By Kelly Klubert, Executive Director of Alumni & Communications, Wheeling Jesuit University
Most people recognize Wheeling Jesuit University (WJU) students Haley Kindall and Kayce Krucki for their exploits on the volleyball court. But to children in Guatemala and Tanzania, they are the women who built classrooms at an orphanage, taught them English and painted their fingernails.
For Kindall and Krucki, the Jesuit motto of ‘service to others’ is more than a phrase—service to others is how they live each day.
When Kindall and Krucki talk about winning the NCAA Division II volleyball national championship last December, you can hear the excitement in their voices. But the same is true when they describe their summer 2015 service trips—the two smile from ear to ear, sharing stories about the young people who “impacted our lives as much as we did theirs.”
Krucki, an athletic training major from Findlay, Ohio, and two friends left last summer to spend a month at an orphanage in Tanzania. While the group stayed at a host home, their days were spent teaching English to children between the ages of 3 and 11.
“They have the biggest hearts of anyone I’ve ever met. The kids don’t have any of the same opportunities I have. We take school, sports, books and basic necessities for granted and for them, those things are a big deal,” says Krucki.
The trip impacted Krucki and her friends so much that they decided to ‘adopt’ an 11-year-old boy from the orphanage. The three friends are donating money each year, which pays for the boy’s tuition to attend a secondary school. They also send him money for clothes and supplies throughout the year.
“Most of these kids don’t have parents. Once they hit the age of 12, if they don’t have the money to attend secondary school, they are on their own and must find a job,” Krucki explains. Attending secondary school not only provides the children with an education, but meals too—something many of the children don’t receive at home.
As part of her church group, Kindall, a business marketing major from Westerville, Ohio, traveled to a small community in Guatemala last summer. For the past 14 years, members of Northside Fellowship Church have spent a portion of each summer working at an orphanage sponsored by the church.
Last summer was Kindall’s first service trip with Northside Fellowship. She spent her days teaching Bible school, holding prayer and soccer outreach, and building classrooms at the orphanage. She bonded deeply with her students, one of whom made a particularly deep impression.
She says, “I just fell in love with this 12-year-old boy. He works full-time to help support his family. He makes very little money and one day he showed up and gave me some candy, which he had for his snack. He has nothing, but he went out of his way to give me some candy. I couldn’t believe it.”
Poverty, says Kindall, is the one thing there is a lot of in Guatemala. “What I found most surprising was the living conditions the families have. One family had eight people living in one room. We would see kids day after day and they would be in the same clothes. You don’t realize all that you have until you see what others don’t have. It really put things in perspective for me,” says Kindall.
WJU women’s volleyball coach Christy Benner says she’s not surprised that her two players make service to others a part of their lives. Service, she says, is a part of who they are.
“Haley and Kayce both strive to be better people in every aspect. They are very outgoing young ladies, with huge hearts, who have a deep love for children. I know their service trips made an important impact in their lives. I am proud of them for giving back and enriching, not only others’ lives, but their own,” says Benner.
Kindall’s and Krucki’s love for children is evident in two anecdotes they shared from their trips. One day, Kindall introduced some of the girls in her village to nail polish. “They had never had their nails polished before. I couldn’t believe how excited they were,” she says.
Krucki recalls the day she pulled out a bottle of bubbles. “The kids went crazy. They never saw anyone blow bubbles before. It proved to me how much we take for granted.”
What was one of the greatest takeaways from the trip? “Little kids’ hugs,” Kindall says with a big smile. “They are the best.”