South Sudan: Wenyen Gabriel, from refugee to NBA player

South Sudan: Wenyen Gabriel, from refugee to NBA player

This basketball tournament which takes place near Juba in South Sudan was organized by this young man. At 25, Wenyen Gabriel, who was born in Khartoum, is an NBA player. He fled the civil war in his country a few years ago to settle in the United States. A refugee life that has not been easy.

“Coming to America, at first, as a refugee, I felt like I was doomed as if it were a sentence. But when I see who I am now, I realize that it has become a blessing, even before I arrived in the NBA. I realize that the simple fact of having running water, electricity, food, even the simple fact of having a job is a blessing”, explains the young player.

During his visit, organized by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, he met displaced people.

“We came to a camp where people don’t even have the opportunity to work to feed their families. So they depend on people. They don’t want to be like that. They don’t want to live that way. Many things have been forced upon them. And I think we need to empathize and draw attention to their situation.”

This is the first time that the Los Angeles Lakers forward has returned to his native land since living in the United States. He, who knew nothing of the situation in the camps for the displaced, was marked by this stay.

“Visiting the displacement camps was very important for me. I didn’t understand exactly what it was like. And to see that it is one of the biggest crises in Africa and it is one of the most under -funded, it breaks my heart. And so I think bringing attention to that is important.”

This basketball tournament was his way of encouraging young people across the country to find in sport an escape from their situation, which sometimes seems hopeless.

“I think it was really important to them. So that they could feel included and not feel like they were excluded in their own country. A lot of the kids were so happy, so disciplined. They worked hard They never complained. And I just want to find a way to bring them opportunities.”

The young basketball player, who is living his American dream after a difficult period, wishes in his own way to offer young South Sudanese hope for a better life.

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