We recently wrote about Project PEARLS and the amazing work the organization does in some of the poorest parts of Manila. At the time, when we visited HelpingLand in Tondo to document the appalling conditions people there live in and the work the organization does to try and improve things, we would never have guessed that we would return a couple of weeks later to witness a basketball clinic featuring NBA players.
In tune with the league’s motto, sometimes Amazing Happens where you least expect it and so, on a hot Saturday morning in Barangay 105, three NBA players stepped onto the basketball court to teach and inspire sixty kids from the area. We went along to witness how amazing memories were created.
NBA Cares, the global community outreach initiative of the NBA, partnered with Project PEARLS for this basketball clinic, which was held at the basketball court in Happyland, Tondo. Sixty kids got to take part directly, while over 200 more were able to watch from the sidelines as Trey Burke, Jordan Clarkson and Horace Grant brought some NBA magic to the neighborhood.
The three players were greeted by an immense media presence on location, but it was the group of kids eagerly awaiting their arrival that formed the focus of their attention and following a quick welcome note, the clinic got underway:
All three players visited the Philippines from May 22 to 24 to celebrate the NBA Playoffs with Filipino fans and their presence went down a storm in Tondo, with over 300 kids inside the basketball court and many more watching from the outside as Clarkson, Burke and Grant put participants through a number of fun-filled basketball exercises.
Project PEARLS (standing for Peace, Education, Aspiration, Respect, Love and Smiles) is an outreach organization that carries out weekly feeding programs in the area and also offers scholarships for kids ranging from Pre-School and Kindergarten age to Middle and High School levels. These scholarships are entirely financed by donations and help to ensure the children receive a good basic education and a fair chance at a better life.
Fil-Am Clarkson is one of NBA’s rising stars and the 22 year old point guard currently plays for the LA Lakers after having been picked in round two the 2014 NBA draft.
Trey Burke was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves with the 9th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft and is currently playing for the Utah Jazz.
Both were joined for the event by NBA legend, and four-time champion with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, Horace Grant. The 49 year old may have left his trademark wrap-around glasses at home, but his towering presence and infectious smile went down a storm with the kids.
NBA Cares is the league’s global community outreach initiative that addresses important social issues such as education, youth and family development, as well as health and wellness. The NBA and its teams support a range of programs, partners and initiatives that strive to positively impact children and families worldwide. Carlo Reyes Singson, NBA Asia Associate VP, also helped in bringing the event to Tondo.
Temperatures on the basketball court quickly rose to sauna-like levels as the children took part in a number of exercises aimed at improving their hoops skills and – most importantly – designed to let them have fun under the guidance of the visiting NBA stars. Looking around the room, one couldn’t help but notice the huge money-can’t-buy smiles on the faces of the kids, and this experience will stay with them for a long time to come.
The event lasted for more than an hour, with the visiting players taking time to take pictures, sign autographs and generally have as much fun with the participants as possible. All of it was witnessed by a huge media gathering, with virtually all major news outlets present and reporting from the event. Hopefully this will aid Project PEARLS in receiving much needed publicity and with it more support for the great work the organization is doing.
You don’t have to be an NBA superstar to make a difference to the lives of people most in need of a helping hand and there are many different ways you can get involved with Project PEARLS, from volunteering to sponsoring scholarships. One thing is for sure, though: no matter how you choose to get involved, you can always rest assured that all help goes straight to the people who need it and you can see that for yourself by visiting the areas of Manila where the organization is most active.
Many of the kids taking part in the event also attend the weekly feeding program Project PEARLS carries out in the area. The organization has been active since 2008 and is a registered non-profit in the U.S. (where founder Melissa Villa lives) and in the Philippines, where a small team of core volunteers keeps things moving and costs at a minimum. This ensures donations really do reach their intended targets and the results are there for all to see.
It’s hard to put into words how beautiful it is to see those kids smiling and enjoying themselves, and being able to forget the worries of their every day lives for a short while. The memories of the event will stay with them for a long time and will hopefully inspire them to aim for more as they grow older. For some, this may be a career in sports, while for others it could be a journey into business, science or public service. Whatever they choose to do, Project PEARLS is there to help them along the way and you can help Project PEARLS in making a real difference on the ground.
Please visit the Project PEARLS website to read more about the great work by this non-profit organization and to learn how you can get involved: