BY LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky softball catcher Jenny Schaper knew little about Ethiopia other than what she had seen on TV. She had no real expectations for what it might be like when she went on a mission trip with seven other UK female athletes, including teammate Katie Reed, this summer.
“It was even more shocking than anything I could have imagined,” Schaper said. “The kind of poverty some of them lived in was unreal. They took us to the poorest people and to see how they lived compared to how we did was eye-opening.
“The children from the second we showed up they ran up to the van to see us. They just wanted to touch us, play with us. Most could not speak English. There was really no communication other than hugging and playing games. But they made us feel very welcome.”
The UK athletes stayed in a guest house for Ordinary Hero — a charity that partners with ministries in impoverished communities to change the lives of children in need. Ordinary Hero was the group’s tour guide that took them to orphanages and different communities to hand out blankets, food, tarps to cover homes and other items.
Even with Reed on the trip with her, there was not much softball talk.
“Everyone there talked soccer,” Schaper said. “I think it’s nice to just get away sometimes. When we came back the first thing we did was start back with softball. But it was really interesting to experience something so different and out of the norm of my every day life.
“I think I will always remember how welcoming and loving the culture there was. We were eight random girls who walked in that no one knew and they welcomed us with open arms. You would not see that every day here.”