09/13/2010 05:04 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Sports and Society: A Lesson From Safari


Through my work with Right To Play, I met an amazing gentleman named Safari. Safari lived through the Rwandan genocide of 1994, where nearly a million people were killed, including many of his friends and family. Safari had to hide out so as not to be slaughtered as well, and he desperately tried to escape several times. Finally, after much hardship, he fled to a refugee camp in the Congo.

Though he was now safe, his life continued to disintegrate. Safari turned to drugs, stopped attending school and basically dissociated himself from society. The trauma had taken away his will to survive and fight for what once meant so much to him.

Life in the refugee camp was quite dismal. But the one bright part of Safari's day was when he joined some of the other refugees for pickup basketball games. Through playing basketball, Safari began to remember the importance of goals, cooperation, confidence, teamwork, respect, responsibility, commitment and fair play. He couldn't believe how much the sport gave him. Basketball turned his life around.

Safari eventually went back to Rwanda and worked with Right To Play to set up and run sport and play programs in refugee camps. He wanted to give back to sport and help other children overcome their horrific past.

People have often asked me why I risked traveling to a dangerous third world country to just become more educated on some disadvantaged children's plight. I tell them to try staring into the eyes of someone as amazing as Safari and try not to want to learn more.

Motivational Weight Management Tip

My experience of working with the Biggest Loser contestants and Symtrimics has inspired me to leave motivational diet, health, and wellness tips at the end of all of my blogs. These tools will be driven from the actual advice shared in my weekly motivational Transformation Talks. This week's tip: Make sure you want to lose weight or become fitter for YOURSELF. If you are doing this for someone else, it will be incredibly hard to stick to your goals. Your real friends and family will love you whatever size you are, but you will only love yourself if you feel like you are striving for your own dreams. Gain back your wellbeing to improve YOUR life. Take ownership of your health plans and remember that you are worth it.