Living in the United States is something that most college kids take for granted, but that certainly is not the case for men's soccer sophomore Kennedy Ndamba. Every day he lives on American soil is a great day, and he appreciates and values the opportunity he had to come to the United States when he was in middle school.
"The best part of living in the US is the freedom that everyone has, the endless opportunities and the security that protects us all," said Ndamba, who appeared in nine matches for Merrimack as a freshman in 2010.
Uganda is one of three countries that make up East Africa. It is a struggling country with an unstable government. Ndamba was born in a village named Mbarara and then moved to Rwanda when he was still a child. He lost his father during the genocides in Rwanda, and in order to survive he and his family relocated to Uganda to live with his grandmother.
Growing up in Uganda was no easy task for this soccer standout.
"I struggled as a child, as did my relatives and all the other poor kids," Ndamba recalls.
Waking up at 5:30 a.m. to get ready for school in total darkness was an everyday task. So was eating leftovers from the night before for breakfast and walking four miles to school barefooted, scared each and every day about what may happen on the walk because of the stories he heard about children getting kidnapped on a daily basis.
"Life in Uganda was as low as it can get with no power or running water, which meant we had to fetch water from wells three miles away from our home every day after school," Ndamba recalls.
Soccer was the one thing that helped Ndamba get through the tough times and eventually led him to North Andover.
"During my time in Uganda I played soccer barefooted, but it was a fun release from life regardless of the endless injuries I used to get."
In 2000, Ndamba's mother opted for a better life for her family so she moved to the United States by herself and left her children with her mother in the small village of Kasange. When arriving in the United States, she was directed to the Freedom House in Detroit, which is a temporary home for survivors of persecution around the world seeking legal shelter within the United States.
Once she was settled, she worked tirelessly to help pay for her children's schooling costs in Uganda and ultimately was able to relocate her children to the United States in 2005.
"I always dreamed of coming to the U.S., and I had this unrealistic imagination of this country in my head, given the fact that I had never seen it before since we didn't have a television," said Ndamba. "Without my family it would have been impossible for me to come here. It was all due to the hardest-working mother in the world. She made it possible for me and my siblings."
Coming to the United States in 2005 was a major adjustment for Ndamba and his siblings.
"The biggest challenge was adjusting to the American way of life", he recalled. "I struggled to polish my English, and the finances were tough to get used to."
It took him about a year to fully adapt to the American way of life. His middle school in Southgate, Michigan had teachers that helped him assimilate to the new culture and improve his English. He still is in contact with all of his middle school teachers because they were more than just teachers to him; they were all his friends.
In 2007, Ndamba and his family relocated to Cincinnati because of a job opportunity for his mother. In Cincinnati, he went to a high school called Finneytown, where he was the captain of the soccer and track teams for two years, and also ran cross country his senior year. He also worked as a soccer referee to help his family pay the bills. But when times got tough in Cincinnati, Ndamba's mom asked her children to find schools around Boston to attend because she was being relocated once again.
Thanks to Google and some outstanding campus tours, Ndamba decided that Merrimack was the school for him. The small school, great education and possibility to play Division II soccer were enough of an incentive for Ndamba to become a Warrior.
The 8,000 mile journey to Merrimack has been long and grueling, but Ndamba would not trade it for the world.
"Merrimack was perfect for me as I could find my way around, it has great academics and I was able to keep my soccer dreams alive," said Ndamba.
If his soccer dreams do not go anywhere after graduating from Merrimack, Ndamba will surely have a chance to make a difference in the workplace with the knowledge and education he gained at Merrimack.