Kermit Washington Rumors
Abdul-Jabbar insists that basketball was really what his life had been about all along. He loves it and expects to play, he says, “as long as I keep my mental and physical health.” But in December of 1977 he was nearly ready to quit. Just a month after his hand had healed sufficiently for him to return to action, he witnessed yet another violent act when teammate Kermit Washington crushed the face of Houston’s Rudy Tomjanovich with a punch. “He was miserable,” says Cheryl. “I sent him air-express letters saying, ‘Kareem, your career is not a jail sentence.’ He felt so sorry for himself it was disgusting.”
During his week-long stay, Dwight visited the Kipok Secondary School in the Monduli region and the Lunguya Secondary School in Shinyanga to donate more than $80K for their educational efforts. Dwight’s donation will assist in building a dormitory on the grounds of each school so that the young girls are able to live on the school’s campus. By living on campus, it will ensure that the students have three meals a day and will help to keep the young girls safe from any danger, including potentially being raped, as they will no longer have to walk more than three kilometers to school. Other needs in this region include additional schools, classrooms, teachers and computer labs. The Secondary Schools also in need of 84 dormitories, of which only 20 are available at this time, leaving a shortage of 64. The presence of dormitories increases retention of the young girls and boys and as a result increases completion rates and improves academic performance.
The house in Zaire was surrounded by death and danger. I couldn’t help but think to myself that the United Nations should have stepped in and done something to keep peace. I always heard the phrase “Never Again” used in terms of the Nazi camps from World War II and the violence that came with that. I felt like this situation in Rwanda was no different and the UN should have intervened. Once I woke up, I headed downstairs to a Chinese restaurant where I proceeded to order about seven different things on the menu. It had been days since I had really eaten and ate all of the food that the waiter brought to the table. I had lost about 20 pounds during the trip. When I returned to Portland, The Oregonian had a front-page article about my trip. Tens of thousands of dollars were donated to the Northwest Medical Team because of the article, which had raised the awareness of the people in regard to the situation.
One day late in the evening we saw two brothers carrying a young girl. She was about six or seven years old. The doctors realized immediately she was very ill. They determined she had pneumonia and gave her a shot of antibiotics and set her up to an IV. They were having a hard time getting the IV into her because she was so small and frail. They finally got her set up and her brothers were looking after her. I wanted to take her back to the camp with us so that we could monitor her and said that she could have my bed, but being new and my first time, I didn’t insist that we take her. I will always remember her because as she lay there I was putting Chapstick on my lips and she pointed and gestured that she wanted some. So I put some on her lips and gave it to her to make her more comfortable. When we returned in the morning the little girl had died. I felt very guilty that I didn’t insist that we take her.
We went to the camp with 300,000 people with no food, water, light, bathrooms or security. It was a terrifying place with men walking around brandishing machetes and guns, looking very angry. These were the men from the Hutu army who had been embarrassed and fled Rwanda and were attempting to regain some status and control over the civilians by threatening violence and attempting to control operations at the camp. I told the doctors to remove their valuables, watches, rings, earrings, and be mindful to not put their cameras out the windows. One swing of a machete was capable of taking someone’s arm off, and the temptation would be there if there was a valuable attached. I also remember saying to myself if I was in the situation I would get away from this area saturated with so many people, sleep during the day and stay up at night because that was the most terrifying time without having shelter. These were destitute people. It was hot and stinky, waste was everywhere and because it was so hot the waste became dust and part of the soil. It would get kicked up as people were walking, so there was bacteria everywhere.
I had originally thought that the people we were going to aid were the disadvantaged and had been the ones who were attacked. As I came to learn more about the situation I began to understand that the majority of the people we were aiding were the ones who were members of the group that had actually started the conflict. The level of desperation was enough to make the area dangerous, and coupled with the anger of the men of the militia who had been embarrassed and lost face, the potential danger was raised to a whole new level. Here were heavily armed men struggling to regain respect and control because all they had was lost.
The next day, I told Post I had decided to go. I asked what I needed to do to get ready. They were very happy about me going and told I had to get vaccination shots from the doctor, make sure my passport was up to date, and acquire a visa. I had never been to Africa and honestly it was terrifying to say the least, and it was all happening very fast. I had no idea who I was going with, only that there were about 10 doctors and nurses going, and I wouldn’t be meeting any of them until I flew into London. While getting my vaccinations the doctor informed me that the shots I was taking would take more than 10 days before the antibodies would be active — so, in other words, they wouldn’t do me any good until I came back. On top of that I didn’t even know where we were going; our airline tickets only got us to Nairobi.
“What it is, honestly, is I don’t like to see people abused or taken advantage of,” he said. “I’ve been the same ever since I was a kid. I don’t like bullies. I think poverty is a bully. Disease is a bully. Corruption is a bully. Growing up, I loved Robin Hood and Zorro and all the stories about people helping other people. “Even though people say this and that, I’ve been very fortunate in life. I’ve had a lot of lucky breaks and I had a lot of people who helped me. I’ve always been a very giving person. It’s just in my nature. And when I go overseas and work, I feel like I’m doing something.”
Since making that life-altering journey in 1994, helping Africans has become Washington’s passion and he has dedicated an immeasurable amount of time, money and sweat to improving the quality of life in a world thousands of miles from home. He’s made more than 40 trips since 1994 – another is planned for next month – and spearheaded the creation of a medical clinic, school and food distribution center in Nairobi, Kenya, one of the poorest slums on Earth.
One evening changed Kermit Washington’s life forever. But it’s probably not the one you’re thinking about. In the middle of the night in August 1994, Washington and a gang of doctors and nurses snuck into Goma, Zaire, for a humanitarian mission and made their way to a refugee camp outside war-torn Rwanda. The stench of decaying bodies and human waste stretched for miles. Dead bodies lined dirt roads and fields. Trees had been blown to bits by repeated bombings or had been chopped down to make fires and build shelter. Thousands of refugees wandered in search of food and hope, creating an air of desperation and despair.