Wenyen Gabriel, a power forward for the LA Lakers and a former refugee, returned to South Sudan last week, visiting his homeland for the first time since being resettled to the US at a young age.
Gabriel met with families and individuals who had been displaced by the flooding and conflict in the area during his visit with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.
In 1997, Gabriel was born in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, where his parents had fled the southern civil war.
The NBA player said: “I am here in South Sudan for the first time since my family fled the country. We were resettled to the US as refugees with the support of UNHCR. My experience makes me want to speak up for refugees and displaced people everywhere and help make a difference.”
During his visit, the basketball star met with people who had been displaced by the region’s recent flooding and conflict. The basketball player was deeply moved by the visit.
“Visiting the IDP camps was very huge to me. I mean, I didn’t understand exactly what it looks like and to see that this being the one of the biggest crises in Africa and for it to be the one of the most under-funded, it’s just heartbreaking. And so I think bringing attention is so important”
Wenyen, a member of the LA Lakers, one of the most successful teams in NBA history, started playing basketball at a young age. Wenyen, who is now 25 years old, is eager to support UNHCR’s work and use sport’s transformative power to assist those who have been compelled to flee in creating a better future.
Gabriel organized a basketball tournament during the visit to encourage young people to practice sporting activities.
“I think that was really important for them. So they can feel included and not feel like they’re excluded in their own country. A lot of the kids were just so, so much joy, so much discipline. They worked hard. They never complained. And just I want to find a way to bring opportunity to them,” concluded the former refugee.