During the Pan – African Weekend in NYC, the Face List Awards organized by Face 2 Face Africa were celebrated on July 15th. The organization presented Serge Ibaka and the Serge Ibaka Foundation with the Humanitarian of the Year award and Serge himself received the award. “It’s an honor to be here with you all and to receive this award. I take the work with the Foundation very seriously because I never forget where I come from and I know how difficult it can be to grow up with difficulties in Africa“, Serge said. The award was presented by Sherrie Deans, Executive director of the NBPA (NBA’s Players association)’s Foundation. Deans praised the work done by the Foundation in Africa and Ibaka’s dedication in his homeland. Ibaka is currently on the board of the NBPA Foundation and both entities are working together on projects in Africa.
Connecting with the congolese youth and inspiring them, and celebrating congolese culture using basketball and music. Those are the goals of the Ibaka Games, which were held for the fourth straight year in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo’s capital and Serge Ibaka’s hometown. In partnership with Cowbell Milk, the event hosted boys and girls from three to eighteen years old and public from all ages.
The event consisted of different activities, outdoor and indoor, at the Makélékélé sports center. Outside, the youngest children from different orphanages participated in an initiation basketball clinic with Serge Ibaka. It was him, too, that greeted the directors of each institution. They received the symbolic bags of dairy product that illustrated the contribution that they will receive during the whole year. Still outside, there were dance, music and art performances building up the anticipation of the main event inside the gym.
In the morning and in the previous day, a selection of kids, fourteen to eighteen years old, had participated in a Serge Ibaka Dreams Academy basketball camp. In the afternoon, the same kids played an exhibition game for the crowd, that filled the stands in an unprecedented way in the city. Almost 4.000 congolese where in attendance. Musical performances and a dunk contest followed and preceded the main event, the celebrity game with Serge Ibaka himself and guests like profesional basketball players Christian Eyenga and Chanel Mokango, or congolese comedias like Saï Saï and Esobe. The crowd cheered and experienced an event rarely seen in the Congo. It was a big celebration of african culture and sports that will for sure have another chapter next summer.
The NBPA Foundation, the charitable arm of the National Basketball Players’ Association (NBPA), welcomed Serge Ibaka to its Board of Directors this month. According to the NBPA Foundation, the appointment highlights Ibaka’s personal journey as one that has inspired many players and others while it also speaks directly to the philanthropic role of sports in society.
Sherrie Deans, Executive Director of the NBPA Foundation said, “Serge’s insights and his accomplishments in international charity and philanthropy complement the wide-ranging work being done by our board president, Chris Paul and vice president, LeBron James. With Chris, LeBron and Serge on our board, we have an even stronger team to help us support and develop the charitable work of our players in the US and around the world.”
Ibaka with (L to R) Michele Roberts, Sherrie Deans and Chrysa Chin
Since being drafted in 2008, Ibaka has earned a place among the most recognized players in the NBA. He grew up playing on the courts of Avenir du Rail and Charles de Gaulle park in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo. He left at the age of 17 to pursue a professional career, starting in France, then going on to Spain where he was noticed by NBA scouts after standout performances in international showcases. As seen in the acclaimed documentary film series “Son of The Congo,” he is conscious about making his off-court journey a priority when it comes to helping others achieve their highest personal goals Ibaka has made yearly trips home on a mission with the Serge Ibaka Foundation to improve the lives of youth in his hometown and to learn how those improvements can be sustained
Serge Ibaka feels that “it is an honor and a privilege to be part of the board of the NBPA’s Foundation. I take it as an opportunity to learn and help and add as much as I can to the already incredible work done by the Foundation”. Ibaka and the Serge Ibaka Foundation will work to help the NBPA Foundation, now entering its 20th year, expand his mission and reach internationally, specially in Africa.
Ibaka joins current board members Michele Roberts – NBPA Executive Director, Chrysa Chin, Executive Vice President, Strategy & Development, NBPA, and fellow players and longtime philanthropists Chris Paul and Lebron James. For more information about the Foundation, visit www.nbpafoundation.com.
Playing for the first time at the Makelékélé gymnasium in his hometown of Brazzaville was a dream for Serge Ibaka. Partnering with Cowbell, the first Cowbell Ibaka games took place in the summer of 2016. From early in the morning to late in the afternoon, basketball fans and neighbors of Brazzaville had the chance to participate in different activities and to see Serge play in person for the first time.
In the morning, 300 boys and girls from local orphanages participated in a basketball clinic and in recreational activities in the outdoor area of the gymnasium. Cowbell provided lunch and drinks for everybody, and different local performers put on a show for the audience including Serge Ibaka. Six different orphanages received Cowbell dairy products for a whole year and the kids were excited to received the news from Serge himself.
In the afternoon, everybody went inside the gym for the first Cowbell Ibaka Games All Star Game. Two teams comprised of local players from Brazzaville participated in the exhibition game with Serge Ibaka. The Orlando Magic star played one half with each team and told the media that: “it is a dream come true to play in front of my friends, family and fellow people of Brazzaville, and put on a show for people to enjoy and have fun“.
Playing in front of his hometown fans @sergeibaka7 put on a show in the first @cowbellmilk Ibaka Games. #anythingispossible #toutestpossible #todoesposible A video posted by Serge Ibaka Foundation (@sergeibakafoundation) on
During the summer we went back to some of the orphanages we work with in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo. At the St Joseph orphanage the kids welcomed Serge Ibaka and the Foundation with joy and music. At the Space Jarrot, we were able to see first hand the improvements in their facilities. The investment by the Foundation at Space Jarrot started in 2012 in a project with Unicef. This summer, the management was happy to show the improvements, including two potable water tanks, a new floor in the whole premises, a new kitchen and a new office.
The visits, organized with our partner Cowbell Milk, where the first part of the charitable efforts during the week. The following day the same two orphanages, and six more, received the first consignment of dairy products by Cowbell. The total of eight orphanages will receive the product to feed the boys and girls for the whole year. During the two days, the kids were given lunch and gifts, and spent time with Serge Ibaka.
On March 21st, Oklahoma City hosted the ‘Son of the Congo’ Premiere at the city’s Civic Center. More than 1.500 people, including mayor Mick Cornett, Thunder teammates, fans and employees, where in attendance and the film was warmly received.
A large representation of kids from the ‘Surge: teen group‘ Program with the OU Children’s Hospital where in attendance, too. The kids walked the red carpet with Serge and where inspired but the 55 minute film.
“This is my life,” Serge Ibaka repeated into a microphone. Over and over again this phrase left the Thunder forward’s lips as he leaned over a podium in front of 500 generous Oklahomans on Saturday.
At the Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center in downtown Oklahoma City, Ibaka, in a full tuxedo, stood 7,663 miles away from both his hometown of Brazzaville, Congo, and the people whom he hoped to aid on that night. For the third consecutive year, Ibaka hosted the Pros for Africa Gala, which raises money for his Serge Ibaka Foundation’s efforts in the Congo and for Sister Rosemary’s Girls, an organization that aids young women in Africa.
In the first year of the event, about 150 people were in attendance. The next year that number rose and this year, it jumped once again to 500 members of the local community. The gala is already building a reputation and has become a yearly tradition for Oklahomans, Ibaka and Thunder players and staff, who showed up to support their teammate. Amazed by the love and support, personally and financially, shown by those in the area, Ibaka was emotional and passionate in his address to the crowd.
“I never thought that one day I would have an event like this in Oklahoma,” Ibaka said. “The people in Oklahoma are so nice to trust me, believe in me and to come here and help these kids. I thank God and these people here for everything they’re doing. It’s life-changing. I just feel like I’m the messenger.”
Through both a silent and live auction, the Pros for Africa event raised over $300,000 and for good reason. Videos showing the conditions in Brazzaville and Ibaka’s efforts to help the deafness epidemic in the Congo were extremely moving and showed just how crucial Ibaka’s generosity is to the area. The proceeds of the gala will be implemented in a variety of ways, but to Ibaka, the ability to help children and adults hear for the very first time in their lives is perhaps the most poignant.
“That day I almost cried,” Ibaka said, reminiscing about his trip to the Congo this past summer, when he helped children install their new hearing aids alongside the Starkey Foundation. “It was miraculous.”
With that experience in mind, Ibaka’s meaning with that phrase, “this is my life”, comes into clearer focus. His job right now is to play as hard as he can for the Thunder every night, but giving back to the children in his hometown of Brazzaville is his true purpose in life. In Ibaka’s mind, making the lives of underprivileged Congolese kids better is the reason he was placed on this earth. After his playing career in the NBA is done, it will be his philanthropic efforts that live on and serve as his passion for the rest of his days.
“One day I’m going to be 40 and stop playing basketball,” Ibaka said. “But I want to keep doing this until my last day.”
Written by Nick Gallo I Thunder basketball writer
After a long day of practice, Ibaka took a needy family on one of the Thunder’s annual Homeland Shopping Sprees in Edmond, then went back downtown to the OU Children’s Hospital. Over the years in Oklahoma City, Ibaka has spent time there with children who are dealing with potentially terminal illnesses through events with the Thunder.
He has also, however, dropped in to check on the kids on his own without alerting anyone outside of his inner circle, the Thunder and the hospital about his visit. Those moments with the children spurred on a desire to create a more concrete, regular program to help out.
“It’s a special place. The first time I was there, it was so fun with those kids,” Ibaka explained. “I said that we need to figure out how to do something with them.”
As a result of some brainstorming with those around him, Ibaka decided to start an initiative through the new Serge Ibaka Foundation. The program, which Ibaka helped kick-off on Monday is called Surge: Teen Group and it will take teens with chronic and life-threatening illnesses on outings to give them opportunities to connect with peers.
From activities to learning opportunities to other relationship-building events, Ibaka’s aim is to help the teens emotionally and physically as they manage their illnesses moving forward.
On Monday, Ibaka stopped into The Zone, a therapeutic play area inside the Children’s Hospital, jump-starting the program that will also give teens opportunities to attend Thunder games. His passion for giving is one that knows no borders, rather, it simply applies to where his heart feels he can make the best impact.
The long-time Thunder forward has spent every minute of his NBA career in Oklahoma City, so he believes that giving back to the people who have supported him from Day One is a beautiful opportunity to show thanks and lend a helping hand.
“What they are doing is bigger than basketball and I’m trying to do everything I can to show them my support,” Ibaka said. “All I want to do is see those kids smile. I want to give back to Oklahoma because this is my sixth year here and this is my home too.”
“Before I came the person I am right now, I was a kid too,” Ibaka continued. “I know how hard the conditions are living with is for them and their families. My dream is to keep doing the best I can to help kids, give back and make them smile.”
Written by Nick Gallo I Thunder basketball writer