Westmont women’s basketball team going to Uganda

By Kaci Mexico

The Westmont women’s basketball team is taking a 12-day trip to Uganda to do missionary work and basketball-related activities.

The team will be working with the Sports Outreach Institute of Kampala and Gulu.

Westmont is slated to play a couple of games against the Uganda Women’s National Team, which is attempting to qualify for the Olympics in Brazil next year. “Our goal is to represent ourselves and play well,” Westmont coach Kirsten Moore said. “The Warriors will hopefully be able to help them prepare for success in their Olympic qualifier coming up in September.”

Westmont seniors Karlie Storkson and Lauren Sende hatched the idea for the trip.

“We just kind of looked at each other and said, ‘Why don’t we just go?’” said Sende. “The soccer women had gone and we thought, ‘Why can’t basketball women go?’”

The women’s soccer team has taken missionary trips through the Sports Outreach Institute every three years since 2006.

Storkson and Sende brought the idea to Coach Moore.

“She said, ‘If you guys are going to do this… it’s on you, you have to do it,’” recalled Storkson of her coach’s response.

Storkson and Sende set out to make the idea a reality. They garnered support from the Westmont community as well as the greater Santa Barbara community. They made neon “Basketball without Borders” t-shirts and sold them to students and fans at various Westmont sporting events, they held an auction, and  sent out support letters to family members, close friends, and basketball program supporters.

They also went to Reality Church in Carpinteria to ask for support.

“We spoke at two services down at Reality,” Storkson said. “The pastor, Britt Merrick, was really awesome and let us go up and give a little speech on what we were planning on doing and asked if they either wanted to donate, buy a t-shirt, or pray for our cause. Different members of multiple communities stepped in and some how the support came together.”

The hard work and dedication of the players impressed Moore.

“I am really proud of them that they have really seen this through, and now we get to have this amazing cultural experience where we are going to be stretched and grown, and learn a lot,” said Moore. “Hopefully we also feel like we can not only grow and learn ourselves, but share a little of who we are with the people we are going to visit and share a little bit about what Warrior basketball is all about, too

At the heart of the trip is the notion that sports can be used to transcend cultural barriers and foster connections between diverse peoples,  all with the greater purpose of sharing Christ’s love.

Storkson has seen sports function in this way before, as she has gone on a mission trip to Africa prior to coming to Westmont.

“When visiting a foreign culture, you come to realize how different you are from the people there,” explained Storkson. “For all we know, depending on where we are at, we might not speak the same language, we are going to be dressing differently, and we are going to have had different experiences. There is going to be a lot of things that are really hard to connect on, but sports are a universal language.”