UNICEF Brazzaville will host National Basketball Association star and Oklahoma City Thunder Forward Serge Ibaka, in a visit to the Republic of the Congo from July 22 to 24.

During the visit, Ibaka will train with the national team and work with UNICEF to promote children’s rights to education, health and protection.

UNICEF is pleased to meet and work with Ibaka because he shares our commitment to improve the lives of children in Congo and elsewhere,” said Marianne Flach, UNICEF Representative. She said Ibaka’s visit is intended to highlight the daily challenges facing Congolese children including focusing attention on children’s education and protection.

With UNICEF, the Brazzaville-born star, will visit schools, including the Ecole Primaire de Madibou and centers for street children, including Espace Jarrot. In addition, Ibaka will host a two-day table-tennis tournament for street children at the Gymnase de Ouenze. Fifty street children are expected to participate in the first ever table-tennis tournament for street children in Brazzaville that Ibaka and UNICEF will support.

The Minister for Sustainable Development, Forestry and the Environment, Henry Djombo and the Minister for Sports, Jacques Yvon Ndolou and other dignitaries will attend the award-giving ceremonies after the finals on Sunday. Later in the day, Ibaka will hold a press conference to share his impressions and ideas for future activities regarding the cause for children at a reception at the UNICEF Brazzaville office.

Ibaka, the youngest in a family of 18 children, will use the chance of interacting with young people to emphasize the importance of staying in school, hard-work, hygiene and protection of vulnerable children, including minorities.

Ibaka, called Air Congo by his teammates in the United States because of his athleticism and speed, started playing basketball at a very young age with a local club, Avenir du Rail. He used the sport as an escape amongst his mother’s untimely death and his father’s imprisonment during the war. The star, whose mother and father played basketball at the international level, wants to share a message of hope and perseverance with Congolese young people.

This will be the second time Ibaka is visiting Brazzaville having visited in 2008 to conduct a basketball training camp. However, this is the first time that Ibaka is working with UNICEF Brazzaville. He has conducted basketball training camps—which use the sport to promote education, health, development and peace—in many African countries including Mali, Cameroun, Senegal, Tanzania, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria and Sudan.

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