24 March 2009

March Madness, the NCAA, and Tanzanian Talent

Children playing basketball at an SOS Children's Village in Africa
Children playing basketball at an SOS Children's Village in Africa

03/24/09 - Basketball fans across the United States are glued to their televisions this month during the annual college basketball tournament known as March Madness. Last Saturday, in Philadelphia, the top-seeded University of Connecticut's men's basketball team, the Huskies, beat Texas A&M, 92-66. The 2009 NCAA Division I West Region Men's Basketball Second Round game was played at the Wachovia Center before an audience of almost 20,000. Connecticut's big scorers were senior guard A.J. Price and senior forward Jeff Adrien, but Connecticut's team also boasts other valuable players, including junior Hasheem Thabeet from Tanzania.

Connecticut's Tallest Player

Thabeet, one of Connecticut's hottest players, is 7 foot 3 inches and 263 pounds. He is the tallest player ever to play for the Huskies. At Connecticut he has appeared in 64 career games. As a sophomore last year, he was named the Big East Defensive Player of the Year. Prior to college, he played basketball at Cypress Christian School in Houston, Texas, where he was selected for the All-City Second Team. In 2006 he participated in the Global Games in Dallas as a member of the African team.

Thabeet was born in 1987 in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. His father is deceased; his mother still resides in Dar Es Salaam. He started playing basketball at age fifteen, when he watched pickup games in Tanzania. His homeland is in East Africa, south of Kenya, on the Indian Ocean. Tanzania is one of the poorest countries in the world.

SOS Children's Villages Provides Homes to Children in Tanzania

Children at the SOS Children's Village Zanzibar in Tanzania
Children at the SOS Children's Village Zanzibar in Tanzania

Like all poor nations, Tanzania has limited resources to care for children without families. Without a stable home and a community to look after them, children face grim life prospects. SOS Children's Villages, the world's largest charity devoted to providing loving homes to orphaned and abandoned children, has been operating Children's Villages in Tanzania since 1991. SOS now runs three villages there — one on the island of Zanzibar, one in Dar es Salaam and one on the mainland in Arusha, in the north of the country. Besides raising children, SOS also tries to prevent child abandonment by strengthening at-risk families. It does this by providing services to local families through SOS schools, health clinics, and community-based training programs. Tanzania houses a SOS youth facility, two SOS kindergartens, two SOS schools, and an SOS medical center.

Give an African child the opportunity to grow and flourish like Hasheem Thabeet. Consider securing a warm home and a bright future for a Tanzanian boy or girl by sponsoring a child.