SEATTLE — Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Dikembe Mutumbo solidified himself as one of the best defensive big men in the NBA. Nicknamed “Mt. Mutumbo” for his enormous seven-foot-two-inch stature, Mutumbo made eight All-Star games, won four Defensive Player of the Year Awards, and finished his career playing 18 seasons, landing him second on the NBA’s all-time block list with 3,289 blocks.
However, as impactful Dikembe Mutumbo was on the court, his off-court accomplishments with charities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have been quite momentous. Among his accolades mentioned before for his basketball talents, Mutumbo was awarded the J.Walter Kennedy Citizenship award twice during his career, once in 2001 and again in 2009, proving to be the only NBA player to win the award multiple times.
Most recently, Dikembe Mutumbo was honored with the Humanitarian Award from Harvard Medical School for his tireless philanthropy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and his work with the GHC (Global Health Catalyst) in Boston.
Mutumbo was born on June 25, 1966 in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s capital. Although Mutumbo never endured much adversity growing up, he was still exposed to the high poverty and crime rates of his country. Mutumbo’s upbringing fueled his dedication to bettering his home country of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He started his aspiring career in charity work with graduating from the University of Georgetown with degrees in Linguistics and Diplomacy.
From the moment Mutumbo graduated and started his basketball career, he proved to be one of the most charitable NBA players to date. Some of his accomplishments with global charities range from 1993 when he became the spokesman for the international relief program CARE, visiting Somali refugee camps in North Kenya, to a two-week embargo with the Polio Eradication Campaign to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1999, responsible for successfully vaccinating 8.2 million children under the age of five. Among Mutumbo’s beneficial charity endeavors, his most prosperous achievement was founding the Dikembe Mutumbo Foundation in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
While playing for the Atlanta Hawks, Mutumbo established the Dikembe Mutumbo Foundation in 1997 in an attempt to better the health, education, and overall quality of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since its establishment, the Dikembe Mutumbo Foundation and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have partnered with NBA Cares to mentor children with basketball coaching clinics, raising awareness and support for countries in Africa and hosting charity events including the third Caring for Congo fundraiser that offered dinner, dancing, a silent auction and guest performers, all while giving the proceeds to the Biamba Marie Mutumbo Hospital in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The Biamba Marie Mutumbo Hospital has proven to be the greatest achievement of the Dikembe Mutumbo Foundation. Mutumbo founded the hospital himself, naming it after his mother who died in 1998. By 2007, the Biamba Marie Mutumbo Hospital was fully operational, providing close to 150 hospital beds, a fully stocked pharmacy and an intensive care unit. With the help of the Dikembe Mutumbo Foundation, the Biamba Marie Mutumbo Hospital has provided the Democratic Republic of Congo with a reliable health center, employment opportunities for more than 400 people, consistent staff training, and economic development.
Even with the internal improvements of the Biamba Marie Mutumbo Hospital, the Dikembe Mutumbo Foundation and the Democratic Republic of the Congo put forth a vigorous effort to partner with other charities to further the hospital’s operation. Donations through partnerships include the first ever 64-CT scanner in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, along with other radiation equipment donated by the Freeport McMoran program in 2010, and the Water-Well donated by the Church of Latter Day Saints, cutting the cost of utilities drastically. The Biamba Marie Mutumbo Hospital has also partnered with different charities to better medical research including the training of more than 100 staff about life support methods by the Operation Smiles staff in 2009, partnering with the United States Family Planning Agency for treatment of women who suffer from obstetric fistula and the USAID program to conduct procedures in preventing, identifying and treating HIV.
However, the Biamba Marie Mutumbo Hospital still faces many challenges. More than four million residents are affected by malaria each year, and of those four million, 5 percent die. Other diseases that have had a harmful impact on the Democratic Republic of Congo include HIV, which kills one out of seven people, and 150,000 new infections of tuberculosis recorded each year.
Nevertheless, the continuing improvements of the Biamba Marie Mutumbo Hospital have provided much needed medical improvements for the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since the Biamba Marie Mutumbo Hospital was established in 2007, it has treated more than 120,000 patients and established various partnerships to strengthen the healthcare provided for the Democratic Republic of the Congo residents.
The charity work of the Dikembe Mutumbo Foundation and the Democratic Republic of Congo has had an immense impact. Currently, the Dikembe Mutumbo Foundation is working on building an elementary school outside of Kinshasa and a Welcome House for visiting volunteer physicians, nurses, medical students, and educators, all while continuing to improve the Biamba Marie Mutumbo Hospital.
– Patrick Greeley