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From Africa to the WNBA, Logan couple works to help Senegal

July 26th, 2011 Posted in Arts and Life

Story & Photos by D. Whitney Smith

LOGAN—She played for the WNBA on and off from 1999 to 2007 and later went on to coach USU women’s basketball while working on a master’s degree. Eight years ago she gave birth to triplets. While managing all of this, Astou Ndiaye and her husband Ousmane Diatta—who works two full-time jobs—found the time, money and motivation to help the people of their native Senegal.

From their humble home in Logan, Utah, Ndiaye and Diatta raise their children, go to work and get along like any other American family. Most summers, though, Diatta said they work with religious organizations, local physicians and surgeons, and college students to organize humanitarian aid for cities and villages in Senegal.

“Our main goal is to build a center in different places where sports can still be done,” Ndiaye said, “but also have the prenatal help that some of these women need and be able to help young kids stay in school.”

Ndiaye is the co-creator and executor of the African Organization for Academic and Athletic Development (AOAAD), and her husband is its international coordinator. Since its inception in 2005, the AOAAD has worked with the LDS church to provide wheelchairs, hygiene and orphan kits, school and athletic supplies, and other necessities to Dakar—Senegal’s largest city of over 1 million residents—and its surrounding suburban and rural areas.

Sports, namely basketball, offer a good way to teach the children dedication while giving them hope in having a future, Ndiaye said. Dakar is like any other city, she said, there are many good children who just need a little help and guidance in order to have a good future.

“What we know is basketball,” Ndiaye said, “so when we go [to Senegal] in the past, we have done equipment donation, we have talked to the kids about self-esteem, taking care of yourself, just being responsible and staying in school.”

Diatta worked with doctors from Logan Regional Hospital to coordinate a trip to Senegal last summer in order to provide much-needed medical care. Obstetric surgeon Barry Noorda and his wife Suzanne Noorda, along with their two daughters and a few other doctors, accompanied Diatta and Ndiaye.

Barry Noorda said he has done similar trips to Peru but Senegal exceeded his expectations. He said the people were warm, welcoming and appreciative of the services his team was able to provide. Noorda said he was immediately affected by Diatta’s infectious personality and feels his cause is a noble one.

“What he said to us was, ‘I would like you to come back to Senegal,’ because he promised his mother he would always work to take care of women and children, which is what this particular service mission was all about,” Barry Noorda said. “He’s just very convincing. It’s kind of hard to say no.”

Suzanne Noorda said while her husband and the other doctors were providing care,  in some cases saving lives, she and her two high school-aged daughters worked in orphanages tending young children and bottle-feeding motherless infants.

When walking through villages in Senegal with Ndiaye, Suzanne Noorda said people would come up with video cameras and ask for autographs. She said Ndiaye is famous and a hero to many Senegalese. The Noordas both said they were glad to share the experience of working with Ndiaye and her husband.

“When Ousmane came to the house, we definitely had a calm and reassuring feeling that this was the right thing to do,” Suzanne Noorda said. “We felt very comfortable and confident in Ousmane and knew that we were going to do good things.”

Barry Noorda said the two doctors in Dakar who worked with Noorda’s team were responsible for caring for a massive number of people, and therefore usually required to be incredibly resourceful. Noorda said he and his team wanted to ease the burden while they were there.

“The physicians there are really in it because they love the people of their country, first and foremost, and they’re there to help people,” Barry Noorda said. “They’re very good at making use with very, very little, which is impressive, and I learned a lot that way, because we’re so used to having so much.”

Diatta said as he and his wife continue to coordinate future efforts, the biggest thing holding them back right now is funding. In past efforts members and supporters of AOAAD have contributed what funds they can, he said, but the suffering global economy is taking its toll here as well.

Currently, Diatta and Ndiaye are awaiting correspondence from the LDS church to find out if it will be able to send containers of school supplies for the upcoming school year, which Diatta said begins in October, in Senegal. The AOAAD also has a website, where people can make charitable donations and find out more about its efforts.

“The boys, the girls, no matter what they’re interested in it doesn’t have to be basketball,” Ndiaye said, “just being able to hear, ‘You can do this, you can follow your dream even if you don’t have everything,’ that is really what we try to provide.”


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