Caitie Goddard: Former Titan standout travels globe serving less fortunate

When Medi, a three-year-old from the Ugandan village of Bluenga, met Caitie Goddard, he didn't know what to think.Medi didn't speak any English, and was confused and frightened by the strange "mzungu" (white foreigner) who came to visit him every day.

As a result, he kept to himself and was one of the quietest children at the orphanage where Goddard, a UDM graduate, worked.

"Every time I tried to talk to him or give him a hug he just had no expression at all," she said.

Nine weeks later, he had changed.

"By the time I left, anytime I would pick up one of the other kids, he would pull on their legs because he wanted me to pick him up instead," she said. "Every time he would see me he would give me the biggest smile. I was really excited about that."

The fact that Medi grew to love Goddard doesn't surprise Katie Solner, current women's basketball graduate assistant. The two were roommates all four years at UDM, and reconnected at Sunday's home opener at Calihan Hall.

"She's always had a great drive," Solner said. "She is very energetic and is one of the kindest, hardest working people I've ever met."

Goddard showed that energy every day in practice and on the court as part of the women's basketball team from 2002-06, said Solner. Goddard earned Horizon League All-Newcomer Team honors in the 2002-2003 campaign, and led the Titans to the Horizon League championship game in her sophomore season.

Goddard and Solner are tied for seventh all-time in three-point field-goal percentage. Solner claims Goddard is the better player, citing the fact that she would play any position and do whatever it took to win.

Despite Goddard's accomplishments, Solner will always remember a less flattering moment from her best friend's playing career.

"Our freshman year, coach yelled, 'You're in!' So she got up and sprinted to the scorer's table, but she slipped on a towel and fell flat on her face," she said.

Nearly eight years later, Goddard is standing tall by using the same excitement and passion she displayed on the floor of Calihan Hall to help others.

She recently returned from a nine-week service trip to Uganda, and is preparing to head to New Zealand for a year to work with the Global Volunteer Network.

"I really wanted to see more of the world," she said of her decision to go to Africa as part of The Real Uganda, a grassroots organization that helps the poor of south central and western Uganda. "I just think that I've been incredibly blessed and I figured one of the places to see how much I really had and how much I could help others would be Africa."

For over two months, Goddard stayed in the small village of Bulenga. She said she lived the best out of anyone in the village, but still rarely had running water or electricity.

She spent her afternoons working at an orphanage and also traveled to various communities doing HIV awareness with women whose husbands had already died of AIDS. The hardest part was working with the children whose parents did not have the money or knowledge to take care of them, she said.

"Twice I had to take children to the clinic because they had malaria," she said. "When I got there I realized their temperature was 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), which is brain damage level. This is the standard; it's something that just happens. Knowing this was completely preventable was hard."

Still, Goddard experienced some satisfying moments as well.

In her final weeks, she took a white water rafting trip down the Nile River with fellow volunteers. She didn't have any prior experience rafting, but still had a lot of fun and considers herself fortunate to have experienced a once-in-a-lifetime activity.

"I got to go to the source of the Nile River; that's pretty incredible," she said.

Goddard believes that her basketball career at UDM helped prepare her for Uganda by teaching her how to manage time and how to deal with stress. In addition, it taught her the value of others.

"I learned about working with other people, knowing that you definitely can't do anything by yourself," she said.

Goddard said that her message for current student-athletes would be to appreciate their time at UDM, but to put everything into perspective.

"There are always going to be tough times, but just don't be too hard on yourself because there are always bigger things," she said.

Solner is proud of her former teammate.

"She's always been a leader, and now she's grown into her own," she said. "She was passionate about basketball, and now that she's realized her passion for world issues, there's really no stopping her.