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Link: Royalties grow by 40 percent after title

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No matter what, Kentucky fans turn out in droves to buy the latest Wildcat-related gear. UK ranks among the top schools nationally in merchandising royalties annually, but took even another step forward in 2011-12.

Buoyed by men's basketball's eighth national championship, UK's royalties grew by 40 percent, moving the school to No. 3 from No. 7 nationally according to the College Licensing Co. (CLC), a division of IMG Worldwide.

UK earned $6.73 million in the 12 months ended June 30, up from $4.80 million, trailing only Texas and Alabama among schools licensed by CLC. The athletic department manages the licensing program and annually splits income half and half with the university.

Bloomberg Businessweek has the story
, complete with quotes from UK senior associate athletic director for corporate and university relations Jason Schlafer.


The fall semester is nearly upon us and, on Wednesday, the University of Kentucky posted its official 2012-13 recruitment video. Keyla Snowden, a recently graduated women's basketball player, makes a handful of speaking appearances and UK's athletic teams are featured during much of the final minute. Check out the video and See Blue.

As of Aug. 1, prospective students can begin applying to UK. Go to http://go.uky.edu/apply and submit an online application or download a printable PDF application.

Photo: Barnhart at the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro

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UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro on Sunday. UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro on Sunday.
On Sunday, Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart - along with a team of fellow climbers - reached the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's tallest mountain. Above is a photograph of Barnhart at the summit donning a blue coat and a UK toboggan, which should come as no surprise.

He then completed a descent of the mountain and will now embark on a safari through Tanzania, a tame undertaking in comparison to scaling a mountain nearly 20,000 feet high. Barnhart will return to the United States next week and surely won't have much time to rest with the fall sports season bearing down on us.


Gameday Ready Ethiopia: Saying goodbye

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Megan Moir (top right) and Brooke Keyes (top right) along with six other UK student-athletes returned from a service trip to Ethiopia on Monday. (Photo by Nathan Golden) Megan Moir (top right) and Brooke Keyes (top right) along with six other UK student-athletes returned from a service trip to Ethiopia on Monday. (Photo by Nathan Golden)
This week, eight UK student-athletes, along with members of the athletic department staff, are participating in a service trip to Ethiopia. On the trip are Megan Moir from women's golf, Brooke Keyes and Kayla King from women's soccer, Kayla Hartley from gymnastics, Grace Trimble from women's tennis, Kastine Evans from women's basketball, Emily Holsopple from rifle and Aubrey Lamar from softball. Each athlete was nominated by her respective head coach for this trip.  On these blog posts, you'll find the personal views of the athletes as they share their unique perspectives on their service and learnings in Ethiopia.

July 29, 2012

Brooke Keyes - Soccer


My heart always seems to feel heavy around airports because I hate goodbyes, and all day I knew this was coming. The people we said goodbye to as we walked into the airport were Mark, Alena, Girma, Wario and Kaleab, people I feel like I have known for years. Tears began to fill my eyes... something that has occurred a lot this week.
A large piece of my heart will be left here in Ethiopia. I am so thankful to be a part of this trip and share this experience with seven other wonderful student-athletes, and three incredible adults that made us feel like adults as well as their friends. On this trip, my heart broke into a thousand pieces and then it was repaired to full. I learned so much from this country, but I narrowed it down to my top ten:

10. I need to listen and be still more often.
9. I am so ungrateful.
8. I need to be intentional about getting to know other UK student-athletes.
7. I need to marry a man who is grounded and keeps me grounded.
6. I will adopt one day.
5. The eyes say so much more than the mouth.
4. God is everywhere... we just cease to realize it.
3. Money is so overrated. So is the "American Dream."
2. I never want to settle for living comfortably. I want to be challenged and take risks.
1. The greatest need in the world right now is TIME.

There is no way we are coming back to America the same as when we left. Thank you to all who made this trip possible.

Barnhart, team complete Kilimanjaro climb

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It was an audacious undertaking, but Mitch Barnhart and his fellow climbers reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro over the weekend.

On Sunday, the Kentucky Athletics Director was nearly 20,000 feet above sea level atop Africa's tallest peak. Barnhart's guide - Mark Tucker from RMI Expeditions - checked in with this report from the peak:

Darned if I'm not standing on the top of Africa!  Here on Uhuru Peak with the team. Everybody's looking good.  A little beat up but not so bad; no issues.  We're taking a few shots. It was a cold and windy one. Man, freezing, all layers on. But these guys know how to climb, they demonstrated it. They all did it with great style and impeccable technique. We're looking forward to a safe descent and back to that high camp sooner than later.  All is well, we'll check in again later.

Not long after, Tucker reported that the trek back down the mountain was complete:

Mark Tucker checking in from Tanzania here at our last camp on this trip of Kilimanjaro.  We are all down safe and sound; good spirits and good health.  What a day! Beautiful summit, chilly and windy.  Hopefully you got that message from the top. We pushed our way down to 10,000', so a 9,000' descent. Everybody's feeling it. Ready to go to sleep. A great meal.  Looking forward to getting up pretty early and getting out of here. Have a nice celebration and take care of our fabulous local staff that has been providing us with this great service. I'd love to think we could do it without them but we'd be here for a couple of months. Everybody back home, all your friends and family are in great shape. Everybody did a fantastic job of doing what they could on the mountain. We'll check in after a good night's rest.


Here's a photo from the summit from RMI's blog:

Kili-Summit-Day-Sunrise.jpg

Gameday Ready Ethiopia: Trip nearing end

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Emily Holsopple and seven other UK student-athletes are in Ethiopia this week for a service trip. (Photo by Nathan Golden) Emily Holsopple and seven other UK student-athletes are in Ethiopia this week for a service trip. (Photo by Nathan Golden)
This week, eight UK student-athletes, along with members of the athletic department staff, are participating in a service trip to Ethiopia. On the trip are Megan Moir from women's golf, Brooke Keyes and Kayla King from women's soccer, Kayla Hartley from gymnastics, Grace Trimble from women's tennis, Kastine Evans from women's basketball, Emily Holsopple from rifle and Aubrey Lamar from softball. Each athlete was nominated by her respective head coach for this trip.  On these blog posts, you'll find the personal views of the athletes as they share their unique perspectives on their service and learnings in Ethiopia.

July 27, 2012

Emily Holsopple - Rifle


After getting back into our morning routine of French toast and scrambled eggs, the group set out on our last day of service. We would be spending some time at the Compassion International Drop-In Center, a combination community center/school/church/playground, with kids. We would spend the rest of the day exploring new restaurants and shopping locations.

Upon arriving at the facility we were greeted by some of the women who helped run the place. They all welcomed us with their warm hearts and gave us big hugs. As soon as I finished greeting the last woman, I could hear a faint chanting in the distance. The girls and I hurried down the long dark hallways following the noise. Once we got to the basement we found the room it was coming from and entered to see over a hundred children all jumping up and down and singing. The energy in that room was so overwhelming and powerful. The children had such huge smiles and all wanted to shake our hands as if we were celebrities. We made our way around greeting the kids and giving hugs until their teacher and our leaders entered the room. Their teacher explained to us that one of their football (soccer) teams had just won their respected scholastic league and asked if we would help in handing out the awards. I felt honored as we shook the hand of each player after they received their medal. That was my first time on the other side of the hand shake and even though I had never seen these kids before or knew what they won, I still felt proud of each one of them. Then, when the team's coach was called up the whole place went crazy! It was as if he was receiving an Olympic medal; the respect and admiration the kids had for him echoed throughout the whole room. A gold cup trophy was then given to the team and the captain kissed it and held it up as if they had won the World Cup.

To celebrate with the soccer team we went outside and brought out the supplies to play soccer, tennis and basketball. Even though it was raining we still managed to get in plenty of games. While trying to help Grace organize a game of tennis I was met by one of the first girls I greeted in the classroom, Trigras. When I first sat down next to her she was very shy and tried to hide from me. Even though she didn't speak a word of English and seemed scared of me, I still tried everything to make her open up. I thought I had failed at this until I was on our "tennis court" and felt a tugging on my hand. When I looked down and saw Trigras' smiling face I knew my effort had been well worth it. She guided me to a group of her friends that seemed to be uninterested in the sports going on. Instead, they wanted to play hand games similar to American "Miss Mary Mack." It took a while but I was able to learn some of their games, it wasn't until they added their feet into the mix that I got lost. Because they took the time to teach me their games I felt obligated to teach them games. Since it had been a long time since I had played any games of the sort, I racked my brain and came up with my own clapping game. By that time we had drawn a crowd of more than ten girls and they all lined up eagerly waiting to learn this new game. I could have played with them all day, but it was time to participate in an Ethiopian coffee ceremony.

Ethiopia is the home of coffee and its coffee ceremony is a significant part of Ethiopians' heritage. Just to be invited to a traditional ceremony is in itself an honor. The ceremony is always performed by a woman, usually the youngest woman in the family. It always starts with the popping of popcorn over an open heat source. The popcorn is then served to the guests while the coffee is roasted, ground and served. Our hosts for the coffee ceremony were very welcoming to us and wanted to share in the preparing of the coffee. Each of us took turns stirring the beans while they roasted over the coals, and then helped in the grinding of the beans. After the grinds were prepared, the woman leading the ceremony finished preparing the coffee and served it to each one us in a little three-ounce coffee cup. The coffee was extremely rich and most certainly the strongest I have ever tasted. We slowly sipped our coffee, said our "thank yous" and made our way back to the bus for a trip to do some souvenir shopping.

Our shopping trip didn't turn out to be what I had expected. For starters, there were no stores like we have here in the States. The shopping center was simply little shacks lined up side by side along the road. The shopping area was large and a little rough so we had to divide up into smaller groups before setting out to find gifts. Each shop was maybe a 10 by 20 foot space filled floor to ceiling with different knick-knacks and trinkets. Every shop had the same things for the most part so it was just a matter of finding a shop with the best price for what you wanted.  Finding a good price took some work though since prices were determined through bartering. With some help from our leaders and Ethiopian friends we were able to negotiate with the store owners and get some good deals.  After a few hours everyone filled their gift lists with paints, scarves, key chains, figurines, blankets and other unique Ethiopian charms.

It's weird to think that our time here in Africa is almost over. In some ways, it feels like we just got here yesterday and in others it seems like we have been here for months. This week has been jam-packed full of learning for me. I got to learn about the culture and people here, the people I came with and about myself. In my twenty short years on earth, I have been blessed enough to do a lot of traveling and see some many different places, but I can't compare the experience Ethiopia has given me to any other trip. I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve here and the knowledge it has brought me. I feel as though I can't say thank you enough to all the people who made this trip what it has been. My only hope is that I can carry with me all of the things I learned this week, share them with the people back home and use them to make myself a better person.

Gameday Ready Ethiopia: Giving and receiving

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Eight UK student-athletes continued their service trip in Ethiopia on Friday. (Photo by Nathan Golden) Eight UK student-athletes continued their service trip in Ethiopia on Friday. (Photo by Nathan Golden)
This week, eight UK student-athletes, along with members of the athletic department staff, are participating in a service trip to Ethiopia. On the trip are Megan Moir from women's golf, Brooke Keyes and Kayla King from women's soccer, Kayla Hartley from gymnastics, Grace Trimble from women's tennis, Kastine Evans from women's basketball, Emily Holsopple from rifle and Aubrey Lamar from softball. Each athlete was nominated by her respective head coach for this trip.  On these blog posts, you'll find the personal views of the athletes as they share their unique perspectives on their service and learnings in Ethiopia.

July 27, 2012

Aubrey Lamar - Softball


Today we did not use our hands as much as we used our hearts. After breakfast at the hotel in Adama, we traveled to the women-only maternity house in Ethiopia. Once we got there, the two women who run the facility told us about the program and the different opportunities offered to the women living there. The facility provides rooms for 12 pregnant women to stay for about a year. During the 12 months, the women are taught a skill in order to support themselves and their baby in the near future. The women will start working using what they learned while they are there. Half the money each woman makes goes into a personal savings account that will allow the women to have a financial starting point once they leave the maternity house and the other half goes to help the facility.  This maternity house is an amazing place. There's a beautiful garden inside the main gate that includes many varieties of native plants as well as food for those living at the house, like the seven-foot tall stalks of corn. There are so many women in Ethiopia that could benefit from this great maternity house.

This week, I have been struggling with being overwhelmed with the number of people who are in need of food, shelter, or most importantly and something that doesn't cost a dime (or a birr)...love. I have been reminded this week that one person cannot save a country; it takes many people with a common goal. However, I can make a small impact on the few people I come in contact with during this trip. I am so thankful that Ethiopia at least has one maternity house and can make a small impact on the lives of women.

Next, we hopped back on the bus to visit an orphanage/widows home. Jason, our group leader was very excited to visit the facility because Joker Philips and some of the football players who came with him for previous trips planted beautiful plants right in front of the facility. They must have done a wonderful job, because the facility was absolutely gorgeous. The plants they had planted just last May had now grown and filled the space completely. The building is square with the rooms on the outsides while the center is a courtyard with a sky roof. I loved the sky roof because I could feel God's presence shining down on them once you walk in the door. While we were there, we played with the young children in the nursery and learned the stories of the widows. At first, the children were very shy and some cried, however once we showed them that we were there to play; we all started having a great time. The children are very well taken care of at this facility and most of them are adopted through the help of the facility. After playing with the children, I went and sat down with Vickie Bell, Brooke, and Megan to spend some time with the amazing widows who live there. A particular woman shared her heart with us. More than half of her conversation was her saying God bless us and that she will be praying for us. She knows we have much more than her back in the United States, yet she wants us to be blessed. I have met some of the most incredible people with the biggest hearts here in Ethiopia. The people have basically nothing, yet they want others to be blessed before themselves.

After we left the home, we made our long journey back to Addis Ababa. The traffic was bad and made the trip much longer. We have a great driver, although he makes my heart stop many times as he swerves in and out of lanes across rough dirt roads full of muddy deep holes. The only way I can describe the motor transportation here is that drivers use their horn instead of the brakes. There is no way this system would work in America. Once we got close to Addis Ababa, we stopped at a market where people with leprosy make beautiful crafts and sell them. I was in complete shock to see the men and women working on these absolute gorgeous blankets, and other cloth items. Everything made by hand using cotton and stitching the designs using thread. So much time and talent are put into each craft made by the people working there.

Dinner was exciting; the team went to a traditional restaurant that included dancing and music. Personally, I am not a big dancer, but I loved watching some of our team try the interesting style of dance. The native dance included a lot of fast shoulder movements and quick foot stepping. Some of the team then taught the wobble to the some of the local dancers. It was a night that everyone was able to enjoy local culture and talking with each other.

This trip has been a wonderful opportunity for all of us student-athletes. Thank you to everyone who made it possible.

This week, eight UK student-athletes, along with members of the athletic department staff, are participating in a service trip to Ethiopia. On the trip are Megan Moir from women's golf, Brooke Keyes and Kayla King from women's soccer, Kayla Hartley from gymnastics, Grace Trimble from women's tennis, Kastine Evans from women's basketball, Emily Holsopple from rifle and Aubrey Lamar from softball. Each athlete was nominated by her respective head coach for this trip.  On these blog posts, you'll find the personal views of the athletes as they share their unique perspectives on their service and learnings in Ethiopia.

July 26, 2012

Grace Trimble - Women's Tennis


As I sit down to write this blog, I realize that nothing I write will be able to accurately express how I have been challenged physically, stretched emotionally and forever changed by the people of Ethiopia. It is difficult to show how the poverty and disparity of personal situations are overshadowed by the gratitude and pure love Ethiopians so readily give. However, in my best effort to share a glimpse into our trip for a day, I hope one can see that I have not changed the lives of Ethiopians, but they have forever changed me.   

Our day began with us waking up in Debre Zeit and walking to a nearby restaurant for breakfast. It's been interesting to see the pace of the service at restaurants. It isn't uncommon for a meal to take 90 minutes or more. We've used that time to really get to know one another and our hosts. After breakfast, we all piled onto the bus and made our way to a countryside village called T'ede. In this village, we met a community leader named Zeharun who introduced us to the widows and orphans he serves on a daily basis. Aubrey brought along toys and we also brought soccer balls to brighten the day of each of the children. We were also able to bring the widows a gift of coffee and sugar. I met an orphan named Hanna and all she seemed to long for was for me to love her. She walked up to me like we knew each other, grabbed my hand and stole my heart. I only held her hand and hugged her for 15 minutes, little does she know I will always remember her smile.

After we ate lunch at a local restaurant, we made our way to the remote village of Modjo. This village of mud-thatched huts was set facing mountains. They had a large grass and mud field fenced in by thorny branches to keep the animals out. The children and even some of the adults jumped right in as we played soccer, volleyball and learned a few new tricks with a basketball. As I stood back and looked at the surroundings, what continues to inspire me is the hope and joy that I see in the midst of all the poverty.

Today I was in my comfort zone; I was competing. And so were the Ethiopians. It's amazing to see the different ways our lives can come together, through sport, through religion and sometimes just plain hard work. They have shown me their unwavering joy through poverty, sickness and situations out of their own control. When I land in Lexington, I will be a changed person because of the people of Ethiopia. I will look at the world around me and all of my blessings through a different lens. Thank you to everyone who made it possible for me to go on this trip. I will carry with me the experiences and the people who have changed me forever.   

Gameday Ready Ethiopia: Learning the ropes

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Kastine Evans (women's basketball) and seven other UK student-athletes are in Ethiopia for a service trip this week. (Photo by Nathan Golden) Kastine Evans (women's basketball) and seven other UK student-athletes are in Ethiopia for a service trip this week. (Photo by Nathan Golden)
This week, eight UK student-athletes, along with members of the athletic department staff, are participating in a service trip to Ethiopia. On the trip are Megan Moir from women's golf, Brooke Keyes and Kayla King from women's soccer, Kayla Hartley from gymnastics, Grace Trimble from women's tennis, Kastine Evans from women's basketball, Emily Holsopple from rifle and Aubrey Lamar from softball. Each athlete was nominated by her respective head coach for this trip.  On these blog posts, you'll find the personal views of the athletes as they share their unique perspectives on their service and learnings in Ethiopia.

July 25, 2012

Kastine Evans - Women's Basketball


The tricks of the trade. Something that was evident on our trip today. As we stood outside a house in Debre Zeit, we looked in at the beautiful landscape.  The fully bloomed trees and flowers, a garden, coffee trees and mango trees filled the front yard. The swings hung from the bamboo tree as the family greeted us. Samy, Ruth, Rebecca and Abigail welcomed us with great smiles.  Samy and Ruth came to Ethiopia two years ago from India to serve the poor in the community of Debre Zeit.  They were renovating their house to accommodate guests who come their way to serve the poor, and we were there to help. We split in groups and some began painting the rooms inside the house. Five-year old Rebecca wished for a Pepto-pink color room, the hallways were re-painted white and the doors grey. Brooke and Megan began painting the floorboards where fatigue began to hit. They sat on the floor, with one hand holding their body in the upright position and the other hand painting the floor board.

Outside, some group members fixed up the garden and flowers. They made a flowerbed with handmade bricks that were purchased on the side of the road and brought back to the house by donkey and carriage. They quickly began to make a trench to place each brick along the fencing of the house. Weeds were pulled in the garden and various landscapes around the house. We each worked with someone from Ethiopia who knew so much about the tasks. Each plant had a purpose and no materials went to waste. It was fascinating to see how knowledgeable they were about everything. The language barrier did not bring as much difficulty as I assumed, and we were able to communicate with hand signals and a positive attitude.

I spent the morning working with a local man who was handcrafting bunk beds for the girls. He measured each metal bar to create rails and we drilled holes into his carefully marked points. The drill was plugged into the wall that would spin the drill and we manually lowered the drill to the exact point. As a first timer, the precision was hard to master, but together with Abebe (a kind, smart Ethiopian leader who is travelling with us), we were able to create consistency in my work. It took time to make the template for the other three bunk beds, and it was crazy to see the lights in the house flicker as he turned on the welder. We sanded the rust and primed the frame for them to paint another day. It was so rewarding to be able to give the girls a bed that they will be able to use for many years.

Kayla Hartley - Gymnastics


Samy and Ruth welcomed us with open arms, feeding the whole team lunch and dinner. As we walked in to the house this morning we saw three chickens in the yard. Guess what we had for lunch... chicken! Some of the girls saw the chickens being decapitated and they quickly came back in the house; no longer ready to eat chicken for lunch anymore. For me, I didn't witness them being prepared for lunch so I had no problem trying the VERY fresh chicken. Amazingly it tasted like chicken, though it wasn't as tender as the processed chicken I'm used to but it was still very good. We had potatoes grown from Samy and Ruth's garden for lunch, and beans and other vegetables for dinner grown by the two. For dinner we also had eggs from the chickens, potatoes and bread. Both lunch and dinner were all homemade and wonderful, giving the team a great home cooked meal away from home.

After dinner, Samy took the time to tell the team that he was grateful for us coming and helping renovate his house. He explained how he and his family arrived in Debre Zeit with very little and it brought him great joy for us to go and help paint and make bunk beds for him and his family. Samy explaining all of this and how he felt was such a great thing to hear, because we came here to serve the people of Ethiopia and knowing that they really appreciate it shows how far a good deed can go. Knowing he had absolutely nothing and that we could help get him closer to his goals was a wonderful feeling.

Gameday Ready Ethiopia: Changed forever

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On Tuesday, eight UK student-athletes spent their second day working with the residents of Korah as part of a service trip to Ethiopia. (Photo by Nathan Golden) On Tuesday, eight UK student-athletes spent their second day working with the residents of Korah as part of a service trip to Ethiopia. (Photo by Nathan Golden)
This week, eight UK student-athletes, along with members of the athletic department staff, are participating in a service trip to Ethiopia. On the trip are Megan Moir from women's golf, Brooke Keyes and Kayla King from women's soccer, Kayla Hartley from gymnastics, Grace Trimble from women's tennis, Kastine Evans from women's basketball, Emily Holsopple from rifle and Aubrey Lamar from softball. Each athlete was nominated by her respective head coach for this trip.  On these blog posts, you'll find the personal views of the athletes as they share their unique perspectives on their service and learnings in Ethiopia.

July 24, 2012


Kayla King - Women's Soccer


My hands are dirty. My mouth's been dry all day. My heart's racing. I have this immovable lump in my throat. I think I could still be shaking. My jeans are wet and haven't been washed in two days. They've been covered in everything from paint to kerosene to charcoal dust to mud to gravel. They probably won't get washed for another few days. My nails are filthy and my hands will be stained from paint and charcoal for the duration of this trip. My hands are empty but my heart is full. My eyes are dry but my soul weeps. My mind and eyes have been opened farther than I could have ever imagined and it's only been two days. My heart has been stretched and pulled and used and changed. I have made so many human connections that I feel like my heart will burst with all the love that I've been given. I don't know where I belong or how I will go back to the life I left in Lexington. Forty-eight hours in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and I will never be the same again.

Today we went back to the community center and church that we painted yesterday. Tesfaye and Kaleab greeted us with huge smiles and big hugs. We walked in through the door, debriefed, prayed and started to work. Today we had a mission - sort and deliver rice, coffee, soap, sugar, salt, and charcoal with matches to 50 families. We also needed to finish some of the painting from yesterday, so Aubrey and Kastine offered to finish that as we only needed two workers for that job. Everyone else was given bags and told to begin sorting the charcoal. Fifty-pound bags were dumped out on the cement floor under the canopy and after putting latex gloves on for safety, we dug right in. They gave us yellow bags to fill and the competitive athletes in all of us came out and soon it was a race to see who could fill the most bags the fastest. Needless to say, I won. We filled every bit of 15 bags by the end of it and my gloves were torn to pieces. Completely worth it. Bragging rights are mine.

The day was split by lunch where we went to a nice little pizza place. But the highlight of the lunch hour was sitting next to Noonish and Belailu and picking their brains about Ethiopian customs, weddings, phrases, obscure facts, and their personal lives. I've sort of acquired the reputation of an interrogator, and it might be justified by the fact that I corner everyone and demand (politely) that they tell me about their lives. It worked perfectly at lunch because they were more than happy to explain their country to me. They were proud, too. They were glad I asked and it seemed like it gave them a measure of self-worth that the firenga (foreigners) wanted to know about them.  I learned just last night that Belailu had recently lost his six front teeth due to a gum infection. With the loss of his teeth, he also lost his bubbly personality due to an extreme self-consciousness and embarrassment. When we started talking to him, he lit up and was more than happy to talk and educate us. I didn't know him before he lost his teeth, but it seemed like his personality came right back out and his whole demeanor changed. It was really cool to see.  It was his birthday and I learned later that one of our team's leaders had sponsored a full repair of his teeth.  I'm so excited for him to get his confidence back and for him to share his sincere smile.

After lunch we went back and were greeted by 20 families of single mothers and their children. They had filled up the small concrete patio and were patiently waiting on us. Tesfaye ushered us in and explained that we were going to distribute bags to these families and then take the remaining 15 or so out into the community, as those individuals were too sick or handicapped to make the walk to the church. The women came forward one by one and accepted these 25-pound bags with surprising ease. The highlight of the day, though, came right after I handed a bag to an elderly woman. I heard my name being called and looked out the doorway and saw Berexet weaving her way through the densely packed crowd to me. I met her yesterday and had mentioned that we'd be back today to deliver this food, with no expectation that she'd remember or even come back. Not only did she come back but she remembered me by name and asked after me. When she saw me, her face lit up and she gave me the biggest, strongest hug that I've had yet. She immediately latched on to my hand and didn't let go for anything. We found a seat, sat down, and talked. She just finished 6th grade, her favorite subject is English (at which she's quite proficient), she has two older brothers, her favorite color is blue, she's 13 and doesn't care for the rain. She likes bright colors, and she wears them everywhere, from her bright orange shirt to her pink hair clip. She asked about my family, and I was fortunate enough to have some pictures on my camera to show her. She marveled at my parents, my two sisters, my grandparents, and she remembered them in different pictures. She told me how young my mom looked and how tall my stepdad was. She loved my sisters. I was able to snag someone and get our picture taken, and she loved seeing herself on that little screen.

When Tesfaye gave the word, we picked up our bags of charcoal and supplies and headed out to the community. Berexet was worried that she'd lose me and offered to carry a bag so we could hold hands, but I assured her that I could carry both of them and she could link her arm through mine. After trying and failing to pick one up, she agreed and latched onto my elbow. That's how we walked through Korah together, me carrying two yellow bags full of charcoal and her gripping my elbow and chit chatting as the rain lightly fell on our heads.

We were walking along and following Kaleab, an absolutely fantastic man who serves as one of our translators, when I looked up and saw where we were. And it just hit me. All those pictures of the destitute and poverty-stricken Ethiopians in this leper colony, all of the trash heap houses and mud roads, all of the hopeless and fallen, all of that was real. Real and right in front of me. All around me were the faces of men and women, who, through no fault of their own, were ostracized because of an ignorance and fear surrounding a treatable disease. It started with leprosy and only worsened with the advent of HIV and AIDS. These people were unloved by society, outcast because of a physical appearance, and left in this pit to waste away their remaining days. I forgot about Berexet, I forgot about the rain, I even forgot about the uneven footing. I just stopped and looked around at what I'd only seen in pictures and realized that the pictures miss so much. They miss the pallor that the rain causes, the feel of your shoes when you miss a rock and sink into the muck, the emptiness that echoes as loud as the silence. They capture so much, but miss all of it at the same time. I simply couldn't believe what I was seeing.

Then Berexet brought me back real fast.

"I live here."

What?

"Yes, right there. 11-30."

Are you kidding me? Berexet, my gentle, smart, conjo (beautiful) Berexet, lives here? The girl who loves bright colors and wears red boots lives here? No. She couldn't. It had to be wrong. Surely she meant that she lived on the other side of Korah, somewhere with gravel roads and a patch of sunlight. Not here.

"Oh look! There is my dog, Jack. He is very fun to have. I like playing with him very much."

It was true. Berexet lived in this filthy mudhole with everyone she called family. I told her how nice Jack looked and how I'd take a picture of her in front of her house when we finished delivering all the supplies. She didn't seem as excited to take it as she was about our first picture, with me under the canopy, but she agreed and pointed her house out to me. I stared at it in utter disbelief as she changed topics and cautioned me to watch my step.

Our group traversed the uneven, muddied, gravel-strewn maze that was the pathway through Korah in the steady rain carrying our charcoal in one hand and supplies in another. Tesfaye finally stopped at a side road, and explained to us that the majority of the families lived here, down this back alley wide enough for maybe a person and a half to walk side-by-side. The walkway behind the house was even worse than the streets we just walked on, and our 20-person group filed in one by one. Berexet left me here; she said she'd meet up with me after we finished delivering the food. Astonishingly, the alley opened into a small courtyard which then became a labyrinth of more back alleys and corners and people too many to count. Our first house was smaller than my room at home. The bed filled half the room and the dirt floor was carefully arranged with the very few possessions they had. A mom with HIV and her daughter lived there, Tesfaye said. We crowded in and filled the small house.

The next house was arguably the hardest on each of us. This woman had lived for 18 years in the same bed because her leprosy had debilitated her beyond movement. She had no hands, no feet, and no body fat. The rags that adorned her body as clothes hung loosely around her shoulders and her wraith-like appearance showed her despair. In her one room house, her daughter and three other people lived with her. Her daughter was a member of the church we visited and took good care of her, but insufficient funds and expensive medicine only created more health problems for her mom, a stomach pain of some sort, Tesfaye said. As I was leaving, I saw a shadow of a man sitting almost invisibly in the corner. Without thinking, I reached out my hand and said "Selamo," hello in Amharic. He grasped my hand and rose out of his corner to thank me in whatever words he had. As I turned toward the door, I saw Kaleab who had been watching the whole exchange. He opened his arms and I just clung to him.
It began to rain harder.

House after house, story after story we walked and saw and lived and learned. We reached out, held hands, gave hugs, left food and maybe gave hope. As we finished with the last house, I couldn't help but think that the rain was well fitted to our journey today. It matched the conditions we saw, and just hammered home the destitution of this place. I walked back to where we started, only in silence, thoughts weighing heavy on my soul.

There are so many things I haven't even told you about, grand things, heart wrenching things, awe-inspiring things. I could go on for pages about the people I've met, their kind personalities, the beauty of their souls, the joy they radiate. I could tell you of Kaleab's impeccable sense of fashion with the sweetest shoes I've seen here in all of Ethiopia, but his disregard for them the minute we walk the streets to give food. I could tell you of Tesfaye, whose name means "hope happens," and how he returned to his village after getting a degree in computer engineering. He works as a community developer for his people, when he could be making bank somewhere else. I don't have time to tell you of Nathan, our photographer, or Alena the pastor's daughter or Beesa, a girl who gave me her only bracelet yesterday. There are countless people with countless incredible stories, and simply not enough time to tell them all.

The purpose of this trip was not to leave with clean hands.  The purpose of this trip was to do as much as we can for as many as we can in the time that we have. To pour ourselves out and love on these people with all that we have. In doing so, these people have poured into us, with their stories and knowledge of their country. They have given us more than we could ever give them, and for that, I am forever grateful. I have seen what it is to live in poverty, in absolute abject poverty, and I have seen in the same instant the unadulterated joy that these people who live there have. Their smiles light up their whole faces and their laughter rings out amid the corrugated tin. They do not pity themselves, nor do they ask for it. They live with what they have - disease, isolation, poverty. And yet, they do not mourn, they do not begrudge, they do not hate. They simply live day to day, doing the best they can.

I have been so blessed to be part of this trip and I cannot express in words how grateful I am for this opportunity. To everyone who has had a part in me being here, physically and financially, to those who have listened to my excitement and worries, to the people who have donated shirts and supplies for me to bring over here, thank you. Thank you from the deepest part of my heart. You have changed me, whether you realize it or not. I hope one day to have the opportunity to pass it forward, and touch lives like you have touched mine. To the people on this trip with me, thank you for being here and for making me a better person. As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another, and I have greatly benefited from your influence, and will continue to do so. I am so humbled and honored to be chosen to be to be here, representing the greatest university in the nation. I would not trade this experience for anything in the world. As they say in Amharic, "Ameseginalehu." Thank you.

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