still bring the necessities – blankets, food, and water.
In the Sanyu Babies Home, volunteers helped get the orphans up, ranging in age from newborn to around five years old, in the mornings, changed them from a pile of clothes – color didn't matter as long as the clothes fit the children.
One of the volunteers was Whitney Kendall, a member of the women's lacrosse team at York College (Pa.). These volunteers helped the children in the morning hours before returning from lunch to help the orphanage run an education session with two hired teachers to help educate the children in English.
"I wasn't expecting how much the children just wanted to be held," Kendall said. "We would literally walk in and not even be able to put our bags down without five kids at our feet yelling 'up, up, up, up.'"
While there, Kendall took a particularly special interest in two disabled children, Ester and Frances. One child had a form of mental retardation and the other a potential case of cerebral palsy. Kendall was able to comfort the children and reduce their muscle spasms. According to her, that experience alone was well worth the trip.
"For me it was great to just hold them and love them because they may never experience that again in their life," Kendall said. "For at least those ten days those children could feel special and loved; that's worth it to me."
Kendall, a junior nursing major, took the trip with a group of five fellow athletes through her church – Oakdale Emory, out of Olney, Md. The experience lasted ten days from the end of July through the first week in August.
In addition to her tremendous work at the orphanage, the Spartan also found time to spend exploring the country and taking in the sights. The group spent time riding ATVs through the outdoors, stopping to view the illustrious waterfalls, tribal rituals, and the spectacular mouth of the Nile.
When she returned stateside, Kendall along with the other missionaries began to develop a 5k road race through Olney, Md. Slated to take place on Saturday, March 5, 2011, Kendall and her fellow group members hope to collect diaper donations as well as raise funds to purchase additional diapers, which they will then send back to Uganda.
The children of the Sanyu Babies Home are limited to three diapers a day – the average American child is changed approximately nine times during that same span – and Kendall hopes these efforts can help change that ratio for the children at the Sanyu Babies Home.
"People ask with a trip like that, do you feel change," Kendall said. "My answer to that is, how can you not? How can you experience their living conditions and not experience change?"
As part of the road race, Kendall hopes that participants will run in their "diapers." Running shorts have an inner lining in them that, when flipped inside out, resembles a diaper. Furthermore, she hopes to involve a major diaper manufacturer in the cause who will match anything that is raised to send to Uganda.
Through the little things that make life great, Kendall is on a path to raise the spirits of a few children. Although this may seem like a small portion of life, maybe she can put a smile on just one more child's face.
"We sometimes get caught up in if we are going to win, if we are going to score the goal or if we are going to get an A on that test," Kendall said. "We forget just to smile and be happy about the life we've been given."
Written by Garrett Wampler - York College Athletic Communications student-intern