Eleven soccer balls from Moss Field were lost. So Diana Brown made sure they were found – in an unlikely place.
Last May, Brown – a sophomore at South Carolina University – was preparing for a 10-day trip to Africa organized by one of her business classes. Sites of interest on the itinerary included a Coca-Cola plant and a Dockers factory, but one stop in particular raised Brown’s eyebrows a little. It wasn’t a business, but an orphanage.
The Nyumbani Home in Caren, Kenya, cares for about 100 HIV-positive children. Brown’s fellow travelers began discussing what they could take to the kids; one girl decided on clothes, another toothbrushes and toothpaste. Brown was stumped, so she called her father, Garry.
“My dad was like, you know, wouldn’t it be a good idea if you took soccer balls over there,” Brown says.
Her father, a Lake Highlands Soccer Association commissioner, offered to stop by the Moss Field “lost and found” to see which balls hadn’t been claimed in several months and ask if he could have them.
That was the easy part. Packing 11 soccer balls wasn’t so easy.
“They filled up about half my bag,” Brown says. “We were deflating them and stuffing them in my bag, trying to fill any crevasse with clothes that wouldn’t wrinkle.”
The day she reached the orphanage, she realized she had no idea what she was in for.
“When I saw an orphanage on our itinerary, I thought it would be sad and depressing,” Brown says.
Her first step into Caren, Kenya, changed her mind, so much so that her eyes light up when she talks about it. She describes Nyumbani’s beauty, the compassion and happiness radiating from this place. She learned about a new vaccination the children are now receiving, and how the home, which used to lose 15 kids a year to illnesses, lost only two last year with the help of the new vaccine.
There was still a small problem to be fixed. The children had only one soccer ball, and it wasn’t a good one.
“It was plastic, and you could tell it had been heavily used,” Brown said.
The minute Brown brought the balls out, the children ran up to start impromptu games in their yard. She played with them for four hours, and by the end, Brown says she couldn’t keep up with the younger boys.
“They’re amazing soccer players, and they were so thankful,” she says.
Brown is now back in school, but she says the impact of her trip will never leave her. She plans to send one or two boxes of balls to the Nyumbani orphans every year.