News Archive | Page 2 of 2 | Hope 4 Girls Africa


Opportunity equals growth, at least in Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah’s book.

Whether it’s by pursuing creative writing, poetry or athletics, the 6-foot-3 high school junior from Nigeria with “off-the-charts” potential on the basketball court knows she has plenty of paths that could help her forge a better life.

But the self-described “introvert” with a “malleable” personality didn’t always see it that way.

Since coming to the United States from Africa about a year and a half ago, Kunaiyi-Akpanah has discovered she is much more than the shy teenager who knew little about basketball and even less about herself. And the junior center at Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School in Rabun Gap, Ga., now understands that, with hard work, she has the power not only to alter the course of her own life, but also to set an example for other girls back home.

“I have had things handed to me to start off,” Kunaiyi-Akpanah said. “Now I am handing stuff to myself and I am achieving things for [myself].”

Kunaiyi-Akpanah received a chance to come to the United States largely due to the efforts of Hope 4 Girls founder Mobolaji Akiode, a former standout women’s basketball player at Fordham and a member of the Nigerian national teams that competed in the Olympics in 2000 and 2004. The camp teaches young women life skills, gives them a place to develop their basketball skills and, possibly, to earn an even bigger opportunity.

In only her second season at Rabun Gap, a college preparatory and boarding school two hours northwest of Atlanta, Kunaiyi-Akpanah is doing just that. Rabun Gap has a 20-4 record and plays in the Georgia semifinals on Thursday. Auburn, Georgia Tech, Northwestern, Ohio State, Oklahoma, South Florida, Southern Mississippi, Virginia Tech and Washington are just some of the schools that have shown an interest in Kunaiyi-Akpanah, Rabun Gap girls’ basketball coach Dale Earnhardt said.

“I think she sees [basketball] as a means to an end to get a great education,” Earnhardt said of Kunaiyi-Akpanah, who also plays volleyball at the school. “I think she enjoys [basketball]. I don’t think she realizes how good she can be and she isn’t thinking much after that. Her initial goal is ‘What college am I going to go to?’ She knows that is her ticket to get it paid for.”

Kunaiyi-Akpanah arrived on campus in October 2012 after the students had been in school for more than a month. Earnhardt remembers the first workout with her and how “raw” she was as a basketball player. He said she averaged 6 to 8 points per game and 10 to 12 rebounds a game last season on a team that went 16-9.

This season, Earnhardt has seen Kunaiyi-Akpanah make significant strides. Not only is she averaging 10 points and 12 rebounds per game, but he also has seen her develop more confidence, which has helped her speak out and lose some of the shyness she had when she arrived.

Despite an emerging game, Kunaiyi-Akpanah isn’t going to get lost in basketball. She said she envisions pursuing a professional basketball career or using a degree in business or finance to get a job in the U.S. Either way, she believes her hard work down either path will show her two younger brothers and sister how hard they need to work to make something of themselves. As much as she wants to accomplish those things for herself, she wants to show her siblings and girls like her in Nigeria what they can do if they have hope in themselves and if they use their voices to make a name for themselves.

“I just feel the need to be able to handle myself and take this opportunity God has given me and make the most out of it,” Kunaiyi-Akpanah said. “I will be proud of myself because I know I will have achieved it and nothing has been handed to me. I have achieved my own goals.”


Nigeria: Hope for Girls Camp Ends in Lagos

Lagos — The second edition of “Hope For Girls”, a basketball clinic, for girls came to a befitting end Sunday at the Rowe Park, Yaba, Lagos. The annual programme, which is the brainchild of America based former Nigerian international basketball player, Mobolaji Akiode, started last week with about 50 girls who are under 20 years of age. Also, 150 secondary schools from different states of Nigeria plus also girls from Benin Republic and Mali attended the clinic.

Hope For Girls was set up primarily by Miss Akiode to empower girls from poor family backgrounds but who have the potential of making it in life through basketball. Her goal was both simple and grand: to use sports, particularly basketball camps, to inspire and empower impoverished young women, first in Nigeria and then throughout the African continent.
“Women are seen as second-class citizens in most parts of the continent. But in reality, this is not so. Women can excel in areas where men do. Akiode began noticing the disparities during visits to Nigeria while she was a member of the national and Olympic teams. “I just got heartbroken when I saw that things that helped me as a young girl are no longer in place,” she says.

Rowe Park, which served as venue for the one-week camp was a beehive of activity all through the event. There were three sessions daily in the mornin and evenings for campers and secondary school kids. These included seminars, self-defence class, a motivational speak from Mr Saheed Kekere Ekun and career talk by educationist, Mrs Catherine Bickerseth of Strategic Educational Advisory group.
At the end of the event, participants expressed appreciation to Miss Akiode and wished all Nigerians would join hands with her in giving hope to a lot of girls who are in the streets. Miss Akiode who left her job as an accountant with ESPN to set up Hope For Girls in Nigeria has appealed to well meaning Nigerians, the corporate world and Non Govermental Organisations (NGO) as well as various levels of governments in the country to come to her aid to keep her pet project alive.
“I’ve done my best making sure that some less privileged girls in our society don’t waste away, through this Hope For Girls camp. But how much longer I can carry on will depend on how much support I get from governments, the private sector and Nigerians generally.
For now, I can thank my team who have supported me all the way, and I cannot forget the Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) for his support.


Hope 4 Girls’ bounces into Lagos

After having a successful campaign in its debut camp programme in Ogun State last year, the ‘Hope 4 Girls’ Basket Foundation programme has invited 55 girls in and around Nigeria to take part in the second camping exercise in Lagos.  A brain child of former Nigerian basketball player, Mobolaji Akiode, ‘Hope 4 Girls’ is dedicated to the increased participation and empowerment of disadvantaged young African women in sports and education.  Because of the initiative and the desire to help the coming generation of women, Akiode quit her accounting job at American Cable sports company, ESPN and returned to Nigeria to set up the basketball camp to help young girls in the country. She had been a member of the 2004 Nigerian Olympic basketball team.

The dream
She currently dedicates herself to empowering girls in Africa by lifting them out of poverty through sports. The girls in her camps travel from all over the country to learn not only basketball skills, but life skills as well.  “Our target group is young African women particularly Nigerians between the ages of 12 to 19 years. We aim to provide opportunities for these young women to display and develop character, intellect, and athletic ability through ‘Hope 4 Girls’ sports camps, learning workshops, and other empowerment programs” Akiode said.

Unlike the first edition made solely of Nigerian girls , this year’s edition will have seven girls from neighbouring West African countries in attendance which to Akiode is a testimony to the success of the programmes thus far. “Girls from Benin Republic, Togo and Guinea Bissau and other countries were begging to be a part of this season’s programme, though some don’t even speak English, we just had to admit a  few girls amongst them” she said. Interestingly also, some NBA Stars are expected to come in to help the girls learn some rudiments of the game.

Guest collaborators
The girls will have the opportunity of learning from NBA stars like Hassem Tabeet; from Tanzania who plays for the Memphis Grizzlies. He will be joined by the new Nigerian sensation; Solomon Alabi of the Toronto Raptors, and Massai Ujiri; all part of the NBA basketball without borders team heading for Senegal. Explaining her reason for deciding to help out the girls on the court, Akiode said that her exposure during her playing career lead her to the present choice of assignment.
“I want to see more girls pursuing an education. I want girls to believe in themselves. I want them to be inspired to be great. We want to use the platform of sports to help these young girls find their way out of their undesired situations and grow to be inspiring women. That’s our goal for not only the girls of Nigeria but girls all over” she said. According to Akiode some of the players who participated at the last edition of the programme have already been offered scholarships in some colleges in the United State while she is also hoping that more will be selected to pursue not only a career in basketball but also in academics.

The clinic will run in Lagos from Wednesday, July 28- August 1, 2010.