Two years ago, after Lyla Godfryd had spent months collecting enough soccer jerseys to outfit 10 full teams of students at a school for orphans in Rwanda, she had to turn it all over to family friend Chiaya Rawlins, who delivered everything to Rwanda for her.
“I had hoped to go, but I was too young,” Godfryd said.
Not anymore. Now a sophomore at Davis High School, Godfryd is not only spearheading another project aimed at giving that same Rwandan school a thriving sports program, she plans to be part of the team delivering everything this summer. And she’s seeking fellow teens to join her.
This time around, Godfryd is planning to fundraise for and help build a sports court where children can play basketball and volleyball. In addition to raising money for the concrete, poles and everything else required, she is collecting donations of new or gently used basketballs, volleyballs, nets for both sports, as well as knee pads and pinnies (the mesh vests athletes wear over their clothes to distinguish one team from another).
In July, accompanied by Rawlins and — Godfryd hopes — five other teens, she will arrive in Rwanda for a couple of weeks of hard labor building the court and a couple more immersed in the life and culture of Rwanda’s capital city, Kigali.
Godfryd and her family will host an informational meeting about the trip on Friday, Feb. 15, at 7:30 p.m. at their home, 1400 Redwood Lane, in Davis. Any teens between the ages of 15 and 18 interested in being a part of the effort are encouraged to come learn more.
For Godfryd, refocusing her efforts on Rwanda — and the village of Mayaga, in particular — was a simple choice. In the two decades since the massive genocide of 1994 left as many as 1 million men, women and children dead — and many children orphaned — this village has become home to many widows and a large group of orphans. They have built themselves houses, a school and brought in electricity. Long-term goals for the school include a library and a sports program for the children.
After donating all those soccer jerseys, and seeing photos of so many children and teens enjoying games of soccer, Godfryd thought her next project should be a soccer field, since the students there play on nothing but dirt. But the community wanted a cement court where children could play basketball and volleyball, so that became her next project.
Once again she is collaborating with the Friends of Rwanda Association and longtime supporter Rawlins, who works with Godfryd’s parents at their Davis business, Pacific Auction Company. She is busy collecting supplies and soliciting donations and will continue to do so for the next five months.
One friend already has signed on to participate and Godfryd is hoping for four more teens. Each will need to raise between $5,000 and $6,000 for the monthlong trip, an amount Godfryd has already raised, and will help fellow travelers to raise as well.
It will be well worth it, said her mom, Avery Godfryd.
“The things they will do before and after the project are once-in-a-lifetime,” she noted. “They’ll meet the Rwandan ambassador, be there for Independence Day, sit down with government officials, visit museums … get a real ‘insider’s view.’ ”
Prior to the trip, Rawlins will prepare participants with some training, including what to expect, the culture and languages of Rwanda, and more. Upon their return to Davis, they will make presentations to the community about their experiences.
But before all of that, they’ll have lots of work to do.
First up is a garage sale Saturday, Feb. 9, at 1400 Redwood Lane. Anyone wishing to donate items for the sale should drop them off by Friday.
To make a monetary donation or a donation of basketball or volleyball supplies, or for more information, contact Godfryd at [email protected] or 530-757-1780.
— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at [email protected] or 530-757-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy