Dikembe Mutombo [TrueHoop by Henry Abbott]

As a fan of Basketball and the NBA, I always looked at Dikembe Mutombo, the older player in the league and one of the few legend of the game still out there today (not anymore after last week knee injury) but as a proud African man, Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo is for me an inspiration in my life on how working hard to help people less fortunate and giving back in my home country to many who don't have the safety me and my family enjoy here in England. I could write all day about Dikembe Mutombo and how he changed the life of so many people in Africa, but I thing the following letter from Chad Ford (a former ESPN journalist), a professor of conflit resolution in Hawaii should tell you how this amazing man from one of the poorest country in the world (Congo) has reach people beyond his own land by being himself, a man with a passion for life and Africa.


I don't know if you remember me. I was the ESPN.com reporter who traveled with you to the first Africa 100 camp in South Africa. I wrote a story about traveling to Mama Jackey's and the impact you had on the children and me. However, I never told you the full story. Watching you go down last night had a powerful effect on me. I wept and my children asked me why ... this is the story that I told them.

"Of all of the professional athletes I've met, Dikembe Mutombo's had the greatest personal impact on me.

I traveled with him and the NBA to the first Africa 100 camp -- a trip that changed my life and ultimately led to me leaving ESPN full time to pursue teaching and practicing conflict resolution.

Before my time at ESPN, I had studied international conflict resolution and was committed to making a difference in the world. I was sure someday I'd be a mediator, out walking into the deepest, darkest areas of conflict, trying to shine a light on the humanity that still connects us together.

However after graduation from my graduate program in conflict resolution, ESPN bought a website that myself and co-founder Jason Peery created, Sportstalk.com. Suddenly I was immersed in the sports world ... and loving every minute of it. After a couple of years, my focus had totally shifted. Trade rumors and draft rankings consumed every thought and ever hour. I had a dream job, but inside I was lost.

When I found out about the Africa 100 and what Mutombo was going to do, I felt compelled to go. The experience changed my life. Seeing the poverty and despair on the faces of children was heart wrenching. But more so, seeing what people like Mutombo were doing inspired me. I was ashamed that I wasn't doing more with what I had. I wasn't the only one. A number of the NBA coaches and scouts I was with were touched deeply as well. I remember long conversations with Michael Curry and Lance Blanks about the ramifications of what we were seeing.

I spent several sleepless nights in the hotel, writing a long letter to my wife, Joanie. I told her about my desires to help people. How I wanted my life's work to amount to more than just basketball. I wanted to make a difference like Dikembe had. I told her that when I came home, I wanted to begin looking at changing professions. I was willing to give up my dream job if it meant a chance to help the lives of others.

I filed that story, which is my favorite I've ever written. I was overwhelmed by the response to it. People offered to help Mama Jackey. Donations came flowing in. ESPN featured the story on the front page of the site. It was my first inkling that sports truly can make a difference in the lives of others.

Within months I was looking for a job teaching conflict resolution program at a university, preparing to travel to Israel to write about sports and conflict resolution there, and thinking everyday about Mutombo and what I saw him do in Africa. In 2005, I left ESPN on a full-time basis to run the McKay Center for Intercultural Understanding in Hawaii. I also began reporting about and ultimately consulting and working with PeacePlayers International in the Middle East -- an organization that has shown the power of sports to bring enemies together.

I can trace almost all of it back to that day in Soweto. To those that say basketball can't make a difference in people's lives, I wish they could meet Dikembe. Not only has he changed the lives of tens of thousands in Africa, but he made a difference in my life that I'll never forget."

Thank you brother. You've made an impact on my life and my families that I'll forever grateful for. Here's to many more years of Dikembe Mutombo uplifiting the world ...

My Friend Marc Ona Essangui "Green Nobel" Prize Winner [BBC]

A campaigner who was jailed during his battle to save the rainforest in Gabon has received a top international award.

Marc Ona Essangui was honoured for his fight to stop what he describes as a destructive mining project in the Ivindo National Park.

He is one of seven people from six continental regions to be awarded an equal share of the $900,000 (£600,000) 2009 Goldman Environmental Prize.

It has been described as "the Nobel Prize for grassroots environmentalism".

Mr Ona has campaigned for three years against the Belinga mine project - a deal between the government in Gabon and the Chinese mining and engineering company, CMEC, to extract iron ore.

The project includes the construction of a large hydroelectric dam, which is already underway, to provide power for the mine.

The dam is being built on the Ivindo River, near the Kongou Falls, Gabon's highest waterfall.

Mr Ona, who described the falls as "the most beautiful in central Africa", said that Gabon's government had failed to consult the local population and had not assessed the impact of the development on the environment before it gave permission for construction to begin.

He told BBC News that he hoped his receipt of the Goldman Prize would "draw international attention to just how precious this area is".

Political protest

Mr Ona, who uses a wheelchair, dedicated his early career to improving education and communication infrastructure in Gabon, including working with the United Nations Development Programme. He later turned his attention to environmental issues.

He eventually decided to focus his efforts full time on the work of his own environmental NGO, Brainforest, which aims to protect the rainforest for the benefit local of communities.

"The government established 13 national parks here, and I became interested in all the activities within them," he said.

"In 2006, my colleagues and I noticed that roads were being built within Ivindo."

When Mr Ona investigated, he discovered that there had been no environmental impact studies carried out before the road building started.

On its website, the Gabonese government describes the national parks as having been "classified for the conservation of Gabon's rich biodiversity".

The key goals of the national park scheme, it says, are preservation of "the wealth of the ecosystem… for current and future generations" and stimulating "the development of ecotourism as an economic alternative to the exploitation of natural resources".

Mr Ona said: "All of this construction was carried out illegally and against the code of the national parks."

He also unearthed and leaked a copy of the Belinga mine project agreement between the government and CMEC, revealing that CMEC had been offered a 25-year tax break as part of the deal.

"When we really started to look into the deal, we noticed that it was China, not Gabon, that was the major beneficiary," he said.

Under pressure

He and his colleagues embarked on their campaign, working with other environmental NGOs, holding news conferences and meeting with local communities.

"The government even motivated some protests against the NGOs involved," he recalled.

"They alleged that we were working [on behalf of] Western powers, and we received a lot of pressure to stop the campaign."

This culminated in Mr Ona being arrested and charged with "incitement to rebellion".

He was jailed by the Gabonese judicial police on 31 December 2008; but following an internationally co-ordinated campaign for his release, he was freed on 12 January 2009.

Since June 2006, however, he has been banned from travelling outside the country.

His passport was returned to him only 24 hours before he was due to travel to San Francisco for the Goldman award ceremony.

There has been no construction in Ivindo for almost a year, but Mr Ona says this has more to do with the economic crisis and the price of iron ore than with the Gabon

ese government backing down.

He has no plans to give up his quest.

"Some of the money from this award will go to the functioning of Brainforest, and the rest will be allocated to setting up small- and medium-sized businesses for local communities," he said.

"I want to set up a clinic near Ivindo where the local people can be treated using traditional medicine. Some of the money will serve to establish this health centre for all of those communities."

No fear

The organisers of the Goldman Prize describe the six winners as "a group of fearless grassroots leaders, taking on government and corporate interests and working to improve the environment for people in their communities".

Among the other 2009 recipients are Maria Gunnoe from West Virginia, US, who has faced death threats for her outspoken activism to stop destruction of the Appalachia by the coal industry.

Also rewarded are Russian scientist Olga Speranskaya, who connected NGOs across Eastern Europe and the Caucasus region to identify and safely remove toxic

chemical stockpiles, and Rizwana Hasan, Bangladesh's leading environmental attorney, whose legal advocacy led to tighter regulations on the ship-breaking industry.

Congratulations my dear friend and God bless you...

~ My 10 Favorites Thing ~

Surfing the net today, I stopped by a really cool and colorful Blog call : Someday I'll get there... (I highly advice the visit) and I couldn't help myself to use some of her idea to talk a little bit about me (finally...) by just telling you about my 10 favorites thing :

1. Favorite Sport : Basketball, I'm a huge NBA fan and just love the game. For me any sunny week-end mean playground game with friends or playing with my boys on their hoop in the garden.

2. Favorite Shoes : Jordan Brand. I'm a sneakers collector and just love buying vintage Jordan or other brand and just stock them in my room or somewhere around. I've got some shoes since 2004 that I never wore (That's sound crazy...).

3. Favorite place to visit : New York, been there several time and just love it, I mean is there a city in the world more exiting and appealing as NYC!

4. Favorite place to live : Libreville (Gabon)

5. Favorite TV program : Right now I'm really in 24 and Lost, I recently watched all the previous Lost season just to keep up with the last one and man.....I like Fringe (on Sky) and Heroes, but most of the time when I'm home I'm watching sports...sports....

6. Favorite car : Well I had to sale my last one to buy a house (BMW 528i) and I still haven't decided on my new one : New Range Rover Sport or Lexus GS Hybrid. Will probably decide on this pretty soon (hopefully). Until that day my partner red Polo will do the job...

7. Favorite Music : Rap, R&B and African Music, I listen a lot of Nas, Lil Wayne, JayZ, Eminem, Chris Brown.... I like some British stuff too, like Take That, Lily Allen or some old Beatles songs.

8. Favorite holiday spot : Miami Beach, Key Biscayne, Mauritius Island, Venice Beach (the basketball ground...), Capetown, Cannes...

9. Favorite sport Team : Manchester United, Miami Heat, Dallas Cowboys, The NY Yankees, Olympique de Marseille, Houston Rockets, UNC, Nzimba Kaya...

10. Favorite Thing to do in my Free Time : My free time is always about spending quality time with my 2 boys and their Mum.

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