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UK Student-Athletes Discover New Ambitions After Service Trip to Africa

Thursday, January 2, 2014

As 11 student-athletes leave campus and spend the holiday season with family and friends, reflect on the past year, the highlight for many will undoubtedly be the week they spent in Africa working on homes, giving aid and forming relationships with the Ethiopian people. 

"I had never been out of the country before so I thought it was really going to be a fun experience," said Williamson. "I was kind of nervous, too."

Most of the student-athletes who took part in the two separate UK Athletics Department-sponsored trips to Ethiopia this past summer were like Williamson. They had never been outside of the country, let alone to another continent.

“The first day we got there we were all running on about 30 hours of no sleep," said Maclin Simpson, a senior swimming & diving team member. "We traveled to a village right outside of the city to wrap homes in plastic because it’s the rainy season so the plastic helps to keep the rain out and keep the wind out."

As they concentrated on completing the manual labor, something unexpected happened.  Children from the village began to encircle the group.

"That was one of my favorite days," said Stephanie Fox, a junior women's tennis player.  "We got to play with the kids for hours and it was so fun!"

It was at that point when they realized that the trip was not just about giving.

"They didn’t want money from us, they didn’t want things from us they really just wanted interaction," said Tiara Phipps, a gymnastics sophomore. "This was about going and creating relationships with people."

Those relationships opened up the eyes of each student.

Watch the video feature above to hear from each student-athlete about why this trip taught them so much and what it means for their futures. 

The UK Athletics service trips to Ethiopia began in 2011.  To read blog posts about students participating in this year's trips as well as past trips, visit