What do the OCP Group and North America’s National Basketball Association (NBA) have in common? A commitment to education for everyone. Here’s how basketball is having a life-changing impact in Rwanda and Morocco.
Education doesn’t start and finish at the classroom door
“Basketball has changed so many lives all over the world. I wouldn’t be the man I am today without it,” says NBA legend Ray Allen.
The evidence of how beneficial sport can be for young people has been proven over and over. It’s an essential part of education.
“Education doesn’t start and finish at the classroom door,” says Ray. “To grow healthy communities and healthy young minds, sport is key. Sport builds so many life skills – from teamwork to perseverance, it allows people to make lifelong friendships and achieve things they never thought possible. It brings an incredible sense of achievement and builds confidence – all things that really help students perform at school.
This understanding was at the heart of the partnership between OCP and the NBA, as they joined forces through the Act4Community program to expand Junior NBA programs.
Supported by local volunteers from OCP, the Junior NBA in Rwanda and Morocco teaches basic skills and game-building values for young players, coaches, teachers and parents.
“Basketball gave me hope”
Denise Uwase is a Junior NBA basketball coach in Rwanda who is proof of the life-changing benefit of the sport.
“I lost both of my parents in the 1994 genocide. It was a terrible time – the most horrendous – and after that there was no care or love,” she says. “Life was like that of a slave, I worked hard but we were exploited every day. I was a child who couldn’t smile. When I saw someone looking at me, all I could think was how they would hurt me.”
You work together for a goal, pushing each other to be better
Change came when she moved in with another family. “They were nice – life was still hard, but it was better. I had never played basketball in my childhood – when I discovered it, it was such a huge change. You work together for a goal, pushing each other to be better. It helped me get out of the darkness and it helped me smile.”
As her basketball skills improved, she saw the benefit it had on her life. “I knew I had to share my passion with others. So, I became a basketball coach. In the community where I live, people face danger, drugs, prostitution. Kids don’t have a good future. But I can try and help them avoid becoming victims. I want to change these kids’ lives through basketball.”
And it’s not only their lives that she can change. “These kids are a catalyst for wider social improvement –they share the values we instil in them. Basketball is also the sport of a million smiles – the changes it brings can be seen immediately, in the grins on the faces of those it touches, and by filling courts with shouts and cheers.”
Through OCP’s Act4Community, new basketball courts were built in Khouribga and Benguerir in Morocco and in Kigali in Rwanda. The Junior NBA program here is supported entirely by OCP volunteers.
Junior NBA is a global basketball program for girls and boys, and the ambition is to reach more than 51 million people in 75 countries.