Former UConn All-American and current Connecticut Sun center Tina Charles has partnered with OmniPeace and buildOn to construct a new school in Mali. The school, which is located in the village of Ganale in the Sikasso Region of Mali, is 2,861 square feet and features three classrooms that can accommodate 150 elementary school children.
Charles donated $32,000. The sum represents the entire cost of the school that will be used for adult literacy classes at night.
“At some point, I always wanted to give back,’’ Charles said in a statement. “Once I was financially stable when I got to the pros, I decided I wanted to link up with OmniPeace and Mary Fanaro, who is the founder of OmniPeace. To build a school in Africa cost 32 thousand dollars. I have it, and I was able to supply it to the kids in Africa, and just try to do my part to help end poverty and help them have a brighter future.’’
It was through OmniPeace, a Los Angeles-based humanitarian fashion brand, that Charles made her contribution. Founded by Fanaro in 2007, OmniPeace has donated several hundred thousand dollars to help end violence against African women, and to educate children, and it has fully funded buildOn in its construction of six schools in three African countries, including the new facility in Mali.
“It has been both a pleasure and an honor to work with Tina Charles,’’ Fanaro said. “Her support has enabled her to become OmniPeace’s first Sports Ambassador, and we are excited to be in partnership with her. I am in awe of her basketball talent, and impressed by her kind demeanor and genuine dedication to wanting to make a difference.’’
Stamford-based buildOn has built more than 453 schools worldwide, including 256 in Africa and 178 in Mali. All of the schools in Mali, where gender discrimination is a serious issue, have been constructed in villages where buildOn partners have agreed to send equal numbers of girls and boys to be educated.
“We are honored to have Tina as a partner and are very inspired by her generosity and commitment to education,’’ buildOn Founder and CEO Jim Ziolkowski said. “Before Tina funded the school in the village of Ganale, students were learning in two temporary mud huts, with very little light and no ventilation. The new school is built to last 100 years, which means it will provide education for generations of children, parents and grandparents.’’
Charles is a WNBA All-Star and a member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Basketball Team.
“It’s kind of overwhelming knowing I was able to make a difference just like that,’’ Charles said. “I just want to always give back because somebody gave to me when I was younger and that’s just what I am about.’’