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A Very Tall ‘Bol’ Player With A Huge Heart

Well, i was  perusing through stuff online as usual you know favourite humour sites, checking out some new sites, net worth of websites on to see how much they are worth  or if  it’s  true what their owners say they are worth and of course the occasional peep at the perpetually open facebook site to see what friends are up to and checking out any incoming chats.

That was before i had gone through ‘milestones’- an obituary like column  on TIME magazine paying tribute to  Manute Bol; one of the sporting giants of the 20th century literally and as a figure of speech.

At 7 feet 7 inches, Manute was a man of  ‘stature’ and although not blessed with a huge frame[ only a tall one] he made up for that with his huge heart.

His height was not an HGH[human growth hormone] gone haywire sort of thing as with gigantism. It just ran in the family- Mum 6’7″,  Dad 6’8″, Sis 6’8″ and Granpa even taller than him at 7’10”.

And i wondered hey,this name is familiar especially the ‘Bol’ part.Duh! of course it was- he is a celebrity.

As i recollected i figured this guy used to play [basket] ball at the NBA way back when i was in  Primary [elementary] school when me and my brother involuntary followed the NBA  just because the telly was on and we loved watching. It after all we were just kids [ and bigger fans of the English premier league then].

His name kept coming over and over especially on  George Michael’s Sports Machine– a sports news programm i only liked for the Nascars, Dragsters and other speedy machines. I comprehended little else about Manute at that time so i promised myself to follow up as soon as i got online.

It didn’t happen that day, i forgot as other online ‘distractions’ took over my time.

But  my hunch was right. This guy had been doing a lot of good work with most of his fame and money [at least USD 3.5M] from his 10year NBA pro. career given to charity, ran his own Ring True Foundation which collaborated with Sunrise founded by another humanitarian the Rev Tom Prichard to help out in any way diplomatic or material during the war in Sudan.

Bol had the goal of constructing 41 schools in Sudan something Sunrise Sudan will have to fulfill following his untimely death from kidney complications and a painful skin condition[Steven-Johnsons syndrome] at the young age of 47, at the University of Virginia Hospital on June 19 2010.

His support for the war ravaged Darfuris and his common visits  to spend time with the refugees demonstrated his commitment to his country of origin and it’s people- probably his sense of humour helped too both in raising funds and raising their spirits of hope for a peaceful and equal Sudan.

The authorities were confused on what to do. Obviously they were unsettled at the same time impressed by his activities. Bol was offered a ministerial post [sports] which he refused since it came with a ‘convert to Islam clause’  . Bol was a Dinka-christian.

The authorities got an excuse then to deny this ‘SPLA sympathiser’ an exit visa to the US unless he came back with more money. Efforts from US  Senator Joe Lieberman and supporters saw him move to Egypt eventually back to the US  qualifying for a religious refugee status.

Bol was not an all round player. Apart from being the best blocker of all time other aspects of his game were pathetic but definitely not other aspects of his life during, and after the Hoopla had died down.

His commitment to his country and the suffering people is not up for contest.

“Manute  Bol  is buried in Sudan”.


Greg The ‘Regular Guy, Crazy’ Humanitarian

Hello, i  wanted to share a little story[that’s how it started]  from a “regular guy”.

Greg Mortenson a  Philanthropist/Author/former Nurse/former mountaineer was on The Interview 19 July  and that’s where i got to pick his amazing work.

It all started when he was  in the Pakistan trying to reach the peak of K2 in memory of  her younger sister who had died of Epilepsy. He didn’t reach the peak, the promise wasn’t kept but according to the  interview, instead, they[him and the others] had to spend tremendous man hours(75 to be precise)  to sae one of the  Porter’s life.

That spelled a decision to move back to  ‘base camp’ but he took a wrong turn and ended up in the village of  Korphe. As usual the villages  were hospitable, he recovered and thanked them.

As he was walking around someday he noticed a group of toddlers  scribbling on the ground with  sticks- no books no classrooms.

A little girl approached him and asked him if he could build them a school. Greg subconsciously made her a promise of a school obviously moved by the youngster. A promised  that marked the beginning of his  trademark Pennies For Peace project which led to the birth of the  not-for-profit educational charity CAI[Central Asia Institute].

Little did he know it was an uphill task.

So he returned to the U.S. and the village people bade goodbye not expecting much after all he was just another ‘crazy foreigner’ who had come to conquer their peaks then leave- They might have figured he was also a ‘regular guy’ and on that they were correct- not in a bad way.

Fast forward 2010, many years later from that 1993 encounter  Greg Mortenson runs an organisation responsible for building  over 140 schools mainly catering  for girls in the mostly rural parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan where the Taliban are strongest and as we know these guys are opposed to female education but not one school has been shut down or destroyed by Taliban fire or otherwise .

How did he do that and why girls?

Greg with youngsters hungry for knowledge, absorbing it like a sponge

Well, i’ll try to answer both briefly as my aim is not to repeat the entire interview  or any aspect of Greg’s work available online in much detail.

He involved local elders/leaders/people in all his

construction projects matching any monies he brought through fundraisers and donations to labour, material and any other output from the local people i.e.  building for them, by buying from them [labour and material] at the same time building them [economically, socially and otherwise] which in turn gave the locals a sense of ownership and responsibility for the school.

All didn’t end  after construction- most Pennies For Schools and by extension CAI staff are not graduates but local people leaving him to do all the speaking engagements for his 40 week record bestseller which i’ll talk about later.

Why girls? His parents  were teachers posted by the Lutheran church to work in Usambara, that’s in Tanzania [if you remember Usambara mountains from your Primary school Geography] from 1958-1973.

Being born in 1957 and for those  15 years  spent in Africa, Greg  in his own words came across this “famous African proverb”   which we all know- Educate a man you educate an individual and educate a girl you educate the whole nation.

With his New York Times best seller Three Cups of Tea: One  Man’s Mission to Promote PeaceOne school at a time co-authored by David Oliver Rein  a mandatory read to all U.S. Generals and military staff, this is not the only book out neither his only award and only beaten to the Nobel Peace prize by that ‘controversial’  Obama Nobel. Now i guess  you get the picture of his success from humble beginnings.

Talking of humble and going  back to the beginning  all this didn’t come without breaking a sweat.

As Greg wet back to the States after promising  Korphe ‘residents’  a school he webt back to his nursing job then quitlater, collected his savings and consulted his mother who was a school teacher at an elementary school. He gave a talk, his first where her mother taught school and being an introvert with no prior experience as a public  speaker it wasn’t much to write home about.

A guy with a thing for language who speaks Pashtun, Urdu and other local languages. Probably Swahili too; no excuse for 15yrs growing up in Tanzania

The little ones paid little attention to the first  ‘Pennies For Peace’ speech   soliciting money for his project though he himself admits he has neverdone any soliciting.

But one young boy came to him and with a straight face  told him he had a piggy at home and  would give all of it’s contents to the Pakistani kids who needed it most. From there on one thing led to another and by the time he went  back to Korphe with about USD 13,000 the villagers weren’t even expecting him.

Nevertheless he realised his work was not done yet. He had to build a bridge first across a river to transport building materials to the right spot and that meant going  back to America to look for more money.

For a guy now commanding about ten thousand people whenever he calls a meet no challenge seemed  insurmountable- just like those mountains.

Critics abound. He has been called a traitor and received threatening emails for educating Muslim kids- children of the enemy.

For all his efforts he has received two fatwas, been under CIA investigation and was kidnapped by the Taliban.

His book Three Cups Of Tea  as i said earlier is a mandatory read by the US top military and staff-by order from Commander In Chief i should add- and his approach of building schools as a way of improving the situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan is being embraced by the US military.

If only the Military could have adopted that earlier maybe we would not be having Wikileaks’     ‘Afghani  Papers’.

NB: below are some useful links for more about Greg, and his work

Chrisc Pics

listenin' up

L to R,Mwangi and Kimani officials YASP,Kaberu, head coach and founder Chrisc and ass. Coach givin' a prep

role plays

everybody say cheese!!

MRJ and John on a path well travelled

Visiting Future Footballers At Githunguri

The month of July started off well for HECI with a planned visit to Githunguri informal settlements,Kiambu, about 45 minutes drive from the CBD to pay a visit to Chrisc Kids as they showed off their footballing skills at the Potters School in Runda, Kiambu.

We were duly informed they were good at rugby too as they have participated in the junior Safari Sevens and Harlequins displaying tremendous discipline, sportsmanship and success.

The trip was planned and initiated by another Not-For-Profit YASP [Youth Against Street family life and Poverty] and i represented HECI on that 1st of July following an invite. Chrisc Kids is made up of more than 100 mostly pre-teens, 100 percent boys from the nearest Githunguri informal dwellings, a 200metres by 1.5 km ‘Gaza Strip’ sandwiched by those palatial homes and the proposed land cleared away for the proposed flyover.

Kaberu, Chrisc founder who also doubled as the Head Coach that day flanked by two assistants explained the absence of girls. Initially they were there but he was facing logistical constraints having to drop every single girl at their door step especially when arriving after an event or function.

Dropping them ‘in the hood’ was not safe enough with their parents and guardians and it didn’t help matters seventy percent of the residents were Muslim. But as i also concluded boy’s were generally easier to manage, challenges are still there.

As much as the kids were aspiring to be future Kaka’s, Casillases and Gyan’s all understood and stressed the importance of formal education. A few are already lucky to have secured scholarships already fro well wishers but many others are still waiting. Boys grow to be men and when they do they will definitely need an education to back up whatever talents they got.

And speaking of talent, or is it multi-talent, i personally spotted a sketch Artist, rap Artiste, Acrobat, leadership qualities and of course raw footballing talent. A talk by the chairman of YASP and all the members, accompanying friends and finally i, HECI representative, bordered on these crucial aspects as well as drugs, crime and other ASBO[ Anti Social Behaviour Order] stuff to avoid which are rampant in their circumstances and surroundings were firmly inculcated in their young minds.

We made sure Entrepreneurship, something close to my heart, was included in the mentorship talk and of course we already had a crop of budding young business people.

What from hawking groundnuts and other fast moving foodstuffs to selling grocery to help out their families- that’s business.

Any assistance towards helping these young people from tuition fees, scholarships to helping John with that cash for feed for his rabbits, ‘Kaka’s’ primary school books and a few blanks sheets of paper for Tom will be highly appreciated.

NB: Our contacts are on our About Page, Communications director HECI so we liaise and you communicate directly with the Founder Chrisc Kids, Mister Kaberu.

No Child Left behind

Not that i miss Bush or anything and we should realise i might not miss his Presidency for the wrong reasons. Look at it this way- his was the most Pro-Africa(which is synonymous with Pro-Poor) administration so far.

What with the 15 Billion USD pledged for HIV and the like and of course the program mentioned above. Don’t tell me it’s American- kids in need  have no idea what skin colour or  political borders are. If only we could assist them grow up with that fact.

Director Newsong Primary (Centre)

Chairman Frederick flanked by two youngsters at the school

the Director at her office

trying to make sure none is left behind. Feel free to donate through Mpesa(money by phone) on any of the contacts on the about page

the 3R's, as easy to achieve as ABC- with a little help from you

parade time at Newsong

singing a new song indeed of hope for an education

Doing The Rounds

Though on the surface it might seem all fun and games, making sure people feel appreciated you need to make several visits. This takes commitment actually from both sides because you need to at least reach a quorum. general rule of thumb- always make a point of bringing along goodies and you won’t have to worry abouthe quorum;  the office guys could learn something from this.

mother and baby bonding

mother and baby bonding

A street in maili Saba informal settlements. We disco vered there was not a single health center in the area which quickly made us realise brand new mission- help provide one

Chairman( far right) with two..wait..three of the members

School Feeding Programme

A wonderful motivation to keep kids at school. just a simple mish-mash of maize and beans has been able to convince hundreds of parents to keep their young ones at school instead of helping out at the Quarry chipping away Ballast for construction and it goes without saying the  kids love it. And if you think the program only benefits the youngsters, think again.

toddlers on recess(break)

toddlers on recess(break)

homeward bound

almost there

the Quarry

A Dump Truck(Tipper) in the background waiting to take away the Ballast

methano brewing is a main source of livelihood. Documented to turn drinkers blind ansd even kill people still drink it

Methanol, a lethal brew known to make drinkers go blind and even kills is a major source of livelihood

Peeps in Pics

posing outside Theresia's home, the meeting venue on that blessed Sunday

with your help of course we can do this

Kababa(the lad) strikes a pose while Theresia(far left) is feeling the glow

With The Peeps

Sunday 31st wasn’t that bad. I had this chance to

visit  Maili Saba favelas in Saika, Nairobi. It wasn’t as

bad as i expected you know, the usual; appalling draining,

runaway crime, nope! none of that.

And the best part is we manage

d to do our thing by giving

the little we had in form of clothe

s. Another trip planned

soon in what is expected, hopefully, to be routine

for as long as we live.

A helping hand from all of

you will be ver will be very much appreiated in form of dried foodstuffs and clothes you don’t n

eed anymore- of any size and/or shape and of course that spare change 😉

tomorrow clearly belongs to them, let’s not deny them

june 11th 2010 here we come