UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Changing the World, One Child at a Time

Here are many critics who believe that Division III athletic teams are a waste of funds because the programs don’t offer much to the sporting world. Little do they know that through sports, a Division III basketball coach is changing the world, one child at a time.

Vice Chancellor and Head Basketball Coach Charlie Titus is leading the Yes (Youth Education and Sports) with Africa program that has become an institution of sports, learning and advancement in West Africa for nearly a decade. Yes with Africa has used basketball as the vehicle to reach children in Niger, Benin and Senegal. Once there, the children, aged 7-19, become immersed with the desire to better themselves.

“We want everyone to understand the role that sports plays all over the world, and we wanted to give our students an international experience,” Titus says. “But most importantly, it was our opportunity to have an impact in a continent that has many problems.”

The program wasn’t an overnight creation or a product of a committee brainstorm, but rather an evolution, according to Titus. Several years ago, basketball team manager Yacobua Sangrae mentioned to Titus that he wanted to do something for Africa to better the lives of its citizens. Research showed that at the time, Niger was the poorest country in the world. Titus knew at that moment that the people of Niger needed help, and that he could be the one to provide aid.

Through Sangrae’s inspiration and Titus’ dedication, the two were able to organize a three week basketball camp in 1997 in Niamey, Niger. In addition to basketball, the camp helped children learn about computers, health, and their own culture.

Following Sangrae and Titus’ initial outreach, the program got a big boost when Professor Jemadari Kamara became involved. Kamara is director of the Center for African Caribbean and Community Development at UMB and without him, Titus says, “the whole thing couldn’t be done.” Kamara has started two universities in Africa and his expertise regarding the western part of the continent has been invaluable to the program’s success.

Since Kamara and Titus formed an equal partnership, the program has spread to Benin and Senegal over the past 6 years. In December of 2006, Titus traveled to Washington, D.C. to present the Yes with Africa project to the president of Benin, Yayi Boni. Boni is considered to be one the brightest and youngest leaders in Africa with a vision to restore the continent to greatness. Titus was honored by the President’s invitation and understands the importance of Boni’s presence in Benin.

“He’s going to work with us,” Titus said of Benin’s young leader. “With him, this program is going to continue to take off.”

Despite the efforts of leaders like Titus, Kamara and Boni, the program still needs assistance. Titus estimates that about $200,000 has been spent in the program’s existence, yet not a single dollar is from UMB. To gain the resources necessary, Titus has had to fundraise through grants and aid from the United States Association of International Development.

Also, the Yes with Africa program always needs volunteers. A student wishing to get involved should get in contact with Titus or Kamara. In the future, visits to Africa to be more directly involved in Yes with Africa may be possible for students.

With such a big project, it would be easy to become disheartened and feel like change will never come. Titus, however, remains optimistic and enthusiastic about future challenges. “We’ll never fulfill the needs that these people have, and it can be overwhelming,” Titus says. “But we’ll keep chipping away with integrity. The more resources we can develop, the greater impact we can have.”

Once again, it is proven that sports aren’t limited to box scores, fans, and personal glory.