After being greeted with hugs

Local hockey player helping Tanzanian kids take strides

Hockey’s been a big part of Swift Current native Karlie Bell’s life, and through hockey she’s making a difference in others’ lives.

Bell finished her second season playing with MacEewan University, in Edmonton, where she helped their women’s team to a second straight championship (the Griffins won 3 1 over the Red Deer Queens for the two peat on March 9), and she just got back from Arusha, a city in northern Tanzania, where she and two teammates were helping out at a Hockey Hearts Orphanage set up by her teammate Kennedy Davidson’s parents.

In 2014 the Davidson family set it up after they initially planned to build on another orphanage. When they got over there, they found out that work had already been done, so set up the Hockey Hearts Orphanage after receiving some land.

Bell spent a couple weeks over there with Kennedy Davidson and Jessi Rampton, and was at the orphanage in the mornings.

Kids there range in age from four to eight. The school has 20 kids attending, with 15 beds. Currently about seven of the beds are being used, as some students do have parents that are busy trying to make ends meet.

Bell, who played with the Swift Current Wildcats in midget ‘AAA,’ said the kids loved having them around.

“It’s just an eye opener, to just see how much you smiling at them brightens up their whole day. You would just walk in, you’d give them a little wave, and then they’d just be smiling from ear to ear and they would look at their friends ‘I got a smile!’ and everything.”

Bell said she and other white people were referred to as mzungus, and that the children craved the attention.

“It’s so different over there, because their parents are obviously very stressed and trying to provide them with food and shelter and everything, and they’re always working. So they just come here, and even in the classroom they just do one thing and are like ‘teacher, teacher,’ and you’ll say ‘oh, good job, good job’ and then you’ll turn away and they’re like ‘oh, teacher, teacher!’ They’re just always so happy. for Bell and her Griffin teammates, after a five minute walk from where they were staying. After being greeted with hugs, they’d head into the mid sized, one lightbulb classroom with a blackboard and some makeshift desks, and go over some English.

Bell said they’d work on a handful of words a day, some colour, and the days of the week. The students would fill out their booklets and get stickers, before taking a break which was inside for watching a movie a couple times during their stay, as they hit rainy season.

After that they’d work on math until lunchtime.

“It is a full morning. It keeps you busy,” said Bell.

Education for the students stops once they’re eight years old, unless they’re sponsored, which is why Bell and her family decided to provide some financial backing to a girl named Precious.

“I just loved her from the first time seeing her,” Bell explained. “She was just so cute and had the biggest smile. She’s also very good at her school work, and she’s six and a half, so she is getting to that older age where you need to be sponsored, or her education will stop, and that kind of went into why I picked her. It was very, very tough to pick, that’s for sure.”

Karlie Bell (left) and her family sponsor Precious (right), who she met at the Hockey Hearts Orphanage

Bell and her teammates brought over Griffins jerseys for the kids, though hockey isn’t very high on the radar in the east African country.

“I don’t think they really understood, but we told them that these are our hockey jerseys. I don’t think they really cared, they just wanted to wear them.”

Now Bell is back in Saskatchewan, working as a summer student with the Credit Union in Cabri before she goes back to school for her third year. She’s in the commerce program, majoring in accounting and hoping to minor in finance.

When fall rolls around there’ll be a lot of focus on her studies, but also on hockey as the Griffins look for the three peat in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference. Their men’s team actually won their league the last two years as well, giving the university the distinction of being the first school in the ACAC to have both men’s and women’s win back to back titles in the same two years.

## ## Winning for a second straight season was something special for Bell, and now she’s used to being on the team every other team is looking out for.

“We got that target on our back again, but I think we strive under that, that pressure that we don’t want to settle for anything else.”

While the kids at the Hockey Hearts Orphanage may not be following the Griffs next season, they’re already sporting their jerseys and benefiting from some of the English and math lessons passed on from some of their players, including Bell.

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