A difference-maker in more ways than one

Mbah a Moute yearns to help in homeland

By Truman Reed
12/21/10

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute

As one of Cameroon's princes, Luc has a burning desire to help the people of his homeland in whatever ways he can.

The Milwaukee Bucks paid their annual visit to Children's Hospital of Wisconsin recently, doing whatever they could to lift the spirits of patients from the MACC Fund Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders and their families.

Like his teammates, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute approached the experience with a sense of compassion and came away with an even deeper one.

"When we visited, we saw little kids who had cancer, and some of them are really struggling with that," Mbah a Moute said. "It's really sad."

At the same time, no one could blame Mbah a Moute if his thoughts drifted back to his homeland of Cameroon, Africa, where far more children are suffering and few benefit from the advanced training of the doctors and the high-tech, state-of-the-art medical care we have in the United States.

"Yeah, it's definitely a lot different in Cameroon," Mbah a Moute said. "It wasn't until, 2000, I think, that we had a hospital that was kind of like a children's hospital. We had a general hospital that had an area where the kids were. And in terms of materials and equipment that they have here, you walk in the room and there would be one kid in a room, with a TV.

"In Cameroon, there was one big room with a lot of kids, unless you'd go to a nicer hospital where they gave you your own rooms. Those were a lot more expensive, for people who have money."

The technology in the hospitals worlds apart is dramatically different, too.

"Cameroon is a third-world country, so the infrastructure and the medical equipment aren't state-of-the-art," Mbah a Moute said. "They have old stuff. A lot of people are poor, and with the economy going bad, they can't afford the medicine and treatment they need."

Mbah a Moute said the scenes outside Cameroon's hospitals offer a stark contrast to those in Milwaukee.

"When you go to the hospitals there (in Cameroon), you see people outside the hospital, pretty much dying, because they can't afford to pay to see a doctor or pay for the medicine they need," he said. "So it's really tough, when you think about how the kids -- or anybody, really -- are sick and struggling in countries like Cameroon and others nearby."

Those individuals needing medical care who live outside the urban areas of Cameroon and its bordering countries have an extremely difficult time getting the care they need.

"Definitely," Mbah a Moute said. "It's hard. A lot of people in small towns and villages won't find anything. You have to go to the capital or the major cities, or go all the way to Cairo, to find decent hospitals.

"And when you get there, it costs a lot of money."

Since his arrival in the National Basketball Association in 2008, Mbah a Moute has been considered a difference-maker.

He immediately impressed Bucks Head Coach Scott Skiles and the rest of the team's coaching staff with his defensive prowess.

He began drawing the assignment of guarding the most prolific scorers on opposing teams - forwards and guards - much earlier than most players do.

He has also been a difference-maker for the intense manner in which he studies the game, picks up its nuances and does everything he can to make himself a better player.

Mbah a Moute hopes he can continue to be a difference-maker in the NBA for many years. But he wants to be a difference-maker in another respect far beyond his career in professional basketball.

Luc is already a prince in his Cameroon village of Bafia (Bia Messe), where his father, Camille Moute a Bidias, is the village chief and a high-ranking government official. He manages Cameroon's National Employment Fund, a national training and job-placement agency.

As one of Cameroon's princes, Luc has a burning desire to help the people of his homeland in whatever ways he can.

"Hopefully I'll have a long and successful career so that I can invest and do something after I've retired, similar to what (Dikembe) Mutombo has done," Mbah a Moute said. "It's not just building hospitals, but working with the government and trying to help put the materials and medicine where people need it.

"We have the hospitals; it's what's inside the hospitals that matters. In some parts of the country, you'll find materials and equipment that's 20, 25 years old. It's stuff that's not even used anymore. There's so much new and better technology that evolves every day that can save lives. But they don't see it there because they don't have the money."

Mbah a Moute hopes to see relief agencies pitch in, too.

"I haven't made any connections, but I definitely know of organizations back home that are trying to help people," he said. "You try to help when you can.

"Hopefully, later on in my career, I'll be able to help out some hospital or company that can send the materials and medicine to the people who really need it."

Mbah a Moute is grateful that the NBA has reached out to help Africa with programs such as Basketball Without Borders and NBA Cares.

Once a camper at the forerunner to the Basketball Without Borders program, Mbah a Moute has become a counselor at the camps and plans to be a fixture at them for years to come.

"I think they had something called, `Save a Life with the NBA,'" he said. "I know they've been active. Hopefully when I'm ready to do something, the NBA will be able to do something as far as helping me out. I think that would be great.

"Having another outreach of basketball, like Basketball Without Borders or NBA Cares, would be great, too."

From the minds of difference-makers come great things.