New Orleans Students Donate Time, Resources to Philippines
Barrington M. Salmon | 6/18/2014, 3 p.m.
"This is an excellent opportunity to strengthen the ties of the Philippines and the U.S. and New Orleans and the Philippines," said Philippines Minister and Consul Elmer G. Cato. "Basketball is the most popular sport in the Philippines despite our height."
Retired Ambassador John Maisto agreed.
"They follow basketball in a serious way in the Philippines," said Maisto, president of the USPhilippines Society which was asked to partner on the project. "Americans who go would be surprised to see how popular the game is. The beauty of what's going on now is that it involves hurricane survivors. It's kids, it's basketball, it's reconstruction, it's education. This brings everything together beautifully."
Bill Kealey instructs students in the ACE Mentoring Program, which in addition to introducing the teens to career opportunities in architecture, construction and engineering, will help them build 23 pre-fabricated homes overseas once they procure the money.
Reggie Evans, Tyreke's brother and manager, told those gathered at the Philippines Embassy in Northwest that he and his family relish the opportunity to give back. Brothers Eric and Dahz stood in the back of the room until they joined other guests to take pictures.
"Thank you all for coming out," he said. "We're grateful to be a part of anything related to education. This will help the kids take a break from the stress. The struggle in the Philippines and New Orleans breaks our heart. We wanted to help and we're going to help."
Tyreke Evans wasn't at the embassy press conference because he's recovering from knee surgery.
"I wish my brother was here," Reggie Evans said. "He wants to be a huge part of this. He'll have his face in the Philippines at the camps."
Evans, 41, recalled the difficult circumstances his family endured while living in Chester, Pennsylvania, adding that sports provided the outlet he and his four brothers needed to succeed and rise above the difficulties.
Since becoming a professional athlete, Evans said, his brother has attached himself to a number of notable projects such as donating $2 million to provide eye care to the needy, working with Doctors without Borders, and sponsoring basketball camps.
Malik Collins, 17, recalled his first airplane ride after reading a poem about his Katrina experience.
"I was so nervous. It was tense and overwhelming. There was excitement and a lot to take in but I really, really enjoyed it. The whole trip has been a learning experience."