Marc Gasol is using his NBA off season wisely. The Memphis Grizzlies’ center has been volunteering with Proactiva Open Arms, a non-profit organization that recuses refugees who are lost at sea in their attempt to flee Africa or the Middle East for Europe in order to escape war, persecution and/or poverty.
No one really knew Gasol had been volunteering until he shared a post on social media expressing his frustration and anger at the situation following his team’s rescue of a migrant Cameroonian woman 90 miles off the coast of Libya.
According to Gasol, the woman would have died soon had his group not intervened.
Frustration, anger, and helplessness. It’s unbelievable how so many vulnerable people are abandoned to their deaths at sea.
Deep admiration for these I call my teammates at this time @openarms_fund pic.twitter.com/TR0KnRsrTE
— Marc Gasol (@MarcGasol) July 17, 2018
“There were pieces of wood and clothes floating in the water,” Gasol told The Guardian. “Then there was that woman, with her elbows resting on a wooden beam. Her eyes were lost in the void. She was weak and in shock. She had been clinging to that piece of wood with her last bit of strength and had remained that way for 48 hours. I thought of this woman, of her strength. And I felt anger.”
The crew also recovered two bodies from the water, one being a toddler.
“I am a father. I have children. And I imagine the pain of a father who is forced to face a journey like this where one risks everything, one risks one’s own life, to reach a country where one can live in peace and with dignity,” the three-time NBA All-Star told The Guardian.
According to the United Nations, more than 1,400 people have died in the last year trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea.
“I cannot understand how anyone can turn away from these people who are dying at sea,” Gasol said. “How can we pretend it isn’t happening? Before being an athlete, I’m a person, a human being, like the ones Open Arms are saving every day. We must work so that these tragedies never happen again. We are all responsible.”