Campbellsville University Lady Tigers Exchange Cultural Experiences in Zambia, Africa

By Joan C. McKinney, director of university communications

CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. – Campbellsville University’s Lady Tigers got to experience first-hand servant leadership as they worked with literacy and basketball skills in Zambia recently.

Four members of the Campbellsville University Lady Tigers basketball team: Kristi Ensminger of Kingston Springs, Tenn., Juliana Brown of Antioch, Tenn., Maranda Wilkinson of Belvidere, Tenn. and Shabree Hunter of Lake Worth, Fla., along with former Lady Tigers coach Donna Wise and her husband, George, Joanna Turpin, a Campbellsville native and student at the University of Kentucky, and Connie Alden of Titusville, Fla., spent May 5-19 in Zambia (formerly Rhodesia) and Cape Town, Africa.

Wise, who is chair of the university’s department of human performance and assistant professor of physical education and athletics, organized and coordinated the trip with Lonnie and Fran Turner who have worked in Zambia since 1976.

Lonnie is a 1971 CU graduate and consultant with Campbellsville University.

“Donna and her group did a marvelous job while in Zambia,” said Turner. “They were well received by the schools and the community. We were honored to have them. We feel proud and honored for their assistance.”

The Turners are associated with Partners in Development (PID), a non-profit, non-governmental organization dedicated to assisting rural African communities in their efforts to improve their quality of life in areas of clean water, health care and education.

The women’s basketball program at Campbellsville University has supported PID with uniforms and equipment for several years, Wise said. She took a group to Brazil several years ago, and the Turners encouraged her to do the same in Zambia.

“This trip gave these students actual hands-on servant leadership opportunities,” said Wise. “It was a life-changing experience in many ways for all of us. Most of the people in this area live on 50 cents a day.”

The opportunity to travel internationally and teach literacy and basketball skills opened up with Wises’ recent retirement from coaching.

Fran Turner, Lonnie’s wife, negotiated with the minister of prisons in Zambia for basketball and volleyball courts to be built with donations at the site of their Katombora Reformatory School located 40 kilometers from Livingstone, Zambia. Wise agreed to provide basketball and literacy instruction to the young men, many of whom are AIDS orphans.

“It is remarkable to drive into the bush of Africa, surround yourself with 35 elephants on the trip and come upon a full court tangerine colored basketball court,” she said.

The prisoners cleared two acres by hand, and Turner and the reformatory staff poured 500 bags of concrete in making the court which was dedicated in an official ceremony attended by many political dignitaries as well as teachers and school children in the area during the group’s trip.

Wise presented a set of uniforms, basketballs and sports equipment to the team at the Reformatory School.

Education of the young men in the reformatory was a challenge, she said. Joanna Turpin provided literacy instruction along with George Wise to those at the reformatory who could read and write.

Turpin is the daughter of Joey and Sherry Turpin of Campbellsville.

“Challenged with a dozen boys, one desk and a piece of a chalkboard Joanna learned how to improvise quickly and did an excellent job,” Wise said.

The members of the team provided basketball instruction in the hot Zambian sun both to the young men at the reformatory and children at the primary school she said.

“It was amazing just how quickly they picked up the skills. The vast majority have never seen a basketball,” Wise said.

A visit to the primary school just up the path indicated a need for roof repair on one of their buildings that sits vacant. Children have lost one-half of their instruction time because teachers have to coordinate classes for the other two-room building.

Wise said many of the children in the schools visited walk five miles and must leave early enough in the afternoon to avoid cheetahs and other dangerous animals on the walk home.

“It is difficult when you look at those bright faces eager to learn knowing that most are finished with their schooling after grade nine,” she said. “In the whole country of Zambia there are 335 secondary schools compared to 4,558 primary schools and most don’t have the resources to send their children.”

The Turners have been given 50 acres of land in Kazangula to build a secondary boarding school and hope with donations that their dream becomes reality.

“Upon traveling to Africa I understand Lonnie Turner’s emphasis on ‘water,’” said Wise. “It is compelling to hear a mother’s tale of losing her child to a crocodile while it was bathing in the Zambezi River. I watched the women wash their clothing in mud holes, and I saw children drinking unpurified water.”

Water wells and treadle pumps improve a communities’ standard of living, she said, and, “We visited two villages and the girls (team members) asked why they didn’t see many men.”

Wise said the AIDS epidemic is immense and the communities must help care for many of the orphans. One of the villages had a treadle pump and the women were able to grow their crops and provide for themselves and their community.

She said Campbellsville’s Saloma Baptist Church, pastored by the Rev. John Chowning of Campbellsville University, has donated through PID to build three wells in the area. “It is money well spent,” she said.

Wise said the group listened to the needs of the people from books for the primary school teachers, water wells, treadle pumps or a maternity wing on the health clinic, and the Turners will seek donations through PID to fund the projects.

“Groups looking for a project to support or work to do can improve large segments of a local populations quality of life over there,” she said.

Wise said, “Attachments to those we worked with was evident as we bid farewell. It’s hard not to get emotional when a young man’s only request when we left was to send a dictionary.

“Our group’s visit to this area will be talked about in the villages for a long time as will the friendships that were made on both sides,” she said.

For more information on the well project, contact Wise at or (270) 789-5261.

Campbellsville University is a private, comprehensive institution located in South Central Kentucky. Founded in 1906, Campbellsville University is affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist Convention and has an enrollment of 2,310 students who represent 100 Kentucky counties, 32 states and 28 foreign nations. Listed in U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges” 14 consecutive years as one of the leading Southern master’s colleges and universities, Campbellsville University is located 82 miles southwest of Lexington, Ky., and 80 miles southeast of Louisville, Ky. Dr. Michael V. Carter is in his eighth year as president.

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