Professional athletes in the National Basketball Association (NBA) are fortunate men. These individuals have risen from average lives in a world of 7 billion people to earn a roster spot on the one of the 30 franchises in the NBA, a league which is arguably the most elite in the world. A majority of these players come from the streets, playgrounds, and schools of America, but there are those who come from even humbler backgrounds.
Samuel Dalembert grew up on playgrounds (if he was lucky enough to have them) and streets in a corner of the world that few Americans can even begin to understand. A native of the island nation of Haiti, Dalembert may no longer live there, but it will forever be his home. Like so many other athletes, he strives to give back to groups and organizations that mean something to him on a personal level. Unlike others, he is fighting to improve life on an island that at times appears to have been forgotten by the world.
Born and Raised in Haiti, then off to Canada and the USA
Dalembert was born in the capital city of Port-au-Prince on May 10th, 1981. He spent his childhood in Haiti, living there until he was 14. His family then moved to Montreal, Canada, where he had the opportunity to explore a variety of sports. He tried his hand at both soccer and basketball. Despite showing a great deal of talent as a midfielder in soccer, it would be basketball that captured his heart and allowed him to capitalize on his talents.
Standing at 6’11” tall, it made sense that Dalembert opted for basketball. There isn’t much of a need for tall bodies in soccer, but his lanky heighted frame made him a perfect fit for the game of basketball. After living in Montreal for a few years, Dalembert’s family moved to New Jersey in the US. He pursued basketball in high school at St. Patrick High in Elizabeth, NJ, before going on to play three years of college basketball at Seton Hall.
Driven to Give Back
Dalembert’s NBA career has provided him the luxury of earning a handsome income, but it has also given him the opportunity to give back. Early in his NBA career, Dalembert got involved with the NBA-sponsored program “Basketball Without Borders”. Through the program, he was able to travel around the globe to give children in need a chance at success, or at least a better life.
As a member of “Basketball Without Borders”, Dalembert had the opportunity to teach kids about the fundamentals of basketball. Given his rise from obscurity in Haiti, he was also able to speak to children about the possibility for success in life. Basketball gave him the chance to show children living in depressing conditions that they can overcome, that they can succeed.
He was so touched by the things he saw on his travels with “Basketball Without Borders”, that he decided to launch his own foundation to benefit those in need. Donating his own money and his own time, he launched the Dalembert Foundation to increase his ability to give back to those causes closest to his heart.
The Dalembert Foundation
Founded in 2007, the Dalembert Foundation is dedicated to providing training (equipment and coaching) in sports and guidance through God, for personal values. Dalembert recalls that, as a youth in Haiti, the children in his neighbourhood had just one ball to play with. Those children, who had no televisions or fancy sneakers, shared a beat-up tennis ball for whatever games they wanted to play.
The Dalembert Foundation achieves its sport and education goals in Haiti through the Dalembert Academy Project. The Academy is a work in progress. The concept for the Academy was conceived following the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti in January 2010. Even before the earthquake, many of Haiti’s citizens suffered from a lack of basic services. There is only one hospital for every 100,000 people in the country. Electricity is available on roughly 5% of the country’s land area, and there is no free public education for children.
Through the Dalembert Academy Project, Samuel and his foundation hope to provide children with a brighter future. The first premises for the Academy is situated on the Central Plateau, an area of highland located north of Port-au-Prince in the centre of the country. People from the capital fled to this region following the earthquake in search of food, water, and shelter.
The Dalembert Foundation funded the construction of the first Academy to provide children with a variety of services. In addition to athletic and academic training, children in the region were also given access to basic nutrition, medical care, and positive outlets for their energy. The foundation cannot achieve all of its goals on its own. It works with organizations like UNICEF, the Red Cross, and Feed the Children to help bring awareness to the plight of people in Haiti.
Here to stay
More than four years, post the Haitian earthquake, after the lights of international news networks have left and large rescue organizations have trimmed down their presence in Haiti, Samuel continues to visit his homeland to check on the progress of his foundation. Mingling with the children and families of his homeland (speaking fluent Creole and French), Dalembert won’t let the memory of the earthquake and plight of his people disappear from his mind.