‘There’s not 300 pounders in Ethiopia.’ UK star Landon Young describes camel ride.
Three University of Kentucky football players — Calvin Taylor Jr., Jamar “Boogie” Watson and Landon Young — served on a mission trip to Korah in May through a partnership with Ordinary Hero, a Tennessee non-profit that partners with and advocates for impoverished communities. There they watched children dig through garbage for what might be their only meal of the week and interacted with adults whose limbs and appendages were lost to leprosy.
And they saw humanity in spite of circumstances in which none of them could ever dream of living. The people who live in Korah’s landfill community? They don’t even own that land; they lease it, along with the flies and otherworldly stench that come with it. If they’re fortunate, they’ll be able to find a tarp among the litter to keep rain from pouring into their homes at night.
“You hear people here all around us every day complain that their house isn’t big enough or their car isn’t nice enough,” Young said. “… It’s just amazing to know that there’s people that, even though they live in that situation, they still have the amount of love and care that they do. Everywhere, it’s just smiles, and it’s love, and it’s holding hands and it’s hugs. That really, really amazed me about that.”
It made the players appreciate more the advantages they have as Americans, and as scholarship athletes.
“There’s no reason to make an excuse that you can’t do something,” Taylor said. “’I can’t do this because it’s raining. I can’t go to class or I can’t go to workouts cause I’m tired,’ or something like that. … If those people do anything with very limited resources and I have an abundance of things just at my fingertips that I can use, there’s no excuse in life for me not to do anything. Honest, it gives you a sense that you can always do more than what you’ve been doing. You can always do more.”
Part of the players’ mission was to share in experiences with local youth who never before were able to step outside their garbage-ridden norm. A visit to a countryside resort, complete with a lake and zoo, was one of the getaways during their weeklong service trip.
Camel rides were part of that experience.
“There’s not 300-pounders in Ethiopia, and that camel had never seen what was coming at him,” Young, who’s 6-foot-7 and 324 pounds, said with a laugh.
“It was foaming at the mouth,” Watson added.
Lunchtime for the players and kids was also lunchtime for the camels. Young’s camel wasn’t eager to carry him to begin with, but with a full gut?
“It was hurtin’,” Young said. “He was very sore. It tried to get up with me a couple times before it finally did, and it was growlin’.”
The UK trio brought care packages to give to families that could keep them from having to dig through trash for about a month. They visited an orphanage, and also took some teenagers to a movie theater for the first time in their lives.
They watched “Avengers: Endgame.”
“That’s a pretty cool movie for somebody to see their first movie,” Taylor said. “It was so powerful, just to see. We all had little buddies, and my buddy, his face just lit up every time he saw me. They hold hands as a sign of affection, so he was just holding my hand and was very excited the whole movie. It was so great to be able to pour love back into them and just be able to do that. … It was really an eye-opener.”