COES grad’s foundation aims to provide shoes, basketball court to children in Nigeria
Louisiana Tech University alumnus and graduate student, Mubarak “Mo” Muhammed, is using his ties to Bulldogs Basketball and the skills he learned in the Industrial Engineering program to provide children with basketball shoes and a well-lit court to play on.
He developed the vision for the nonprofit Grass Root Africa Basketball Foundation (GRAB) in 2018 to give kids growing up in his hometown, Suleja, Nigeria, hope for the future.
“Growing up in Nigeria is really hard. At 8 years old, all I thought about was when I was going to eat again. It didn’t hit me until I received a pair of shoes at 16 that I could play basketball, that I could do something other than worry about food. From there, my dreams grew, and I eventually discovered that I could be an engineer. That’s what GRAB is about, providing hope for kids like me, giving them the privilege of looking beyond hunger and strife to start believing in dreams like every kid deserves.”
To date, more than 70 children have received shoes from GRAB through donations by Muhammed, his teammates, fellow engineering students and soccer players around the University. With growing support throughout the Louisiana Tech and Ruston communities, Muhammed believes that he can send 500 pairs of shoes back to children throughout Nigeria and build the first standard public basketball court in his hometown.
Using engineering and cost-minimizing skills that he learned in Tech’s Industrial Engineering program, Muhammed believes that he has devised a method for GRAB to build a full-size, outdoor court similar to the University court in the Thomas Assembly Center, complete with a blue, red and white color scheme and a bulldog at half court. The court will have fiber rims, benches, a security fence and fluorescent lights that automatically come on at night and will cost roughly half of what a court with those specs would cost.
“A study 2016 showed that the world produces ten times the food to feed the world population yet one third of the world is in severe hunger,” Muhammed stated. “The key for me is to be resourceful, we have the needed resources to see our vision through.”
Dr. Jun-Ing Ker, program chair and associate professor of industrial engineering at Tech, says that Muhammed and GRAB provide an important service by connecting Tech students, alumni and faculty with an opportunity to give to the global community.
“Many Tech students do not know how to assist people who live outside the U.S.A. Through the leadership and coordination of our international students and alumni, Tech students are in a unique position to make positive impact on global welfare. The GRAB Foundation that Mo established provides an excellent opportunity for our students to take part in supporting and enriching growth of younger generations in Nigeria through playing basketball.”
“Mo worked very hard to balance his athletic and academic time,” Dr. Heath Tims, associate dean of undergraduate studies for Tech’s College of Engineering and Science added. “It is great to see him use his talents in both of these areas to help others.”
Future GRAB projects include connecting kids in the area with college athletes in a mentoring program, building a public water borehole for the school Muhammed attended, holding a weeklong clinic for local kids with fellow Louisiana Tech athletes and building a shelter for homeless children in the area.
“GRAB’s mission is to find ways to empower kids, to enrich their childhoods,” Muhammed said. “I hope to inspire them by showing them options that I didn’t have growing up. Basketball can be an escape from constantly thinking about hunger. I hope that GRAB will show kids that it’s possible to achieve something beyond the hardship and poverty of growing up in northern Nigeria and worrying about their next meal. If somebody like me could do it, they can.”
“When he decided to major in Industrial Engineering, Mo told me that while he placed great importance on basketball, he was well aware that it would one day end,” Dr. John Easley, senior lecturer in industrial engineering at Louisiana Tech said. “Because of this reality, he preferred to place more importance on people as well as his academic education. In starting this foundation, we see a remarkable example of Mo’s love for his fellow man: His steadfast attributes of hard work, discipline, and determination bode well for everyone that has been, and will be, impacted by this foundation.”
“When you go from praying for breakfast to being a Louisiana Tech athlete,” Muhammed added, “you try to take advantage of the opportunities, and that was how I saw engineering and basketball. I’m happy to be able to take the skills I learned in both to help the community I grew up in.”
Learn more about opportunities to donate shoes and supplies or join the crowdfund initiative for the basketball court construction at the GRAB Foundation website or follow the foundation on Instagram by the handle Grabfoundation.