The U.S. Consulate General Lagos in collaboration with the Organized Basketball Network , OBN, Academy has launched a sports diplomacy programme “Uplift African Youth Through Basketball” for 100 boys and girls aged 6-18 from underserved communities in Rivers State.
The basketball camp provides participants an opportunity to learn from mentors, including alumni of U.S. government exchange programmes, about the sport, gender-based violence, entrepreneurship, and inclusion of marginalized communities.
Speaking at the launch of the basketball camp in Port Harcourt, U.S. Consulate Deputy Public Affairs Officer, Jennifer Foltz highlighted the U.S. government’s commitment to empowering youth in underserved communities with valuable life skills through participation in sports.
She explained that the U.S. Mission had organized many sports initiatives through the Sports Envoy programme, which recruits passionate, articulate, community-oriented professional athletes from the United States, to connect with communities in every corner of the world, using sports as the platform, to build connections and to bridge cultural divides.
Our sports programs are not just about sports, they are a way to engage people especially youth, on important topics”.
“For our program, the youth participants will learn about basketball, but also about gender-based violence and inclusion of marginalized communities, in addition, they will build their communication, leadership and teamwork skills,” Foltz added.
Declaring the basketball camp open, Rivers State Deputy Governor, Ipalibo Banigo congratulated the participants on their enthusiasm and involvement in the programme and encouraged them to keep dreaming big.
She expressed her satisfaction with the hard work demonstrated by the participants and conveyed her appreciation to the U.S. Consulate and OBN Academy, a local basketball institution founded by former NBA player Obinna Ekezie, for providing mentorship to the participants.
In his remarks, Ekezie said the basketball camp would provide the girls and boys with skills that would enable them to impact their communities positively, adding that the participants would also benefit from follow-on activities throughout the summer.
“Through this basketball camp, we have been able to teach important life and sports values, such as respect, discipline, overcoming adversity, combatting gender-based violence and basic entrepreneurship skills.
“We made a lasting impact in Port Harcourt and we are grateful to the U.S. government for the partnership,” Ekezie said.
The next edition of the “Uplift African Youth Through Basketball” is scheduled to take place in Lagos in the next few weeks.
By Omolara Omosanya