Savanna Kandiko, holding soccer ball at center, with some of the boys she worked with earlier this year at the Boys’ Reformation Program at Light & Salt Ministries in Nicaragua. Photo courtesy of Savanna Kandiko

MADISON — With her experience coaching soccer at Madison Area Memorial High School, Savanna Kandiko felt comfortable taking on a similar role in a far different setting — at a Nicaraguan school for boys where she worked as part of an 11-month missionary trip.

Savanna Kandiko with her World Race cake in July at a send-off party held at her Madison church, Christ Community Fellowship. Photo courtesy of Savanna Kandiko

In fact, the location of the boys’ school, in Ciudad Dario in the western part of Nicaragua, has been Kandiko’s favorite spot so far during her missionary work overseas.

Kandiko and others she’s working with have since moved on to Ecuador, where they arrived Nov. 12.

But her journey began back in January when Kandiko announced that she was embarking on the missionary trip with a program called the World Race, run by a Georgia-based organization named Adventures in Missions. She ultimately will travel to about a dozen countries. Kandiko was designated a team leader for her group so she’s responsible for coordinating with their contacts in the countries before they arrive.

Her adventure began in August where she spends a few weeks in a country before moving on to the next and pursuing a community service project in each location. Some of the other countries she’s visited are Costa Rica and Colombia. In the coming months, she will see India, South Africa and more, although the ongoing coronavirus pandemic could disrupt travel plans.

It’s a whirlwind trip for a woman with deep roots in the Madison area.

Kandiko became a teacher at Madison Junior High starting in the 2017-2018 school year. She teaches sixth- and seventh-grade social studies. “It was such a blessing to be able to begin my career in my hometown where I was an alumni of the district,” she said.

“Teaching has been a path that has allowed me to live out my desire to work with youth and teens to learn life lessons and encourage their worthwhile also teaching them an academic thing or two along the way,” Kandiko said by email.

She went on to become the junior varsity softball coach for Madison Area Memorial High School and coached soccer at the high school as well. She also coached softball at the junior high, allowing her to coach the students she was teaching.

“My favorite thing about coaching is that it’s such a great opportunity to shower a little extra love onto the athletes and to bring the comparisons between sports and life to light,” Kandiko said.

She expressed appreciation for school district administrators who approved a leave of absence that allowed her to pursue the World Race.

“She’s one of those teachers you know is teaching with a greater purpose,” said Tobin Curtis, pastor of Christ Community Fellowship in Madison, which is the church Kandiko has attended for years. “I believe this is exactly what God created her for.”

Kandiko is someone who “doesn’t lead from the back, she leads from the front. If she’s going to do something, she’s 100% in,” Curtis said.

Kandiko says one lesson she’s learned abroad is that “a smiling face and a helping hand really do go a long way.”

“Although there are often language barriers to verbally communicate with the people we encounter, every kind gesture and eye contact is translated as positivity and friendliness,” she said.

Savanna Kandiko with Cristhian and Jaret, two boys she worked with at Light & Salt Ministries in Nicaragua. Photo courtesy of Savanna Kandiko

Participating in the World Race doesn’t come cheap. The cost for flights, food, travel and lodging has come to around $18,700. But her fundraising efforts have brought in nearly $20,000. The remaining money goes toward gear, attire, daily expenses and essentials.

Those who are interested in following Kandiko’s journey can read her blog on the World Race’s website or follow her on Instagram. She also accepts monetary donations for her trip via Venmo (@savannakandiko) or checks that can be made out to Christ Community Fellowship of Madison.


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