Readers from outside the north America may not realize the basketball mania that is about to seize many of us here in the United States. The mania is appropriately called “March Madness” and is a 65 team single elimination tournament among college basketball’s elite (and some not so elite) teams. It is convention here in the United States that friends and office mates enter into friendly competition with each other over who can correctly predict the outcomes of the 64 games played throughout the month. A small wager is generally involved.
This year, I decided to play for charity. And it only seemed fitting to play for Nothing But Nets, which sends anti-malaria bed nets to communities in Africa.
Here is the deal: For Nothing But Nets to “win” we need strong showing from my hometown team the University of Connecticut Huskies. A UCONN victory is not too much of a stretch, they are currently the fourth seeded team in the whole country. But the plot thickens! UCONN’s star is an amazingly talented 7 foot 3 inch tall center from Dar el Salaam, Tanzania named Hasheem Thabeet (above).
Tanzania is relatively stable country in a dangerous neighborhood. As a result, it has the largest refugee population of any country in Africa. These refugees are disproportionately at risk for contracting malaria, which is the leading cause of death for refugees world wide.
As it happens, Nothing But Nets has a campaign to donate 22,000 bed nets to four refugee camps in northern Tanzania that shelter 110,000 people. I’m playing for them.