When Jordan Nash and Emily Keitel decided to attend an on-campus Athletes InterVarsity meeting in January, neither knew the other would be there.
Athletes InterVarsity is a national Christian organization with a Temple chapter. At the meeting, Nash, a junior goalkeeper, and Keitel, a sophomore defender, learned about ChildVoice, an organization founded in 2006 that runs service trips to aid children in war-affected areas of Uganda.
When Nash and Keitel looked at each other from across the room after hearing about the chance to travel to Uganda, both knew exactly what the other was thinking.
“We turned to each other and immediately knew we had to go,” Nash said. “We both knew that a trip like this is something we’ve wanted to do our whole lives.”
“I grew up in a Christian home,” Keitel said. “It was cool to practice and share our faith with people from such a different cultural background.”
At the end of May, the duo set to fly across the Atlantic Ocean and begin its life-changing journey. Nash and Keitel stayed in Uganda until mid-June, interacting and living with women and children for more than two weeks.
They spent the first two days of the trip in the capital city of Kampala before heading on a nine-hour bus trip to the Lukome Center in northern Uganda. The center provides educational programs, vocational training and spiritual and emotional counseling to former child soldiers and others affected by the Sudan War, according to a ChildVoice fundraising page on purecharity.com.
The center housed about 30 women in their late teens and early 20s, many of whom were mothers to more than one child, Nash and Keitel said. Because the people living at the Lukome Center had rarely encountered people foreign to Uganda, Nash and Keitel had to gain the women and children’s trust.
Despite an original communication obstacle, Nash, Keitel and the people at the Lukome Center still through events like morning chapel and songs sung in Arabic and Acholi, a northern Ugandan language.
“For the first couple of days, they definitely didn’t seem comfortable,” Nash said. “It helped that a lot of the mothers started to interact with us quicker, and then their children would follow once they saw their moms trusted us.”
Leading up to the trip, Nash and Keitel made sure they were prepared by researching the culture and history of the country.
Before their flight, Nash and Keitel each read “Girl Soldier: A Story of Hope for Northern Uganda’s Children.” The book is about a Ugandan child who was kidnapped and made a soldier by the country’s rebels. Upon their arrival in Kampala, Nash and Keitel were debriefed on local customs, dress and communication styles.
“If you ask to go to the bathroom, they think you want to take a bath,” Nash said. “It took me some time to get used to that.”
“Even stuff like having to use water bottles to brush our teeth,” Keitel said. “It seems kind of funny at first, but it gives you a different perspective.”
Coach Seamus O’Connor said he has somewhat of an understanding of the culture shock Nash and Keitel experienced. He grew up in Ireland and had never been to the United States until he moved here when he was 23 years old.
Learning about different cultures is important and is something he would encourage all of his players to do, he said.
“Going away from home for awhile will not only be a great experience, but it will force you to mature as a person,” O’Connor said.
The transition back to life in the U.S. took a little bit of time, Nash said. She arrived in Boston to meet her parents, who were in the city for her sister’s hockey tournament.
“When I went to brush my teeth that night, I used a water bottle,” Nash said. “My parents were sitting there wondering why I’m not using the faucet in the hotel room. Living in a place with such drastic cultural differences can definitely change your perspective on things.”