Gorgui Dieng is one of two Senegalese players in the NBA, but back home he might be better known for his philanthropic work.
And Dieng isn’t wasting his privileged position. With the help of Minnesota-based global health nonprofit MATTER he set up the Gorgui Dieng Foundation in 2015.
The foundation provides aid to Senegal – a country in which 29.6 percent of the 15.4 million population live in poverty, according to the World Health Organization – through four different methods: medical, food, agriculture and athletics.
Just last summer, Dieng sent 300,000 bags of intravenous fluid to Senegal and visited a neonatal hospital in Diamniadio that benefited from his organization’s donations.
He’s helped send beds, dialysis machines, X-ray machines and patient monitors for a new dialysis center to his hometown of Kébémer.
In recognition of his work, Dieng became the third player to receive the Offseason NBA Cares Community Assist Award.
Although he is “thankful” for the award, Dieng’s more interested in the positive impact he is having rather than any attention that comes alongside it.
“There a lot who are fighting with malnutrition in some areas of Senegal,” Dieng told CNN. “I think we’ve come up big with some great numbers.
“We help so many people and that’s the most important thing. That’s what makes me happy, when I see people who were at A and now they’re at B.”
From a young age
Dieng’s desire to make a difference was instilled from a young age, and from a very important person.
“My dad was a mayor. I saw him help so many people so that was the inspiration to me,” he remembers.
“I saw my dad do it when I was young. That’s one thing I knew that I really wanted to do. I know I’m playing basketball, I’m in the NBA. But I really have a platform to help my community.”
Dieng found his way to the USA through the Sport for Education and Economic Development (SEED) Project in Senegal.
He played college basketball for Louisville before being drafted 21st overall by the Timberwolves in 2012.
He had an immediate impact. He was named in the NBA’s All-Rookie Second team and became just the sixth player since the NBA began tracking starts in 1970 to have at least 20 points and 20 rebounds within their first three career starts.
Although he was rewarded with his contract extension, Dieng never lost sight of his dad’s inspiration. And a trip back to his hometown in 2015 pushed Dieng to make a difference.
“When I was home in the summer, I saw a lady and she was laying on the ground and she was pregnant,” Dieng said. “The hospital didn’t have any equipment to help her.
“I got a chance to talk to her and take her to the doctor and make sure that I help them if I could.”
Using their position for good
Due to the privileged position they find themselves in, Dieng thinks it’s key for sportsmen and women to give something back to the community.
“It’s important. We have a great platform,” Dieng said. “For example, you play in the NBA, you’re getting to meet a lot of people.
“We have everything in front of us to use. It’s on us as a player to go help and to see if you can help our community. Everything is set for us right now to use in a battle that will help our community.”
Dieng is the latest in a line of sports people who have used their influential position to have a positive impact.
Los Angeles Laker’s star LeBron James opened the I Promise school for underprivileged children in 2018.
It hosts 240 at-risk third and fourth-grade students in James’ hometown of Akron, Ohio. In 2019, the school added safe housing so students could have a stable place to live while they receive their education.
Manchester United and Spain midfielder Juan Mata helped set up the Common Goal foundation. The foundation has members pledge 1 percent of their earnings to a central fund to “harness the power of football to advance the United Nations Global Goals.”
Members include USA women’s internationals Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan, Italy and Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini and Germany and Bayern Munich midfielder Serge Gnabry to name a few.
Tennis great Serena Williams, the 23-time grand slam champion, has long had ties to charity work.
She was named as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 2011 and supported the Schools for Africa initiative.
In a visit to Ghana in 2006, Williams distributed anti-malaria bed nets, helped demonstrate their use to local communities and joined a team of volunteer health workers as they immunized children against diseases.
Williams has also sold 36 items of her daughter’s clothing to charity with the money raised going to Serena’s charity, the Williams Sister Fund – which she set up with her sister Venus in 2016 – and their Yetunde Price Resource Center.
The Center was named after Yetunde Price, the Williams’ older sister, who was murdered in 2003. Its mission is to “offer trauma-informed programs that promote individual and community-wide healing and resiliency.”