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Many professional athletes establish charitable foundations. Some just want a tax break, but Detroit Tigers pitcher Matt Boyd and his wife, Ashley, wanted to see what they could do at street level in Uganda, where they have now established a nonprofit, Kingdom Home, housing 146 girls and boys ages 6 to 14. Typically born into poverty or abandoned to the streets, the children are among a group that human traffickers often target.
The Boyds’ involvement began with housemother Dorothy, who took in a group of girls who were being transported by van to a local brothel when police intervened. Dorothy’s husband died unexpectedly, and she sought support from Remember Nhu, a nonprofit that sponsors 103 homes sheltering at-risk children in 16 countries, including Uganda. Ashley Boyd had worked four years for Remember Nhu, named after a young Cambodian woman sold into sex slavery, and she knew founder Carl Ralston. Remember Nhu’s infrastructure was at maximum capacity, and Ralston couldn’t offer support to Dorothy’s home, but he brought the need to the Boyds.
Ashley already loved Uganda: She spent a summer there on a high-school exchange program, and Ugandan students lived with her family the following year. Matt was ready to get more involved in service: When he and I talked at spring training this year, Matt said he knew that “we need to spread the gospel. … That’s what we’re supposed to do as believers, … [not] staying comfortable in our bubble.”
So the Boyds started their own nonprofit to support Dorothy, getting Kingdom Home up and running during the summer of 2018. Ashley became executive director, drawing on her experience with Remember Nhu and mentorship from Ralston. To run an organization over 7,000 miles away, she relied on local knowledge from trusted Ugandan contacts, including the houseparents at three established Remember Nhu homes, plus friends from her high-school days who are now young professionals.
Last November, the Boyds visited Uganda for 10 days, landing in neighboring Nairobi, Kenya. Ashley, talking with me by phone, recalled driving through “countless small towns,” where she appreciated the chance to interact with the people: “It’s different from just flying over, where you get the bird’s eye view.” As they passed into Uganda, the lush foliage felt like “a tropical version of home” to Ashley, who grew up in the Pacific Northwest.
At Dorothy’s home, the girls charmed the Boyds with a welcome song they’d written for them. Ashley marveled at how supportive they were of one another, older girls helping the younger ones, with no sign of sisterly squabbles: “They aren’t living as victims or … as entitled. They were just extremely kind girls.” For mealtimes in an open courtyard in the center of the complex, the Boyds bought them a special gift: “They were all excited to have their own chairs,” says Ashley.
On the field, Matt Boyd had enough success in 2018 to quadruple his salary this season. With his baseball career helping to bring publicity, Kingdom Home accumulated a waiting list of sponsors, so in May it began supporting and managing Remember Nhu’s Ugandan homes. With four homes—three for girls, and one for boys—now operating on rental properties, Kingdom Home has raised funds to buy land with enough space for six homes. By spring 2020, the organization hopes to have at least one building complete and begin relocating existing homes.
The Boyds are excited about the project. Ashley, now pregnant with the couple’s second child (a boy due in late August), said Kingdom Home “has taken our heart—this is another baby for us. These are our girls.” Matt Boyd said, “If my big league career ended today, this is still going to go on, because God’s calling us to do this.”