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Career and calling

A major league pitcher supports boys’ and girls’ homes in Uganda to combat trafficking


The Boyds (center) and Dorothy (left) with Kingdom Home kids Handout

Career and calling
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Many professional athletes establish charitable foundations. Some just want a tax break, but Detroit Tigers pitcher Matt Boyd and his wife, Ashley, wanted to see what they could do at street level in Uganda, where they have now established a nonprofit, Kingdom Home, housing 146 girls and boys ages 6 to 14. Typically born into poverty or abandoned to the streets, the children are among a group that human traffickers often target.

The Boyds’ involvement began with housemother Dorothy, who took in a group of girls who were being transported by van to a local brothel when police intervened. Dorothy’s husband died unexpectedly, and she sought support from Remember Nhu, a nonprofit that sponsors 103 homes sheltering at-risk children in 16 countries, including Uganda. Ashley Boyd had worked four years for Remember Nhu, named after a young Cambodian woman sold into sex slavery, and she knew founder Carl Ralston. Remember Nhu’s infrastructure was at maximum capacity, and Ralston couldn’t offer support to Dorothy’s home, but he brought the need to the Boyds.

Ashley already loved Uganda: She spent a summer there on a high-school exchange program, and Ugandan students lived with her family the following year. Matt was ready to get more involved in service: When he and I talked at spring training this year, Matt said he knew that “we need to spread the gospel. … That’s what we’re supposed to do as believers, … [not] staying comfortable in our bubble.”

So the Boyds started their own nonprofit to support Dorothy, getting Kingdom Home up and running during the summer of 2018. Ashley became executive director, drawing on her experience with Remember Nhu and mentorship from Ralston. To run an organization over 7,000 miles away, she relied on local knowledge from trusted Ugandan contacts, including the houseparents at three established Remember Nhu homes, plus friends from her high-school days who are now young professionals.

Last November, the Boyds visited Uganda for 10 days, landing in neighboring Nairobi, Kenya. Ashley, talking with me by phone, recalled driving through “countless small towns,” where she appreciated the chance to interact with the people: “It’s different from just flying over, where you get the bird’s eye view.” As they passed into Uganda, the lush foliage felt like “a tropical version of home” to Ashley, who grew up in the Pacific Northwest.

At Dorothy’s home, the girls charmed the Boyds with a welcome song they’d written for them. Ashley marveled at how supportive they were of one another, older girls helping the younger ones, with no sign of sisterly squabbles: “They aren’t living as victims or … as entitled. They were just extremely kind girls.” For mealtimes in an open courtyard in the center of the complex, the Boyds bought them a special gift: “They were all excited to have their own chairs,” says Ashley.

On the field, Matt Boyd had enough success in 2018 to quadruple his salary this season. With his baseball career helping to bring publicity, Kingdom Home accumulated a waiting list of sponsors, so in May it began supporting and managing Remember Nhu’s Ugandan homes. With four homes—three for girls, and one for boys—now operating on rental properties, Kingdom Home has raised funds to buy land with enough space for six homes. By spring 2020, the organization hopes to have at least one building complete and begin relocating existing homes.

The Boyds are excited about the project. Ashley, now pregnant with the couple’s second child (a boy due in late August), said Kingdom Home “has taken our heart—this is another baby for us. These are our girls.” Matt Boyd said, “If my big league career ended today, this is still going to go on, because God’s calling us to do this.”


Laura G. Singleton Laura is a WORLD correspondent and a World Journalism Institute graduate. She resides in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.

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Paulo

Every good deed done in the name of Christ and in love will be looked on with favor by the Lord.  I am convinced it is much easier to stay on the side lines and comment about why this is not the "perfect" answer to the multiple complex problems facing those living in poverty - then to get in the trenches and do what God enables us to do. 

LWA7647

On the surface this seems really great but at a deeper level there is more going on.  Uganda is working incredibly hard to eliminate childrens’ homes (aka orphanages) and focusing on family reunification and promoting Ugandans to adopt and foster.  When westerners come in and do things like this it makes it increasingly challenging for the Ugandans to make their positive changes for their people and country.  Studies have shown that there are detrimental effects for children living in institutions.  They are faced with numerous behavioral, emotional and developmental issues that are life long.

The easy, feel good, American approach is to throw money at orphanages instead of investing in the harder work of preventing/reducing poverty and orphans.  Eighty percent of children in Ugandan orphanages have family and are in the orphanages due to poverty.  Let’s work on changing the story by focusing on families and investing in their long term future.  I’d love to see WORLD report on efforts along these lines as well.

EMC2578

It is great and wise to fight traffickers of children, but that does not get around the fact that most of these children would be better off adopted into a home where they have parents to love and care for them.  Unfortunately, at this time, because of the traffickers, adoption from Uganda, Kenya, and most of Africa has become almost impossible.  Of course, care needs to be exercised any time children are up for adoption, but adoption is a good thing and should not be made impossible for those who truly want to help these children.