A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Trip to Ethiopia provides life-changing experience for football players, administrators


By Jon Hale
jon@kyforward.com

When University of Kentucky football player Danny Trevathan agreed to take part in the UK Athletic Department’s service trip to Africa, he expected the trip would be a unique opportunity but didn’t know how much the trip would affect him.

After watching a woman reach out to hold his hand in her last moments of life, he knew the trip would provide life-changing lessons.

“She found time to say thank you to me,” said Trevathan, a senior linebacker from Florida, at a news conference Friday. “That’s really what touched me the most. We live everyday and sometimes we can’t find time to say thank you, but she did.”

Trevathan, his teammate Stuart Hines, UK Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart, head football coach Joker Phillips and several UK staffers and family members traveled to Ethiopia for a week in May with the hope of making an impact on people’s lives beyond the football field.

“Our goal as a department is to educate,” Barnhart said. “We get to play a lot of games and do a lot of things you guys count in ‘w’s’ and ‘l’s.’ But at the end of the day our job is to educate people young people and to expand their horizons and their minds and their hearts. This is part of that process.”

The experience was life-changing, Barnhart said but he was quick to say it was not “good.”

“I would say it was successful and impactful, but I wouldn’t call it good,” he said. “Because what you see there is not good.”

“You can’t go over there if you have any heart, anything in your soul and not have it change your life,” Phillips said. “It was definitely a life-changing experience for myself.”

During the trip, the UK group distributed food, planted gardens, visited orphanages and painted a building. While they were able to help some people in need, the people in Ethiopia had a profound impact on the UK group, Phillips said.

“It might have made a little impact on them with the things we were able to do, but it had a huge impact on us,” he said.

Hines said he returned from the trip with a new perspective on football and life.

“That could have easily been one of us that ended up in a life like that, but we were blessed enough to have the opportunities we had.”

Top image: Trevathan interacts with children in Ethiopia.

You can see a slideshow of photos from the trip provided by UK Athletics below.

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