Top Professional Basketball Players Join Initiative

Darfur Dream Team Launches Sister Schools Program To Educate Students in Refugee Camps

March 18, 2009 (Washington, D.C.) — Basketball stars Tracy McGrady, Derek Fisher, Baron Davis, Luol Deng, Etan Thomas, and Jermaine O'Neal have joined together to announce the launch of the Darfur Dream Team’s Sister Schools Program. As part of the program, the players will work with U.S. schools to raise awareness about the crisis in Darfur and money for Darfuri refugee camp schools. The Sister Schools Program links American middle schools, high schools, and universities with schools in Darfuri refugee camps in eastern Chad. U.S sister schools will raise funds to improve the education of their Darfuri peers through the construction and rehabilitation of school buildings as well as providing teacher training, sports equipment, and other school supplies. The program will also foster cross-cultural relationships and mutual understanding between U.S. and Darfuri refugee students through letter exchanges and video blogging.

The Darfur Dream Team is a dynamic partnership involving professional basketball players; the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); the Enough Project; Participant Media’s Darfur Now Social Action Campaign; TakePart, the Education Partnership for Children in Conflict, co-founded by Angelina Jolie and Gene Sperling; Facing History and Ourselves; and i-ACT. The partnership will expand to include additional professional basketball players.

The Sister Schools Program was conceptualized following Houston Rockets star Tracy McGrady’s trip to Darfuri refugee camps in Chad with John Prendergast and Omer Ismail of the Enough Project. McGrady’s journey is chronicled in the documentary film, 3 Points. In 3 Points McGrady says, “I just imagined this could be us. What if the roles were reversed? This is not a joke, this is not a game. This is real.” Following the trip McGrady spoke at his high school in Florida about the crisis and the importance of the Sister Schools Program, saying “I want to challenge you to help these kids get an education and help them better themselves. They want books, they want to be educated.” Already, more than 100 U.S. schools have signed up to participate in the program.

McGrady has since reached out to other professional basketball players who have made addressing the crisis in Darfur a priority. Derek Fisher of the Los Angeles Lakers said, “When I first heard about the crisis in Darfur, I wanted to find some way that I could contribute that would not only help the survivors of the war, but also raise awareness of what is happening there.” Baron Davis added that watching “3 Points,” showed him how influential the program could be. “I was blown away by what the Darfur Dream Team could accomplish,” Davis said. “We have a chance to dramatically improve the lives of young people from Darfur, and help educate young people here in the United States about issues beyond our neighborhood.”

The Sister Schools Program‘s web site, www.darfurdreamteam.org, includes an itemized registry that allows schools, basketball players and their teams, companies, and the general public to see the resources and supplies needed by Darfuri refugee camp schools and donate toward items of their choice. Items needed range from textbooks to teacher training to sports equipment; individuals can even donate toward the actual construction of school buildings in the camps. “Anyone can get involved and make an immediate difference in the lives of young refugees from Darfur,” said John Prendergast. Select basketball players will work with their teammates to adopt one or more schools in Darfuri refugee camps. Other players will recruit U.S. high schools and colleges to become sister schools to refugee camp schools.

For more information about the Darfur Dream Team’s Sister Schools Program, see www.darfurdreamteam.org or contact Stella Kenyi at skenyi@enoughproject.org.

The Darfur Dream Team’s Sister Schools Program links American middle schools, high schools, and universities with schools in the Darfuri refugee camps in eastern Chad. U.S sister schools will raise funds to improve the education of their Darfuri peers through the construction and rehabilitation of school buildings and by providing supplies, sports equipment, and teacher training. The program will also foster cross-cultural relationships and mutual understanding between U.S. and Darfuri refugee students through letter exchanges and video blogging. The Sister Schools Program is a dynamic partnership involving professional basketball stars Tracy McGrady, Derek Fisher, Baron Davis, Luol Deng, Etan Thomas, and Jermaine O'Neal; United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); the Enough Project; Participant Media; TakePart; Education Partnership for Children in Conflict, co-founded by Angelina Jolie and Gene Sperling; Facing History and Ourselves; and i-ACT. The partnership will expand to include additional professional basketball players. More than 100 U.S. schools have signed up to participate in the program.