Thu, Jul 19, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Ron Artest talks about worst place he has ever seen


Ron Artest called it the worst place he'd ever seen. Maurice Evans emptied his pockets to buy shoes for kids who were walking barefoot over the filthy ground.

The NBA players, in Kenya to help feed children, realized food wasn't all that was needed. Electricity, heat and drinking water -- necessities rather than luxuries in most parts of the world -- were also missing.

"It was way, way worse than what I expected," the Los Angeles Lakers' Evans said on Tuesday from Nairobi during a phone interview. "People are actually living in slums. We call it ghettos and we have projects and places like that, but those are like mansions in Beverly Hills compared to what these people are living in."

Artest, the Sacramento Kings' forward, and Evans were part of the NBA players' association's "Feeding One Million" campaign, a partnership with the Feed The Children organization. The effort involves delivering 5 million kilograms of rice to residents of the Kawangware, Kibera and Dagoretti areas.

Also participating were NBA Players Union vice president Theo Ratliff of the Boston Celtics and Etan Thomas of the Washington Wizards.

Artest said he signed on for the trip to see where he came from, and was moved by what he saw -- children attending class in a broken-down school, a tribal chief who gave union director Billy Hunter his cane. He was so moved, in fact, he plans to have a house built there this autumn.

Used to eating only once a day, the children stuffed food in their pockets to share with family members. They didn't know they were being served by NBA players, only that, "we're tall guys," Ratliff said.

"We got the chance to see Kenya at its best and Kenya at its worst," Thomas said. "I know you can't solve their economic problems, but you can at least put a smile on a kid's face."

Evans did that for quite a few of them. After noticing the cuts on their unprotected feet, Evans took three youngsters to buy shoes. That turned into a line of five, which quickly doubled as word spread until Evans took out all the money he had at the time -- about US$250 -- to purchase as many pairs as possible.

This trip ended yesterday, and Ratliff thinks more players should consider taking part in future ones.

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