Walking away from the WNBA

Moving from professional basketball player to founder of a nonprofit is not a typical career move for many athletes. Since I started playing basketball at the age of 5, I never pictured this turn in my life, but I wouldn’t change a thing.
 
What sparked my decision to switch from my fast paced life in the WNBA to creating the nonprofit, With My Own Two Hands (WMO2H)?
 
I loved playing basketball and I knew that I would only leave the game if I found something new that I was equally passionate about. Basketball has shown me that dedication and hard work are essential to anything I want to accomplish. The teamwork involved in basketball has also taught me how important it is to surround yourself with the right people. It’s those two lessons I took with me after winning a championship in Spain, on a volunteer trip to Africa, a journey that changed my life.
 
During that trip, I came across a girl at an orphanage, whose name was Shanti, which in Sanskrit means “peace.” She lost her parents to AIDS and carried the HIV virus as well. She had visible lesions and was pretty standoffish with me throughout my trip. When we passed out donated clothes, I made a conscious effort to give her clothes that would cover her lesions.
 
The next day when we arrived at the orphanage, she had her new outfit on and was smiling ear to ear. When we played soccer with the kids, her hand slid into mine, and I was shocked. She was a totally different girl. She displayed more security, confidence, and was truly grateful. That was the moment I knew it didn’t take much to make a difference, and I knew then I wanted to start a nonprofit dedicated to helping children in need.
 
We work with many projects in Kenya that benefit children in need. We focus on providing sustainable solutions through education, shelter, water and agriculture. Our main focus is to educate the children, but we understand that in order to do that all kids must first have shelter, food, and water.
 
Since I founded WMO2H six years ago, we have helped build an orphanage, a school, multiple greenhouses and drilled several water boreholes. WMO2H works with projects that can become sustainable by the community so that not only will it provide a resource, but will allow the community to have something to build on and continue to expand.
 
Female genital mutilation is something that our organization is also very focused on. Female genital mutilation is a long standing tradition (practiced by the Massai tribe in Kenya). It is a horrific, unsanitary, and unimaginable practice. These girls are viewed as property and are often sold without even being notified. Once they are circumcised and sold into marriage they lose access to education and they have to take on the full time role of wife and mother.
 
Girls are sold off as early as 9 years old to men, sometimes over the age of 50. Many people don’t know just how prevalent it is, but according to World Health Organization, it is estimated that more than 125 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in areas where it is practiced.
 
We have partnered with two rescue centers in Kajiado, Kenya that help rescue the girls. Between the two projects they have rescued over 1,000 girls from this practice.
 
In January, we built a dormitory at the HELGA Rescue Center to further our mission of rescuing girls from forced marriages and female genital mutilation. Within two short weeks, the dormitory was at full capacity with 42 girls. Our intention with the rescue dormitory was to give the power back to the girls so that they can make the choice to escape forced marriage and female genital mutilation, and instead have control over their bodies and access to education.
 
With this project, we not only gave these girls a safe place to live, but we gave them a way out of whatever difficulty they were in the middle of.
 
Pricilla, a woman in Kenya who founded the dormitory, and who has rescued more than 700 girls, said, “Within the first two weeks the dorm they built for us was completed, we had all 42 beds filled with rescued Maasai girls. Without WMO2H most of those girls would have been either circumcised or married off, or both. Thank you WMO2H from the bottom of our grateful hearts.”
 
We hope to continue to work with projects like the dormitory to expand our efforts and help even more at risk girls.
 
Today, With My Own Two Hands has been around for 6 years and we have 3 employees in both the U.S. and Africa. In 6 years, 77 children have been provided with shelter, 102 students have been given access to education, 783 people have been given access to water, 152 kids have received food from agriculture projects and 65 children have had their birthday sponsored.
 
The years I spent playing basketball have given me important skills such as the value of collaboration and determination. Founding a nonprofit opened my eyes to what’s happening around the world and has allowed me to travel and meet the people that my organization is helping.
 
Today, as a new mom, knowing that I can share my experiences with my child when he grows up helps me to know that I made the right choice for my career and my family when I switched from basketball to founding WMO2H.
 
 
 
To get involved with WMO2H, head over to our website. Remember that your efforts, big or small, can make a lasting impact in the work we do! Each and every one of us can make a difference in the world around us.
 

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Lindsey Pluimer

Founder and CEO at With My Own Two Hands
Lindsey Pluimer is CEO and Founder of nonprofit With My Own Two Hands whose mission is to provide sustainable solutions to projects in Africa that benefit orphaned or disadvantaged children and youth in need.
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