7 ft Ipswich basketball star Tendai Simbai inspires children in Africa
PUBLISHED: 16:18 09 December 2016 | UPDATED: 16:18 09 December 2016
An Ipswich basketball player has returned to his native Africa to hand out clothes and sports equipment to children in deprived areas.
Zimbabwe-born Tendai Simbai visited schools and communities in Lusaka in neighbouring Zambia last week to speak with young people and to shoot a few hoops.
Although he left his home country in 2002 to play basketball in Ipswich, he has not forgotten his roots.
The visit to Zambia is the latest charitable venture by the 38-year-old father-of three who in 2011 ran three consecutive marathons to raise money for the Zimbabwe Benefit Foundation.
Three years ago 7ft Tendai also paid for 12 acres of maize to be planted in his home village back in Zimbabwe.
He said: “When I was growing up I used to go to school with no shoes, I didn’t know what I was going to eat tomorrow.
“I used to use part of a car tyre to improvise to make myself shoes.
“It was a tough life but I was lucky, I went to college.
“I managed to go to school and get an apprenticeship as an engineer.
“I am definitely lucky.”
On his visit to Zambia, Tendai said he wanted to let the youngsters know it was not their fault that they were poor and that they could improve their lives through education and hard work.
He said: “This time I went to Zambia to visit children, to encourage them and to tell them my story how I came to England.
“I had asked my basketball player friends to give old clothes, basketball kit, shoes and basketballs.
“It reminded me of when I was young when I visited schools, there are a lot of things you take for granted. I wanted to show them and tell them to listen to their coaches, their teachers.
“I told them that education and sport can change your life.”
Tendai also visited private schools in the country to let the children know they should not forget where they come from and to try and help people less well off than they are.
He said: “I don’t take life for granted because things we take for granted mean a huge amount to them.
“When I go there I think of the indoor courts we play on here. There are no indoor courts, the sun is beating, there are kids playing for hours without any water.
“We will throw away anything but over there it is gold.
“When you buy a kid a present of clothes here they check what make it is but over there a present is a present.”
Tendai said he would like to thank everyone who donated items to hand out on his trip.