As a boy in Zimbabwe, Gus Chikamba had very little. He made do.
“I remember we could not afford a soccer ball, so we used to make soccer balls out of plastic, out of trash,” he said. “I think I first saw a basketball at the age of 14 when I went to boarding school.”
Basketball was his ticket to opportunity. He played in high school and college in Zimbabwe and believes it kept him focused and too busy to get into trouble, unlike some of his friends.
“They did other things, and they fell through the cracks of life,” he said.
Today, Chikamba, 47, lives in Indianapolis, a world away from where he grew up. Yet he has never forgotten how far he has come from kicking makeshift balls on dusty fields.
Even after coming to the U.S. in 2000 to earn his MBA and then launching a career — he’s now a retirement planner for Capital Group — Chikamba kept thinking about ways to help a new generation of kids back home. That crystallized in 2008 when he and his wife, Madeline, returned for a visit.
Not long after, they created Africa Outreach USA, a nonprofit that has donated sports equipment, funded basketball courts, held sports clinics and created opportunities for boys and girls to play basketball, soccer, volleyball and tennis at schools across Zimbabwe. Those sports programs include a teaching component about gender equity (50 percent of all participants must be girls), health and the importance of school. Some students have received sponsorships for school tuition.
Chikamba estimates 50,000 children have participated and more than 10,000 pieces of sports equipment have been donated.
“Part of the vision that we’ve always had is to deploy sport as a vehicle to help kids in Africa, kids who look like we did when we were growing up,” Chikamba said.