SIOUX CITY | Jayde Hair, a junior at Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Mont., has completed five mission trips outside the United States.
She's planning her sixth.
Hair, who is in Sioux City this week playing in the NAIA Volleyball Championships, started her goodwill globe-trotting with a trek to Guatemala as an eighth-grader. Since then, she's visited the Philippines twice and Uganda twice.
"I plan on going to Uganda again during the summer after my senior year in college," says Hair, a biology major who minors in chemistry.
Hair spoke on Wednesday minutes after her team lost a five-set match to MidAmerica Nazarene University in the Tyson Events Center. The Battlin' Bears' backup middle blocker admitted her work overseas helps take the sting out of setbacks on the volleyball court. After all, those are just games.
She's seen more than games in eye-opening visits to Uganda, work trips that involve feeding and educating children raised in what amounts to a "prostitution village," an area on a main highway where many women feed their children by earning a meager income through prostitution.
The groups Hair works with, Hands 4 Uganda and Next Generation Ministries, make sure children in this environment get tested for HIV as many of them have lost one or both parents to the AIDS virus.
"My mom sponsors two children," says Hair, the daughter of Chad and Syd Hair of Pocatello, Idaho. "Those children and three of their cousins live in the same home. All of their parents have died of HIV."
A doctor with the mission group also pierces the ears of most girls they see; girls who range in age from 3-12. The mission group travels with a piercing gun as a means to protect these girls. A girl with pierced ears, according to Hair, is not as likely to be abducted by a Ugandan witch doctors, as the piercings suggest the child has been "tainted" somehow.
"It's hard to believe, but that is the case," says Hair. "My aunt sponsors a girl who was kidnapped when she was 6 or 7 years old. The girl was found in a ditch one week later and her earrings had been taken out."
Thankfully, the girl had not been hurt or "sacrificed" in the ordeal. Maybe, just maybe, Hair says, the ear piercings saved her life.
Hair, who has a 3.3 grade point average, says she sees herself working in a science lab once she's done with college. Her dream job, though, involves working tirelessly for Rock of Ages School her groups serve at Mbiko, Uganda. When Hair went there the first time six years ago, the school educated 11 students.
There are now about 200 students in that school, many of them orphans who have been helped along the way by Hair and others who give of their time and money to travel overseas in hopes of helping.
The Battlin' Bear thinks of those children often, even as she walks off the court following a tough loss in the national tournament. Her work outside the United States has given her perspective.
"You can only be so heartbroken in volleyball," Hair says.
Helping little children, many of them orphans, survive and attain an education, those are outcomes that really matter.