Sun's Tina Charles reaching out to help othersMay 7, 2012
When she was a sophomore at the University of Connecticut, Connecticut Sun all-league forward Tina Charles saw a picture of Jennifer Anniston in a red t-shirt with a peace sign and a map of the continent of Africa on the front.
She found out that the shirt was made by OmniPeace, a Los Angeles-based fashion company that donates a portion of its sales profits to end violence against African women and to educate African children.
It was then that the idea of making her own contribution entered her consciousness and now, six years later, she has the resources to follow through.
Charles has donated $32,000 to OmniPeace and the Stamford, Ct-based firm, buildOn, for construction of an elementary school in the southern Mali region of Sikasso for 150 children.
“Once I was financially stable when I got to the pros I decided I wanted to link up with OmniPeace, she said. “To build a school in Africa, cost $32,000. I have it and I was able to supply it to the kids in Africa and just try to do my part to end poverty and help them have a brighter future,” she said at the time of the announcement of the donation.
The building is almost complete but revolutionary activity in the strife-ridden country has delayed opening. That should occur in the next few weeks, Charles said.
Charles has never been to Africa (she plans to visit the school when her schedule allows). She literally landed on Mali for the project by moving her arm in front of a map of Africa and randomly landing on that country.
The school will strengthen the Sun-Mali connection although the link is purely coincidental. At the WNBA draft last month, the Sun drafted Astan Dabo, a 6-8 19-year-old from central Mali.
Although a trip to Africa is not in her immediate future, Charles will leave the U.S. in late July where she will be a member of the 12-person USA Women’s basketball team coached by her former UConn mentor, Geno Auriemma. The 6-4 Charles is one of six former Huskies on the squad, where she’ll join Sun teammate 6-2 forward Asjha Jones, who was named last week when college superstar Brittney Griner refused an invitation.
Charles said she hasn’t thought much about the Olympics. “Right now my priority is the Connecticut Sun,” she said. “When July rolls around, I’ll find out what Coach Auriemma expects of me”
No doubt, what he’ll expect, is the continued front court presence of one of the most dominating centers in the WNBA and the college ranks, before that. In 2010, she was the league’s rookie of the year; last season she led the WNBA with an average of 11 rebounds a game.