Hasheem Thabeet, Visits Tanzania and Learns How Right To Play Games Are Changing Lives

Another benefit of the influx of athletes from other countries playing in U.S.- based professional leagues is the built-in connection they have to their homelands, ones often which have real needs for basic necessities and opportunities.  Many of these athletes are not only looking to give back to their homelands, they also make it a point to help educate others about causes that those born and raised in the U.S. might not know about.

Below is a story from the folks at Right to Play about soon-to-be 1st year NBA player Hasheem Thabeet, a star at UCONN, and a native of Tanzania.


By Atuhura Tadeo
Country Communications Coordinator

Hasheem Thabeet plays with the children
Hasheem plays with the children during his visit to
Uhuru Wasichana primary school.

“It’s play, fun and excitement; I can’t believe what I am seeing. The work done by the children through the games is ensuring that there is education through the games,” said Hasheem Thabeet, the Tanzanian basketball player who was drafted 2nd overall by the Memphis Grizzlies in 2009.

When Hasheem was still young, boys and girls never played together and had different games to play. “Before I left Tanzania six years ago there was never anything like children playing together.  There were games for the girls and the boys, but what I am seeing is sport and play for everybody. There is inclusiveness,” he added.

The importance of sport and play was revealed when Hasheem Thabeet and Olympic swimmer, Khalid Rushaka, both Athlete Ambassadors, visited Uhuru Wasichana Primary School during a recent trip to Tanzania. Located within Dar es Salaam, Uhuru Wasichana Primary School, an all-girl school, conducts regular sport and play activities every week for more than 860 girls. The games are led by Junior Leaders who strive to ensure fellow children learn important life skills, such as how to live together, how to protect themselves from disease, and self-esteem through their participation in specially-designed activities.

Through sport and play the communities, and in particular the children and their mothers, have transformed their lives by adopting healthy behaviour, and creating a clean and safe environment in their homes. The games helped close the gap between the boys and the girls. This has been achieved through playing games that promote inclusiveness as opposed to separating boys from girls during play in the community. The girls have managed to transfer the knowledge learnt at school through play to their home situations. This has promoted co-operation, team work with other children in the community.

Cynthia Ubwe, one of the school’s Junior Leaders, demonstrated to the visitors that sport and play is about learning how to play together and unlearning traditions that were associated with play. Because of cultural gender roles, girls were limited to performing domestic chores while boys were offered enough time to play. “As girls we were never given the chance and opportunity to interact with boys during play, which affected the way we performed our roles. Girls were only limited to doing domestic work like cooking, weaving in preparation for marriage. Boys were given priority in education, wealth allocation and regarded as future leaders of the community.This patriarchal set up marginalized girls by limiting their opportunities. Through sport and play, this belief has been overturned. When playing Right To Play games, we think, create and play together. There is no segregation,” said Cynthia.

Hasheem receives a Red Ball from Cynthia Ubwe
Hasheem Thabeet signs a Red Ball while visiting
Uhuru Wasichana Primary School.

Monica Millinga, a Project Coordinator, emphasized how sport and play has created unity among the children and the community in general. “Before activities were introduced in the school we used to have challenges with children fighting each other. We had challenges of a clean environment. This changed after we trained children in Right To Play games that specifically addressed those challenges. Games like Don’t Trust Your Eyes; Elbow Tag; Human Obstacle; Elephant Trunk; and Basketball have helped to empower the children with knowledge on hygiene, unity and behavioral change. They offer the children [the opportunity to develop life] skills and build on their knowledge.”

Addressing the children, Hasheem thanked them and encouraged them to continue playing the games. “When I was growing up, we didn’t have the opportunity to play like you are doing now; please utilize this opportunity and you will have a bright future,” he said.

Esther Mwita, a Coach Trainer, explained to the visiting team how sport and play is transforming the lives of the children. “This being a girl’s school, the children are becoming empowered to take on various roles in leadership and the games have helped the children tap into their talents. Through the games, the children have improved on their hygiene both at school and home,” she said.

During the visit, Hasheem met with the Coach Trainers and the management of the school and thanked them for the great work they are doing to ensure that children have a healthy and safe community in which to learn and play.