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Manute Bol wants to build school in native Sudan - Aug 30, 2008

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Manute Bol
When Manute Bol (231-C-62, college: Bridgeport) unfolds his 7-foot-7 frame from a Cadillac Escalade and walks into a suburban Kansas City restaurant, eyes turn and people openly gawk.

Bol is oblivious to the stares after a lifetime of towering over everyone around him. He considers his height a gift from God, one that gave him a way out of his native Sudan and brought him fame and fortune in the NBA. Now he wants to give back by helping to build a school in the village where he was raised.

Bol, who didn't attend school as a child, understands that a quality education is the key to building a better future, for individuals and countries. It is why he moved to Olathe with his wife and four sons a year ago.

'I like it here,'' Bol said. 'It's quiet. I like my neighbors, people are very nice and my kids can get a good education.''

He wants children in his village to have the same opportunity.

That is why under the auspices of Sudan Sunrise, a Lenexa-based group that promotes reconciliation in Sudan, he is leading an effort to build a school in Turalei.

'If you don't have education, people go in a bad way,'' Bol said. 'This is what I want in southern Sudan, for everyone to go to school.''

Besides providing education, Bol says the school could further another goal close to his heart - reconciliation between Christians in southern Sudan and Muslims in northern Sudan. Many of the Muslims now suffering in Darfur and neighboring Chad were soldiers who inflicted so much pain on southern Christians during the civil war that ended in 2005.

Sudan has never been far from Bol's heart, even after he arrived in the U.S. in 1983 to play basketball. He played for the University of Bridgeport before embarking on a 10-year NBA career in which he averaged 3.3 blocks, 4.2 rebounds and 2.6 points in 624 career games with Washington, Golden State, Philadelphia and Miami.

As he became famous as a shot-blocking specialist who sometimes hit 3-pointers, Bol lobbied Washington lawmakers to help stop the bloody civil war that raged in southern Sudan at the time, killing more than 2 million people and creating 4 million refugees.

Bol gave an estimated $3.5 million to relatives, many of whom were leaders in the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army, a rebel movement. After retiring from the NBA in 1994, he was detained in Sudan during one of his visits and had to escape with the help of friends in Connecticut.

Since the war ended, Bol has returned to Sudan several times. It was on a trip home in February of this year that he decided to try and help build a school in Turalei. Like most of southern Sudan, Turalei is still trying to recover from the war, during which it was destroyed and most of its citizens killed.

Courtesy of  

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