April 2, 2009

Lehigh's MacIntyre Keeps Orphans at Heart

by Andy Krauss | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

Lehigh women's lacrosse player Sara MacIntyre's work in Tanzania last summer included stints teaching grade school-aged students and at an orphanage.

The Lehigh women's lacrosse team is on a roll.  The Leopards' 11-6 win at Drexel was their sixth in a row and pushed their record to 8-3 on the season.  The win streak is the team's longest since 1985.

Right at the heart of Lehigh's lacrosse renaissance has been senior attacker Sara MacIntyre, just as she has been for her four years in Bethlehem. MacIntyre has now scored 139 goals in her career, ranking her fifth all-time in school history. Prior to her arrival at Lehigh, the Mountain Hawks hadn't had a winning record since 1996.

As successful as she has been on the lacrosse field, MacIntyre has proven that she is no one-trick pony. The finance major has also fared well in the classroom as a member of the PL Academic Honor Roll.

However, last summer, MacIntyre had the opportunity to do something very special and put the "extra" in extracurricular.  She raised $6,000 from her family, friends and school organizations to spend two months volunteering in Boma Ng'ombe, Tanzania, teaching African children and touching their lives.

During the first month, MacIntyre taught at the Shilela Academy, where she worked with classes of 30-40 children, who spoke both English and Swahili.  She taught children ranging from first to sixth grade in classrooms that were surrounded by cement walls and floors.

MacIntyre then spent the next month working at an orphanage, the Kilimanjaro Children's Joy Foundation, where she worked with 7-year-olds in small rooms.

The conditions were less than desirable and sobering for MacIntyre, especially when she discovered bathrooms that were nothing more than holes in the ground.  "It's crazy to know that stuff like this is still going on in the world," she said.

At the orphanage, MacIntyre became particularly close to a family of three children: Daniel, Samweli, Helga.  She tells the heart-wrenching story of how their house burnt down, father fled the family and mother who struggled to support them.

"I really had a soft spot in my heart for them," said MacIntyre. "It was hard to see them go from such a great life to living in the orphanage." Samweli drew a picture of his family for MacIntyre, which she keeps near. She hopes to hear from them again soon.

Eight months after MacIntyre left Africa, the lessons she taught herself have translated to the lacrosse field.

"I've learned how important it is to see the big picture," said MacIntyre.  "The struggle that I saw over there for food and education makes me work harder for everything.  When you stick with something long enough, your luck will change."

"Sara is clearly a role model," said head coach Jill Redfern. "She exemplifies the fact that anyone can come here and excel inside and outside of lacrosse. Sara has always been motivated to have an impact outside of the lacrosse world. We'll really miss her next year."

MacIntyre's next order of business is to lead the Mountain Hawks to a Patriot League title before she graduates, but after that, she hopes to stay at Lehigh and get her master's degree in public policy, while concurrently working with a local non-profit organization. In the not so distant future, she's also thinking about a stint with the Peace Corps.

Lehigh's loss will be the Peace Corps' gain.

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