Chicago Bulls support ninemillion campaign

News Stories, 15 February 2008

© UNHCR/B.Smith
Luol Deng takes a rest between scoring points for the Chicago Bulls.

CHICAGO, United States, February 15 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency and its campaign to bring education to millions of displaced children was centre stage make that centre court this week as Chicago Bulls forward Luol Deng pledged to donate US$50 to ninemillion.org for every basket he scores this season.

The British basketball star's donation will help provide education and schools for children in South Sudan, where Deng was born and from where he and his family fled civil war 20 years ago.

Ahead of a game here Thursday evening between the Bulls and the Miami Heat, Bulls' vice-president of business operations, Steve Schanwald, "tipped-off" the team's fund-raising efforts by presenting a check for US$10,000 to UNHCR's Greg Millar, who was accompanied by a group of children from South Sudan.

"The donation from the Chicago Bulls is a great way to begin Luol's campaign to help provide education, sport and water for refugee children in southern Sudan," said Millar, UNHCR's regional private sector fund-raising officer.

"I thank the Bulls and Luol on behalf of these children and hope many supporters will join the ninemillion.org campaign. Every basket that Luol scores will make a difference in the lives of these children," he added.

The contribution from CharitaBulls, the Chicago Bulls' non-profit organization, will go towards building and equipping a classroom in a school which Deng is building in South Sudan.

Deng was only three years old when his family fled Sudan's growing civil war for Egypt. It was there, he said, that he first picked up a basketball. Several years later, the family was granted political asylum in the United Kingdom and moved to London. Deng played in a local basketball league and his skills soon brought him to the attention of an American scout.

Speaking ahead of Thursday's game, which he missed due to an injury, Deng called on others to join him in supporting the ninemillion.org campaign. "Twenty years of war in South Sudan has destroyed so much. But today thousands of people are returning to their homes and communities. Now is the time to help."

Earlier this week, the UN refugee agency launched an appeal for US$63 million to fund its operations this year in South Sudan, including organizing the voluntary return and reintegration of 80,000 Sudanese refugees now living in neighbouring countries.

Since the signing of a peace agreement in 2005, more than 169,000 Sudanese refugees and an estimated 1.9 million internally displaced Sudanese have returned home.

Ninemillion.org is committed to giving refugee youth the chance to learn and play, recognizing that education and sport can improve their lives. The campaign is focused on all aspects of a child's educational needs, including school supplies, teacher salaries, recreational programmes, nutrition and transportation. Particular emphasis is put on getting girls into the classroom.