Students serve the global community

Story by Sydni Anderson, Staff writer

Photo courtesy of Shelby Murphy

As planes departed from their respective ports this summer, some carried Murray State students heading to experience new cultures. Mikayla Marshall and Shelby Murphy are two students that made the journey to a new country to serve communities abroad and gain the experiences of a lifetime.

Marshall’s trek to South Africa

Marshall, a junior from Frankfort, Kentucky is majoring in nonprofit leadership studies. She travelled to Cape Town, South Africa this summer for an organization called One Heart Source, a nonprofit working to end the inequality gap in South Africa. Marshall said the organization began in Tanzania but most of its efforts are focused in South Africa.

“South Africa has one of the highest Gini coefficients in the world, which measures inequality in societies,” Marshall said. “Their whole thing is to bridge that gap. The hope is that the children that they’re mentoring and have in their program will go on to higher education.”

She said that the mentees that graduate can bring education back into their communities to hopefully help them grow economically and socially.

Marshall was part of One Heart Source’s youth empowerment program and mentored two students. Marshall said she taught the children math on Mondays and Wednesdays and literacy on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

“We spent two hours with the kids getting to know them and having fun but I also taught them long division some days or grammar,” Marshall said. “The whole purpose was to give them that extra help they might need and to give them a safe place to go after school instead of just going and roaming the streets.”

Marshall said she worked at the only government-funded school in a very impoverished area and had one student named Antonio that loved Beyonce.

“My first day there he was quizzing me all about Beyonce and like ‘oh, do you actually know Beyonce songs’ and everything,” Marshall said. “Every day with them was just insane. Some days they were crazy and you had to round them up to get them to settle down but other days you just go along with it.”

Marshall said one of her favorite experiences in South Africa was hiking up Table Mountain just in time for sunrise.

“I went with one of the guys from my program and we started a little bit before 6 a.m. and it takes about two or so hours to get up this mountain,” Marshall said. “We made it up in an hour and a half, like booking it and sunrise is at 7:30 and we made it at like 7:20 something just in time to see the sun come through the mountains and that was insane.”

Murphy goes “Beyond Uganda” 

Murphy, junior from Lyon County, is an organizational communications major who studied abroad in Bugiri, Uganda. Murphy sponsors two children in Africa so they can go to school. She began sponsoring her first child four years ago after going to a conference with her youth group.

“The Compassion International is who I sponsor my child through,” Murphy said. “They had their event table set up there and that’s when they gave me all the information and I started walking around and they had little pamphlets of kids so then I found one.”

Murphy travelled through Paducah-based organization Beyond Uganda whose community development center is rooted in Bugiri. She lived in the children’s home where she was stationed for five weeks doing mission work and completing her studies for nonprofit.

“I went over there initially to fill my internship and get a background with administration and nonprofit. But it turned into Beyond Uganda finding out that I do photography, videography and painting so it turned into service projects with them.”

Murphy helped redo the Beyond Uganda office. She said she redid all the sponsorship photos on their website and took videos that will be shown at the organization’s banquet this fall.

Building Relationships

Murphy said she only spent a day with her first sponsored child, a six-year-old boy, but visited the elementary school he just started at. She said she just started sponsoring another child named Diana through Beyond Uganda.

“The girl that I sponsor with Beyond Uganda is in the children’s home so I kind of had that personal relationship with her,” Murphy said.

Murphy said Diana would often hide food underneath her bed.

“I thought it was hilarious,” Murphy said. “Sometimes when she was in a good mood she would come and share fruit with us from under her bed and no one would know where she got it.”

Murphy said sponsoring a child involves a passion.

“If you care for kids or young adults even because they do offer those sponsorships–I think you have that in your heart to really go for it and commit,” she said.

Murphy said the trip was one of the best experiences of her life.

“I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” she said.

The perks of traveling abroad

Murphy said travelling abroad offers hands-on learning that a classroom can’t offer and allows students to build a network.

“Whether it’s closer or further away it [the network] can always circle back and be helpful,” Murphy said.

Marshall said her experience helped make her more conscious of inequality around the world and in America.

“It made me more aware of how I act and how I perceive things and what I can do to end that inequality,” Marshall said.

She said traveling abroad isn’t as out of reach as people think it is. She said students interested in experiencing new countries and cultures just have to make it a priority.

“A lot of people look at my lifestyle and how I’ve travelled so much and they’re like ‘oh, I wish I could do that and I wish I had the money for that,’” Marshall said. “If it’s that important to you and you really want it and you really wish that you could do it, you’ll find a way.”