|Kermit Washington will fast for five days to raise awareness and funds to end hunger in Africa
Former NBA Star Aims to Net Big for African Hunger Relief Project
He’s been a pro basketball player, a coach, and the topic of myriad articles and at least one book. But today, former NBA star Kermit Washington, CAS/BA’73, is working for a cause much bigger than himself, even at 6’8”: fighting hunger in Africa.
Washington, who began a nonprofit called Project Contact in 1995 after a memorable trip to Rwanda with an organization that brings medical relief to various African nations in need, will bring his mission of educating the next generation of leaders about the widespread suffering in poor African nations front and center in a few weeks. And he won’t be shooting hoops to do so. He’ll be fasting - for all the world to see.
From Wednesday, Oct. 1 to Sunday, Oct. 5, the 57-year-old philanthropist will "Fast for the Hungry" on the main quad. Housed in a tent in front of the SIS building with a sleeping bag and a few friends joining him in the effort, the philanthropist plans to fast for five days to bring attention to the issue of hunger in Africa, fostering awareness of Project Contact Africa and its efforts to alleviate hunger in Kenya.
“American University's support of this effort – and of one of our distinguished alumni – underscores our commitment to social responsibility on a global scale. We are utilizing this opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of the issues of hunger on the African continent,” says President Neil Kerwin, SPA/BA ’71, who awarded Washington the Cyrus Ansary medal last October for his humanitarian work, much of which he has funded himself over the years. Kerwin and SIS dean Lou Goodman plan to fast for a day with Washington, and at least two of Washington’s colleagues will fast with him for all five days; it’s rumored that NBA Players Association director Billy Hunter will participate for part of the time, as well.
Washington’s goal is to raise awareness – and enough money to feed 2 million Africans. Just $1 a day can feed 10 people, says Washington. “One dollar buys four pounds of rice or beans, and that becomes 12 pounds when it’s cooked,” he says in a video on his Web site.
Since the beginning of Project Contact in 1995, the Leesburg, Va., resident has made 24 trips to Nairobi, Kenya. The doctors and nurses who accompany him bring medical relief to areas where there’s no running water or electricity. Everyday citizens – including AU students in recent years - also volunteer for the trips, which generally last about two weeks.
In addition to making AU and the surrounding community aware of hunger relief in Africa and Washington’s efforts via Project Contact Africa, AU is using the occasion to involve other groups, individuals, NGOs, alumni, students, and student organizations to participate and develop a deeper understanding of African issues.
While a student at AU, Washington earned basketball honors as an NCAA All-American and NCAA Academic All American. He was offered $400,000 to quit school and go pro when he was a junior but opted to stay and graduate. He went on to play for the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, San Diego Clippers, Portland Trail Blazers, and Golden State Warriors.
Pamphlets about hunger and relief efforts will be available at a table near Washington’s tent over the five days, and various organizations will join him in tabling with displays and additional information. The schedule looks like this:
- Wed., Oct. 1 -- Kickoff event, noon on the quad. President Neil Kerwin, SIS dean Louis Goodman, and Kermit Washington to speak about the importance of the project.
- Thurs., Oct. 2 -- Information Fair – 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. on the quad. Stop by and check out display tables, exhibits, and other materials to increase your understanding of Africa, and hunger/health issues in Africa.
- Fri., Oct. 3 -- Panel Discussion -- from 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. in the SIS Lounge, to discuss hunger relief/food assistance to Africa
- Sat., Oct 4 – Washington will be available to discuss hunger in Africa and his work in Kenya.
- Sun., Oct. 5 – A "break the fast" service in the planning, likely in Kay Spiritual Life Center.
Washington hopes that having his fast spread across the weekend will allow alumni who might not otherwise be able to get to campus to participate to come back to take part. Students and alumni wishing to participate in the fast and/or come pitch a tent on the quad to support the cause will be accommodated with a nearby spot. To donate, visit http://www.projectcontactafrica.com/donate.aspx