Since his arrival in April, Edouard Ndecky has already made an impact on the city of Oneonta. Whether volunteering at the local day care, attending Lester Memorial United Methodist Church, or training at the gym, Ndecky has settled into what he now refers to as “his home.”
The 25-year-old from Kaolack, Senegal, West Africa, first met Oneonta native Anna Goode, 24, in July 2010 while she was serving as a missionary.
The duo bonded over sporting events during their initial meeting, kept in contact through Facebook and Skype, and were married two years later in Senegal.
With excitement to meet her family and friends back in Alabama, the couple took a break from mission work and traveled to America. Although it was Ndecky’s first time in the United States, it didn’t take him long to fit right in.
He was already fluent in English – he also speaks French, Creole, Portuguese, Spanish, and Wolof, a Senegal tribal language.
“At first all I could say in English was, ‘How are you?’,‘Fine’,‘Thanks’, but when Anna and I would message each other I would use Google translate to learn,” Ndecky said, who traveled to the States with a visitor’s visa.
He also was familiar with the United Methodist Church. His father was a United Methodist preacher in a country that is 95-percent Muslim. Ndecky says when he first visited Lester Memorial he was excited to see how the church differed from the one he was used to, but despite the differences between the churches and the cultures, he immediately began volunteering.
At the Lovelady Center, he volunteered from April until August and went on to serve with the Lester Memorial United Methodist Church Child Development Center’s after-school program three days out of the week. He’s also visited the the church’s day care where he played his drum for the students and talked to them about using what you have to make toys rather than buying them at the store.
“We learned later that a kindergarten student who was at the day care brought a juice bottle top to show-and-tell and explained how he used that as a toy,” Ndecky said.“The next week three more kids came in with a bottle top.”
He also teaches them origami, coin tosses, and other games and activities to play with what they already have.
“I’m so thankful to those who allowed me to speak with the kids and volunteer,” Ndecky said. “It’s given me a great opportunity.”
In addition to his selfless volunteering, another aspect of Ndecky’s life makes him special – he’s an Olympian.
He began running track and field in 2005 and qualified for the Senegal National Team at only 17 years old.
He’s won numerous medals, competed in the World Championships in Poland, and trained in France. Ndecky qualified for the Olympics in 2012, but due to him being the only Christian on the team, was not chosen.
“I was really discouraged to continue, but, thanks to Anna, I’ve started training again and hope to go to the 2016 Olympics in Brazil,” he said.
Ndecky and Goode will return to Senegal in 2015, but Ndecky says he knows he will miss the city that has welcomed him with open arms.
“The United States is a school,” he said.“It’s a school where I can learn everything and have opportunities and gain experience. I thank God for this, and I hope I can bring back the things I have learned here and impact my country when I return. I’m thankful for everyone who befriended me and for their outpouring of love and kindness, such as Joe and Cindy Hastings and Keith and Beverly Anderson, who all have treated me like a son. Lester Memorial has been wonderful, and I will miss Oneonta when I go back to Senegal. If I had to choose anywhere to live – it would be in this city.”