Anthony and Cassie Carter providing assist to D.R. of Congo
In a scene that nearly broke her heart, Cassie Carter watched the children run up and down an imaginary basketball court.
Their feet kicked up dust as they passed an invisible ball and took shots at an invisible hoop.
When they finished, the water to clench their thirst might as well have been invisible, too.
Such is reality in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“You can’t touch the water, it’s so bad,” said Carter, the wife of Nuggets point guard Anthony Carter. “They’re using that to cook, bathe and drink. It’s absolutely horrific.”
As part of a mission through her church and the Morning Star Center for Social Progress, Cassie Carter spent 18 days last June in Mikonga, a village of about 140,000 people near the DRC capital of Kinshasa.
She slept in a concrete structure with an aluminum roof. There was no electricity and no plumbing. The nearest water source was about four miles away. The women and children were responsible for collecting water and bringing it back to the village.
Carter used baby wipes to keep herself clean and rationed bottled water to drink and wash her hair. When it was time to leave, she made a mental note to never return.
“On the airplane, I was like, 'See ya. I’m not coming back here.’ It was too rough,” she said. “God just kept putting it on my heart. He was like, ‘I’ve shown you these people. You can’t leave them.’ ”
Not only will Carter return to Mikonga on June 21, but she plans to bring the gift of hope. She and Anthony Carter have raised more than $13,000 to build a well for the villagers, but they still need about $11,500 to finance the project.
“We came up a little short, but we’re still working toward it. It’s going to get done,” Anthony Carter said. “Even if we take some out of our pocket, that’s just part of it. Once you start a project, you’ve got to finish it.”
Cassie Carter has a contractor and water engineer in place to build the well and a filtering system, which would supply enough clean water for 1,000 people per day. Phoenix Suns center Amar'e Stoudemire embarked on a similar project in Sierra Leone after visiting West Africa in 2007.
“I know some people like to help locally, but locally they have the resources all around them,” Carter said. “These people don’t have the resources.”
During her upcoming trip, Carter is scheduled to meet with the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as other dignitaries. She also has reached out to former NBA center Dikembe Mutombo, whose many philanthropic efforts in Africa include building a hospital in Kinshasa in 2006.
Though soccer is king in Africa, Mutombo helped make basketball popular as well. Cassie Carter plans to build a basketball court in the village when she returns in 2011.
Right now, water is the No. 1 priority. Carter said more than 100,000 children in the Kinshasa area die of water-related diseases every year, and she compared the living conditions to those in post-earthquake Haiti.
“The conditions were not what we were planning on or expecting,” said Carter, a devout Christian and mother of two boys. “I had to come back to reality and I really was humbled. Anthony, when I showed him the pictures, he just couldn’t believe it. He helped me so much with this project. He knows when I care about something that it’s something that needs to be done. I don’t waste my time.
“I never knew the value of water. This means more to us than we’ve ever done in our whole life.”
E-mail Aaron J. Lopez at email@example.com