My Trip to South Africa - Basketball Without Borders 2008
There is Jamahl (left) and I (right). View our full PHOTO GALLERY from the BWB-South Africa trip.
Our first day was a free day so we decided, along with former Nugget and current Assistant Coach of the Milwaukee Bucks, Joe Wolf, to go to the Lion and Rhino park. Once we made it to the park, we were all so fascinated by the amount of animals intermingling with each other. We saw ostriches, antelope, zebras, hogs and even rhinos hanging out in the same areas. They seemed to all get along with one another, which was comforting considering we were all pretty careful while being in our van out in the wild. We then drove through the lion area, which was incredible. We made it to within about four feet of the lions and couldn't believe our eyes. We finished off the tour playing with the cubs in their playpen, and petting our friend, the cheetah. I think we all agreed that it was one of the most amazing days of our lives.
The next day was the first day of the basketball clinic. It was great to meet all the campers. They were all so excited to work hard and soak up the information that the NBA coaches and players were giving them. As we got to know the campers better it was very interesting learning where they were from and their journey to get to Johannesburg. Most are from very poor areas and they look at basketball and education as their only way out. All of the campers goals included coming to school in the U.S. for a better opportunity.
Later that afternoon we conducted a Special Olympics Clinic, which was fantastic. We taught children all the basic basketball skills. My specific group was in charge of the fundamentals of passing. In just a couple hours, we saw a drastic improvement in the children's level of play. After we finished the Special Olympics Clinic we went back to the hotel to have dinner with the rest of the NBA staff and personnel, then headed off to bed for some much needed rest. Everyone was excited about the camp and the Habitat for Humanity Build that was planned for the following day.
Friday came around very quickly, and after conducting the basketball clinic in the morning, all the coaches, players and guests were off to the Orange Farm Township for the BWB Legacy Project, a Habitat for Humanity Build. They split us up into three different groups for the goal of building three different houses for families to live in. This project was not only fun, it instilled the values of leadership, teamwork and hard work into all of the builders. It was also very rewarding because we were able to meet the families that were going to be living in the houses we were building. It was a terrific project, and a great day. At this point the camp was really going full throttle and the positivity surrounding everyone's attitudes was remarkable.
Little did we know that after waking up on Saturday morning, we were about to have a day that we would never forget. We started the day off with our basketball skills stations. I was assigned to help B.J. Johnson of the Houston Rockets. We went over shooting with the campers and it was miraculous to see the level of play rise so much in just a few days.
Later on that day we visited the Soweto Kliptown Youth Trust (SKY www.sky-foundation.org). It's a township where 45,000 people live with little infrastructure and a very high unemployment rate. We toured the town and watched different groups of children perform their tribal dances. Every group did a great job with their dancing and they even grabbed NBA player, and former Nugget, Dikembe Mutombo, to join in on the action! We then had some time to interact with the children and learn more about what it's like living in this township. That was the most moving part because you realize that these children are very special. They are truly gifted in many different artistic ways (painting, drawing, dancing, etc.), but they don't have the infrastructure or resources to grow. Most of them have lost either one or both parents to different diseases, including AIDS. This was very emotional for all the guests and the topic of conversation the next few hours was looking for ways to help give back to SKY Trust once we get back to our everyday lives.
Sunday was sadly our last day on the trip. We had our final team games and then the All-Star games. It was a perfect end to the trip because we had some free time to hang out with the campers and reflect on the incredible experience we had just taken part in. The common theme among all the NBA coaches and players was how lucky we are to just have water, food, clothes and a roof over our heads. It makes you appreciate the simple things in life so much more and you start to not care about cell phones or televisions and other things we take for granted in our current lives.
It's amazing to look back and reflect on how this trip has affected me. For instance, I was stuck in LaGuardia Airport (New York City) for about eight hours after my 17-hour flight from Johannesburg back to America. Before this trip to Africa, I know I would've been antsy and frustrated with the long delay. However, during my eight-hour delay, the thought or feeling of frustration didn't even cross my mind. Looking back, I realize that frustration isn't sitting in an airport impatiently while waiting for a flight; frustration is having all the potential in the world and very little opportunity to reach that potential because you're living in a town stricken with poverty and HIV. Sadly enough, that is reality for the 45,000 residents of Kliptown that I was fortunate to cross paths with just days earlier.
While looking ahead, we are currently trying to organize different fundraisers to help the communities in South Africa. If you are interested in helping, please contact me at (303) 405-1126 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more general information about all the NBA Basketball Without Borders programs worldwide, visit www.nba.com/bwb. Thank you.