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Seeking to Make a Difference

October 30, 2012
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Natalie Barr in Uganda.

Below is a feature article written by Dwayne Groff, a graduate assistant in the Liberty University Athletics Communications Office on midfielder Natalie Barr, a freshman from Lurgan, Northern Ireland. The article first appeared in the Oct. 20 issue of Flames Illustrated, the official program for the Concord at Liberty football game.

Each one of us has been given opportunities to make a difference in the lives of those who are less fortunate than we are. What we do with those opportunities is up to us. Do we see needs, but look the other way and ignore them, or do we seek to use the gifts and resources we have been given to be ministers of Christ's love to those who are in need? In the case of Liberty field hockey standout Natalie Barr, she has chosen to make a difference.

Barr, a Lurgan, Northern Ireland native, has played an instrumental role in the Lady Flames' historic season thus far. Liberty finished the regular season with a 14-5 record overall (7-1 NorPac) and captured the NorPac East Division title in just its first season of competition in the conference. Barr concluded the regular season with a team-best 14 goals and seven assists. She earned the conference's Offensive Player of the Week honor on three separate occasions and the Rookie of the Week award once.

Not only is she making a difference on the field for the Lady Flames this season, but Barr's desire to be an agent of change also extends to the African country of Uganda. In 2008, Barr and her family traveled to Uganda, and what they witnessed there changed their lives.

"The trip really impacted us as a family as we saw the overwhelming need for health services and educational opportunities for children," commented Barr.

The trip had an especially big impact on Barr's late sister, Charlene. Charlene Barr was born with cystic fibrosis and was not able to compete in sports while growing up, but that didn't stop her from trying. She became an honorary member of her school's field hockey team and served as a great inspiration to her teammates. While in Uganda, Charlene saw children who would not have survived if they suffered from the same disease she did, let alone have the same opportunities to be around field hockey and attend school.

A few months after returning from Uganda, Charlene's health severely deteriorated and she had to drop out of her last year of school. She decided to devote the time that she would have spent in school to raising money to build a school in Uganda. This process started the charity Charlene's Project.

Since Charlene's passing, Barr and her family have carried on the vision of Charlene's Project. The charity raised enough money to build its first school, Hidden Treasure, which opened early in 2011. A second school is currently in the process of being built.

Since she was a child, Barr has wanted to become a teacher after completing school, but it was during her first trip to Uganda that she knew she was called to teach. "While I was in Uganda, I really felt that God was calling me to become an elementary teacher and to give back and help the people there," stated Barr. She saw the impact that education, health services and field hockey can have on children and even an entire community. The Barrs have been back to Hidden Treasure and have conducted field hockey camps and supplied a great deal of donated equipment to the children of the area.

Barr, in an effort to raise money for Hidden Treasure, entered a competition called "How to Make Your Mark on This World." The winner of the competition received a donation of 15,000 pounds toward their work. She submitted a 90-second video detailing the work that her sister had started and how she wanted to continue that work in Uganda. She also included how she wanted to become a teacher and how she planned to use field hockey as a way to make a difference in the community there. 

Liberty Field Hockey Head Coach Jodi Murphy, who has also spent time in Uganda through her non-profit organization Pathfinder Hockey, saw the video and contacted Barr about coming to Lynchburg and joining the Lady Flames. "She told me that it was not only the shared love for God and field hockey that has brought us together, but also our love for Uganda," said Barr. "When I first heard about coming to America to play field hockey, I wasn't really interested in it because I knew that I wanted to go to Uganda and teach. It was Coach Murphy's link with Uganda that really got me interested in coming here."

Barr came on an official visit last Easter and enjoyed the atmosphere at Liberty. She committed to joining the Lady Flames over the summer and arrived in Lynchburg in August. "It's been amazing to see how everything has worked out and how God has orchestrated a plan for me to be here and also to have an impact in Uganda," commented Barr.

For the remainder of the 2012 field hockey season, Barr will continue to have an impact on the field for the Lady Flames as they compete in the NorPac tournament this weekend. She knows that she has been called to make a difference not only on the field hockey field at Liberty, but also to use her gifts and talents to help change the lives of children in Uganda.