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Forest Hills supports “Jackets to Uganda’’ and Hearts United

Forest Hills' Interact Club President, Cindy Sierra, at left, presents Jennifer Whitley a check for Hearts United as Interact members look on. On the far right are Chad and Seth Whitley.

Chad and Jennifer Whitley, along with their children Seth and Kristina, have traveled to Nebbi, Uganda over the Christmas holidays to provide educational and sports programs to a desperately impoverished area.

They will live with a local family while they administer assistance. Their work personally and through their organization, Hearts United, has inspired several clubs at Forest Hills to raise money to help further their cause. These clubs have dubbed their combined efforts "Jackets to Uganda."

Uganda is still recovering from a violent and unstable past. Many children are without parents. When the Whitleys gave a presentation to Forest Hills' Interact Club earlier in the school year they told stories of many children who are lucky to eat one meal every two days. Chad Whitley remembered throwing a banana peel out the window only to have it quickly grabbed and eaten by a child.

Jennifer told of soccer players who walked 20 miles each day to come and participate in a tournament and other activities. In the tournament, there were only two sets of jerseys that had to be shared among 11 teams.  Many played barefoot on the hard gravel field. Girls played netball, a rough combination of soccer and basketball. Children had little or no educational supplies, and adults had little knowledge of how to help them.

This will be the fifth trip to Uganda for Chad and Jennifer. It is the first for their children who have traveled to Trinidad and Panama on other mission trips. Chad and Jennifer first traveled to Uganda in November 2006. It was on their second trip that they met Pastor Stanly Oyunthu who was hired to drive them in his van for the time that they were there.

He must have made quite an impression. "We agreed to return in 2009 to work in his town of Nebbi.," Jennifer said. "This will be our second trip to Nebbi to work with him and his family."

Hearts United is the nonprofit group that Chad and Jennifer Whitley founded in February of 2010. 

Jennifer explains, "We have coordinated soccer tournaments for hundreds of teen boys, netball tournaments for girls, and trained a few hundred children's workers in Uganda."

This will be the third trip Hearts United has sponsored. During the teacher training workshop, they provide teacher toolkits, meals, and training. There are teaching sessions in the morning, a planning session after lunch, and then children come in so that trainees can practice teaching in the late afternoon.

This year, there will be around 50 children's workers in attendance, and several hundred children will attend the afternoon teaching sessions. Rather than a soccer tournament, this trip will feature a soccer camp for approximately 250 teenage boys. After the camps each day, Chad and Seth will lead mini-workshops in integrity with the boys.

The Whitley family has strong ties to Forest Hills High School. The parents, Chad and Jennifer, are both graduates of Forest Hills. Jennifer is a social studies teacher at the school, and Chad is an assistant wrestling coach. Their son Seth is a ninth-grader who is a top student, wrestler, and tennis player. Their daughter Kristina attends East Union Middle School where she is also a top student, cheerleader, and basketball player.

The Whitleys' giving spirit has spread to other members of the Forest Hills community and family. At FHHS, the Interact Club along with FCA and HOSA have raised $1,014 for Hearts United. This money will go for educational supplies and for soccer jerseys for the eleven teams.

To anyone who would like to help, there is great need for six referee uniforms and whistles for officials at the camp and for supplies for the teacher toolkits. The teacher toolkits will include pens, pencils, crayons, notebooks, balloons, visuals for teaching, mini dry erase boards, markers, and other basic school supplies, plus XL ziploc bags to protect the materials from termites.

Donations of any supplies and tax-deductible monetary donations to help pay for rental of facilities, transportation costs, and meals for the participants can be made to Hearts United. For more information on Hearts United, contact Jennifer Whitley.

Written by: Bill Potter, Jennifer Whitley and Melissa Howell
Posted: Dec 26, 2012 by Deb Coates Bledsoe

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