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York College Recreation grad has eyes set on helping developing country

October 26, 2016
Chelsea Farrington
Chelsea Farrington, Class of 2015

The biggest life lessons often come at the most unlikely times.

Twenty-three-old Chelsea Farrington figured this out during a walk in the rain.

Farrington, who graduated from York College of Pennsylvania in 2015 with a B.S. in Recreation and Leisure Administration, recently returned from a six-week volunteer trip to Kenya where she worked at an orphanage and a girls rescue center.

There were many moments of the trip that had an impact on her, but the one she recalls right away was the night she had to walk for two hours in the rain to the remote village she was staying in.

She had two choices during that nighttime trek down a long muddy road: She could either cry and be miserable or smile and laugh about it.

She chose the latter.

‌“There’s no reason to complain,” Farrington said. The fact that she was walking with a woman who was carrying a heavy 6-month-old kept the walk in perspective. The woman was used to these long walks. Farrington figured she couldn’t change the situation, so there was no need to stress about it.

Back in Kenya

This was Farrington’s second trip to Kenya. She’d visited in 2013 with a group lead by YCP Geography professor Dr. David Fyfe and visited several national parks including Masai Mara and Serengeti National Park.

But the trip she took from February to March of this year was different. She was traveling on her own – not affiliated with any school or organization – to pursue volunteer opportunities she’d learned about from a Kenyan woman she’d met by chance last summer.

‌Instead of traveling as a tourist, she’d be staying with host families for six weeks, living in tin huts. The first family she stayed with had no running water (there was an outhouse and when she needed to shower, a bucket), they cooked over an open flame and it wasn’t unusual for a goat or chicken to wander inside the hut for a visit.

The first couple days of her trip were awful, Farrington said. Her luggage was lost, she had problems with her visa and she had no easy way to get in touch with her family and friends back home. But by the end of the first week, she fell in love with the people and her new home.

She spent her days helping out in the orphanage and school doing everything from cleaning and gardening to helping kids with their English and writing and organizing activities for them after school.

She misses walking into the orphanage and having all the kids run up and jump on her. Most of the couldn’t wait to learn how to make the friendship bracelets Farrington shows them how to create.

“Obviously, they do that to all the volunteers, but it was still really cool,” Farrington said.

'Definitely something you don’t forget'

At the suggestion of a friend, Farrington raised money via Go Fund Me to help the orphanage and the girls rescue center, which works to end genital mutilation and stop early forced marriages and pregnancies.

She decided to wait until she talked to the school children and villagers to figure out how she would spend the money.

One day, one of the villagers asked if they could use a portion of the $825 she’d raised to buy food for the orphanage, which was about to run out. So she gave them enough for a three-month supply of non-perishable food and extra to go toward buying things like fruits and vegetables every week.

“They were so excited for the oranges – to see the smiles on their faces – definitely something you don’t forget,” she said.

The rest of the money went toward buying an extra school uniform for the each of the 16 children at the orphanage. Farrington said they each only had one school uniform that they wore throughout the week and washed on the weekends – most of which were tattered and worn out.

She also raised $875 for the girls rescue center, which she used to pay for one of the student’s school fees and create two garden plots. Now, she says, her goal is to raise enough money to provide them with food for a year.

Education put to good use

Today, the Wappingers Falls, N.Y., native is working as a nanny save up money for her next adventure – she’s hoping to find work in a third-world country doing activities for people with disabilities.

The support Farrington received from her professors at YCP was one of the motivating factor for her. She wanted to travel the world, but knew it would be difficult to pay for.

“A lot of professors said if you want to do it, just do it. Follow your dreams.”

And she put her Recreation and Leisure education to good use coming up with adaptive programs to entertain the children she met in Kenya.

Farrington’s academic adviser and internship supervisor Emily Connors, a lecturer in Recreation and Leisure Administration, was not surprised to learn that her former student was planning to travel to Kenya as a volunteer focusing on therapeutic recreation.

"As her advisor, my first impression upon meeting Chelsea was her passion for working with those less fortunate,” she said. “Every time I met with Chelsea about her career path, she spoke about her desire to work abroad.”

Farrington said her experiences abroad aren’t the only things that have shaped her post-YCP life. As a student at York College, Farrington played women’s rugby and served as a resident assistant, too.

“Both experiences helped me develop to the person I am now and helped me learn different qualities such as leadership, teamwork, problem solving and perseverance,” she said.

York College is proud to offer one of the best Recreation and Leisure Administration programs in Pennsylvania. Within our recreation and leisure major, students can choose either a Recreation Management emphasis or a Recreational Therapy emphasis. Where will your degree in Recreation and Leisure Administration take you?

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