Carlee McDonald Bypasses Job, Finds Unexpected Purpose


By Abby Boone, Swimming World College Intern

Most student-athletes graduate from college and begin looking for a steady job, but one Sunshine State swimmer did just the opposite. After swimming for four years and graduating from Florida Southern College with a degree in education, Carlee McDonald quit her job at a local elementary school, turned down an offer for a fulltime teaching position, and took a position as an intern for the Daraja Children’s Choir of Africa.

The Daraja Children’s Choir is a group of children from Kenya and Uganda who tour across the US, leading worship at churches, schools and events. The choir started in 2007, and has traveled across the globe to touch the lives of thousands of people.

McDonald first heard about Daraja in 2010 when the choir came to her hometown church. Her family hosted three Kenyan girls while they were in town and McDonald fell in love with both the girls and the program.

“When I first met Daraja I immediately knew I was drawn to this ministry. My passions for my faith, missions and kids were all combined into one,” McDonald said. “The idea of interning for something like this had been in the back of my mind my whole college career.”

Still, she had some goals to reach before she could apply for an internship. McDonald planned on graduating from Florida Southern College, a school she came to in order to swim. Swimming was still a big part of the picture for her.

In order to complete her hours as a teaching assistant and to swim, McDonald practiced before the rest of the team in the morning and after the team at night. She was often alone in the pool, but she never quit. She loved the time she did get with her teammates and knew she should enjoy her final months as a competitive swimmer.

“I was still pretty focused on swimming,” McDonald said. “I wanted to finish strong. I was just trusting God would open doors for the next season of my life and I wasn’t too worried about my career.”

Finding a career worked out. Soon after finishing her swim career, McDonald headed to Africa for a mission trip. It was there that she discovered she would be able to intern with the Daraja Children’s Choir, even though it meant doing some other things differently than she planned.

“In order to intern with Daraja, I put my graduate studies (master’s in education) on hold and also chose not to start a teaching career right after graduating,” McDonald said. “I never saw myself making major career sacrifices, but God has been so faithful throughout this season of my life- through his provision and leading me every step of the way. There’s no place I’d rather be right now.”

McDonald will spend a total of seven months with the choir’s children while they are in the US, as well as traveling to and from Africa with the group. She and other interns help care for the 23 children, making sure they have everything they need on the road and also helping run the sound system and sponsorship program for the choir. McDonald also helps with teaching the children during the day (putting her degree to good use) and loves getting to teach them how to swim, something none of them knew before their trip.

When asked how swimming changed her and helped prepare her for the internship, she laughed.

“On tour, we have very early mornings and late nights. I am a morning person due to those 5 a.m. practices my four years in college.”

For more information about Daraja, visit their blog or follow them on twitter @DarajaChoir

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