Goodwill on a gap year

Sarah Turo-Shields fundraises to take a Ugandan mission trip after she graduates from Perry Meridian

Sarah Turo-Shields will leave for her Ugandan mission trip in August.

Sarah Turo-Shields has committed to attend Bellarmine University in Kentucky to study social justice and forensic psychology with a long-term goal of going into the Peace Corps. But first, she’s taking a year off from school and traveling across the globe to go on a mission trip to Uganda.

“I love helping other people,” she said. “Going to Africa is definitely going to help me mature and grow and be more open to ideas as I come back and go to college.”

Turo-Shields is graduating from Perry Meridian High School, with its commencement on May 26.

Through St. Barnabas Catholic Church, she has gone on a mission trip every year, active in the youth ministry since middle school.

“My first mission trip was terrifying,” she said. “There were about 30 teens and I knew none of them. I was working in New Mexico. It was a beautiful place. I loved the people. But I didn’t fit in with the group I was with. It was hard to get a good feel for it. When I came back, I told my mom I would never do it again.”

The lady in charge of the trips kept reaching out to her, so Turo-Shields decided to try one more mission, again to New Mexico.

“The second time was different,” she said. “I loved it. We worked more with the children the first time and we had a sports club, a bible club. The second time we did more construction. We worked on these one-room houses. While we were doing that, the family that would be living there was hanging out, watching us. It was cool to hear their story. The second time was what pushed me to keep going.”

Turo-Shields on a past mission trip.

When Turo-Shields was in sixth grade, she heard Sherry Meyer speak. Meyer has been a Comboni Missionary for 25 years. Turo-Shields said she told her mom she wanted to go on a trip there with Meyer, but her mother told her to wait until she finishes high school before making any plans.

“Sherry came back this past year, the summer going into my senior year, and I reached out to her,” Turo-Shields said. She decided she would take a year off after high school to take the trip to Uganda where she will work for the Media Center of Radio Pacis, magazine, be a midwife and work with her uncle in his organization, Turo Foundation, building wells across Africa. Meyer has encouraged Turo-Shields to try different things while she’s there, to see first-hand what suits her talents best.

“I’m going to experience their community and experience their culture,” she said. “I’ll just be fitting into their community and working alongside of them. It’s interesting because we always talk about how money makes the world go round. But these people live with basically nothing and they’re happy, content. I hope this (upcoming Uganda) trip humbles me.”

Having a little fun on a past mission trip.

Turo-Shields has been working to fundraise for the trip, with a goal to raise $5,484. She has also been saving her own money with her job at Penn Station. She has a page set up at gofundme.com/gap-year-to-arua-uganda. She will host a fundraiser at Firehouse Subs, Greenwood, on June 1, handing out fliers. Anyone with her flier or who mentions they’re there for her cause, 20 percent of their purchase will go to her trip.

This will be her first mission trip outside of the U.S. She’s planning to pack minimally, and isn’t bringing her phone, only taking her laptop for communication with her family. Before she leaves, she will go on one more two-week mission this summer to Montana working in construction.

“This year has flown by,” she said. “I’m waiting for the summer to fly by. I’m ready. I feel like I’ve be scared but it’s a good type of scared.”