The Tale of Slums Dunk !!!!!
If this were a fairy tale, it would start with “Once upon a time…”.
But this is not a fairy tale, it’s a real story, and maybe, it’s worth to be told, more than any other story. A story of basketball, friendship, and sharing that makes room for happiness and hope.
The person with the primary role in the story is the lItalian Argentine basketball player, Bruno Cerella. Bruno is from Bahia Bianca, Argentina, a city with strong basketball tradition where such players as Manu Ginobili were born and raised. He came to Italy as a teenager and worked his way up to the top of the Italian professional league as a member of Armani Olimpia Milan. He is considered a fan favorite for his high-spirited play on the court and his dedication to the club off the court.
The curtain opens on a gift given to Bruno Cerella from his aunt: a book, “The Awakening of the Leader” that shakes something inside him, invites him to look beyond basketball played on great courts and compelled him to do something more for others. Like any hero, Bruno involves his friend, the Italian point guard, Tommaso Marino, in this new adventure. Their friendship brought a mutual interest for them both, the dream to one day travel to Africa. So it starts! Rather than go as a tourist, the idea arose to create a project that would be impactful and help to change a whole community. Their goal was to travel to Africa and visit some of the world’s most marginal areas and marry sports with real life. They wanted to teach life skills and empower and educate a community through their passion for basketball.
In 2011, the best friends took their first trip to Kenya. After that journey, they decided to create their project, “SLUMS DUNK,” the name that fools the assonance between “slam dunk” and “slum.” The best friends added assistant Italian coaches Michele Carrea and Giuseppe Di Paolo to the project. With the two coaches experiences, Bruno’s idea and Tommy’s adhesion, the Slums Dunk Team was born.
Slums Dunk team mission was to focus on the improvement of African childrens’ conditions. In the slum of Mathare’s Nairobi (Kenya), was where the Slums Dunk first project began. Mathare’s only covers a 1,5 square kilometer area but is home to an estimated 95,000 people with a high percentage of boys and girls that Slums Dunk tried to bring out from many pauper situations, including problems accessing essential services such as food, water, electricity, and public toilet. Through the teachings of basketball, the team’s goal was to open a gateway to new opportunities the children of Mathare slums wouldn’t have had before.
In 2014, when the association was officially set up, the group built the first ever basketball court in the community with the support of local people. The court served as a training ground for the Slums Dunk founders to carry out their passionate mission. They spend their time training interested residents to be coaches and teaching the youth basketball fundamentals. Basketball is used on a daily basis to facilitate life skills education that will ultimately have a positive effect on the entire community. Gender equality is also a central focus as the project focuses attention on integration, then secondly on entertainment.
Recently Teddy Ochieng Okoth, a 17-year-old boy from one of the slums, has been chosen by “NBA Without Borders Global Program” as Kenya’s MVP and now received a scholarship at Capitol Christian Academy in Washington DC. Slums Dunk has been a more important stepping stone for six girls who won a FIBA tournament and a scholarship.
The Slums Dunk project and Mathare’s Basketball Academy has had a significant impact on the community of Mathare slums. The project has been responsible for helping hundreds of children providing free access to the basketball court and support for life skills education. Teaching how to deal with health, sexuality, the importance of education and goal reaching, open to those who play and even those who don’t play basketball. On March 2015, “Slums Dunk” has been registered in the “Official Registry of Onlus associations” and, in the same year’s summer, they started two new projects, one in Kisumu/Manyatta (Kenya) and one in Ndola (Zambia).
A real awesome project, born from friendship, love for basketball and wish of sharing with the less fortunate. Year after year, collaborations has grown, both from other associations and athletes from the European scene.
Anyone can lend their support and help Bruno and Tommaso with their project:
But wait… We asked a few questions to the two main characters of this wonderful tale: Bruno Cerella and Tommaso Marino.
Where do you feel more at home? Here in Italy or there?
B: I surely feel at home in Italy because I’ve spent my most important years of life here, even though my roots are in Argentina and you cannot forget your origins! From the other side, Kenya in a real hospitable place because the local team is friendly and has a great passion for sport.
T: Well, if we’re talking about places, living in slums is really hard and you can’t feel at home! But, if we’re talking about people, that’s something different. Being with them seems something very familiar to me and, for their welcome, I always say that, when I won’t play basketball anymore, I hope to spend as much as I can there.
Has ever been a moment in which you thought: “No, I can’t do it”?
B: No, never! This never happened because we did everything step by step and the local support is a real asset. From here we collect help to go there and work together to create a better life for who lives there, we do not boss around!!
T: No, never! Bruno and I suit every situation. Obviously, sometimes we’re tired because of the challenging days, but I never thought about going away. Indeed, when I have to go back to Italy, it’s always a bad moment, for me and for them. I think that the bit we do through basketball is real important for them because it gives them an effort and we are very gingered up by this.
Term “Slums Dunk” with three words.
TEAMWORK: it’s the fundamental requisite in every field of life, from sport to family. Alone you won’t go anywhere while having common goals is the right way to succeed.
DETERMINATION/CONSTANCE: first because it pays in the long run; and second because it’s like the ant’s job, little by little.
LOVE: it’s simply what joins us together. Love for life is what we have in common with everybody!!
PASSION: firstly, the one the people there immediately had for basketball, a real “coup de foudre” for this novelty, and seeing them so happy to reach the court after school, is wonderful. Secondly, the one that pushes our group ahead. We are about ten people and we work for this project all year long.
SMILE: I’m an upbeat person and I always try to address issues with practice. Moreover, their smiles make me a happy man; they repay us in this wonderful way and give us a lot!!
BASKETBALL: this made (and still makes) me dreaming every day of my life and I wish the same for these people. It’s more than a sport, it’s a passion and a medium to do what we love.
For more information about the project click the link below.