The Raptors point guard recently travelled to Zambia for a field visit, where he received a first-hand look at the work UNICEF is doing with the country’s education, water and sanitation programs.
For Calderon, visiting the African nation — where 80 per cent of the rural population lives below the poverty line — was a eye-opening experience and prompted him to speak out about the ongoing need to improve conditions upon his return to his native Spain.
“I have seen in Zambia how the work of UNICEF saves lives and gives opportunities to children”, Calderon said. “Every child has the right to education, feeding, access to clean water or protection and all of us can do very much to change their lives”.
The need for awareness and increased aid is critical in Zambia, described by UNICEF as one of the poorest countries in the world. According to the organization, 36 per cent (roughly 4.8 million) of residents are without access to clean water and 50 per cent of Zambians (6.6. million) can’t access sanitation facilities. The cycle of intergenerational poverty is furthered by an primary education completion rate of just 72 per cent.
Calderon’s trip included a visit to The Fountain of Hope — a community centre that sees a reported 400 children come through its doors every day for assistance with basic education, health, nutrition and hygiene needs. The centre also offers access to sports facilities, where Calderon was more than willing to share his expertise on the basketball court.
“Every day they come to this centre trying to improve their lives to have a future,” said Calderon. “It’s amazing how they keep their energy despite the huge difficulties they have to face.”
The trip extended an offseason of globetrotting for the Raptors’ longest-tenured player (and currently the team’s elderstatesman at 30 years old), which included a lengthy run with the Spanish national team at the London Olympics that resulted in a second straight silver medal. A well-deserved extended siesta for Calderon after another offseason of high-level basketball would have been understandable, but his continued philanthropy with organizations like UNICEF and Right To Play make him a shining example of leadership and dedication both on and off the court.
Read more about Calderon’s visit to Zambia at UNICEF’s official Spanish site, and check out more pictures from his trip below.