Collison Travels Far and Wide to Make an Impact

The 2012-13 NBA regular season will feature 41 road games to cities from Los Angeles all the way to Toronto, but all that impending travel didn’t stop Thunder forward Nick Collison from making a few big trips this summer.

Typical to Collison’s giving nature and the community-oriented attitude of the Thunder, the veteran forward and longest-tenured member of the team made three big stops to impact the lives of youths in both the United States and in Africa. The first stop on Collison’s tour was to Hollis, Queens to help host a youth basketball camp.

From New York, the 6’10” defensive specialist flew all the way to Nairobi, Kenya to take part in a special UNICEF sponsored field trip, where he joined NBA legend Dikembe Mutombo and Milwaukee Bucks forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. While there, Collison walked through the Kibera neighborhood in the Turkana section of Nairobi, one of the most impoverished areas in the world.

It was an eye-opening visit for Collison, who then visited the Kakuma refugee camp in northern Kenya, where over 100,000 people displaced by conflict or famine, mostly from Somalia and Sudan. According to the blog Collison wrote for NBA.com, each refugee is provided with water, food and free healthcare and education, although class sizes can reach as high as 180 students in a small classroom. It was rewarding for Collison to see that despite difficult conditions, UNICEF and others were working hard to try to improve the refugees’ lives.

“To be able to go and experience all the things I did, it’s been a life-changing experience for me,” Collison said via conference call from Johannesburg, South Africa.

While in Kakuma, Collison visited schools, watched doctors help needy children and families, and even had the opportunity to administer polio vaccines to children, some of whom walked 20 miles for the immunization. Most of all, Collison came away with an incredible admiration for UNICEF workers who have devoted their lives to helping those in dire circumstances.

“I thought it was a great opportunity to see a different part of the world and actually be with people who are doing great work,” Collison said.

The consummate team player and positive locker room force wasn’t done giving back after that trip, and in fact, he had the chance to join three of his Thunder teammates in Africa. Collison hopped back on a plane to meet up with Thabo Sefolosha, Serge Ibaka and Cole Aldrich in Johannesburg, South Africa to work with the NBA and FIBA’s Basketball Without Borders program.

While in South Africa, the Thunder quartet, led by Sefolosha, whose father is South African and the Congolese Ibaka, helped lead a youth basketball camp, build houses with Habitat for Humanity and open four new basketball courts for the Alexandra Township community. It was a wonderful display of selflessness by the four Thunder players who just got finished with a condensed NBA season and a long NBA Playoff run. The fact that the four of them, all from different backgrounds, were able to join together to make an impact as teammates was very special.

“Obviously Thabo and Serge have ties in common, so it probably has a different meaning for them,” Collison said. “I think for Cole and I, it’s just a chance to experience a different part of the world, and if you have the opportunity to do something like this, it’s something you don’t want to pass up.”

“We’re enjoying it and learning a lot and it’s also cool to be able to help people out,” Collison concluded.