Tharparkar is a district in Pakistan’s Sindh province and one of the poorest parts of one of the world’s poorest countries in the world. It’s suffered from drought for 17 straight years and an estimated 87 percent of its 1.6 million people live below Pakistan’s poverty line.
The lack of water resources is particularly critical so a Michigan-based NGO with Pakistani roots, the Paani Project, decided to do something about it, setting as its goal a solar-powered water plant in one of the district’s poorest villages, Rohal. As one of the hottest places on the planet, it has plenty of sunny days.
And as he’s done countless times since he’s been in Brooklyn, Kyrie Irving and his KAI Family Foundation came to the rescue. Irving provided funds to set up not just the water plant which will serve 1000 villagers but also other solar-powered necessities like electrical power for lighting — and fans — at local schools and mosque, handlights for local children to move around the village (and avoid rattlesnakes!) as wall as a small farm to help with food sustainability.
On Monday, to commemorate the celebration of Eid, the Muslim holy day, the project was officially opened. Without publicity from Irving or his foundation, the Internet picked it up and we all learned of it Wednesday.
It all began back in April when an Irving fan — who now admits to being a fan of the Nets too — decided to reach out the Nets guard for help.
“Kyrie has always been one of my favorite players. One day I was just scrolling online and came across his surreal track record of philanthropy. I was surprised to see how much work he’s done in Africa, the work he’s done for low-income communities, and work towards women’s empowerment,” said Sonny Khan, a Pakistani-American who’s the founder and director of Paani Project.
“I reached out to his foundation directly and told them about Paani. How we have $0 in overhead costs. How we give all of our money to the people. How we record everything from start to finish. How we’ve raised over $1 million as volunteers without any money for marketing.
“I think our story of being kids’ who just wanted to help resonated,” said Khan who’s only 22 and a recent graduate of the University of Michigan.
The process was all virtual. Khan didn’t meet Irving. No matter. It worked. From Khan’s first call to Irving’s foundation to project completion took only four months. One reason is that the group has fostered relationships with construction partners in Pakistan and the United Nations Development Program and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Paani posted a video about the project on Twitter Wednesday afternoon.
NBA superstar and humanitarian Kyrie Irving built a Paani solar water center in Sindh with his K.A.I. Family Foundation pic.twitter.com/ELI8zOYfPr— پانی Paani (@PaaniProject) July 28, 2021
Khan emphasized that Irving wanted no publicity, that it was “a stroke of luck” on the Internet that the news went viral.
“I really want to emphasize, is that Kyrie is very private with his donations,” he told NetsDaily. “Whenever they make a donation you never see any sort of a press release, I think it was just by the stroke of luck on the Internet that this post gained the traction that It did. Because he’s very private about all of his philanthropic endeavors.”
Indeed, he has, from donating a million pieces of PPE to his late mother’s tribal reservation during the height of the pandemic to buying a house for George Floyd’s family in Minneapolis. Pakistan isn’t his first international endeavor either. He’s also recently helped with African water projects.
In the media, particularly north and east of Brooklyn, Irving is often vilified for his controversial comments, political beliefs. Earlier Wednesday, he publicly accused NIKE of releasing a sneaker without his permission.
“I have nothing to do with the design or marketing of the upcoming #Kyrie8, IMO these are trash! I have Absolutely nothing to do with them!”
Sounds like a business dispute which, considering what both sides have at risk, will no doubt be resolved.
Meanwhile, in the village of Rohal in the district of Tharparkar in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the water is running, the lights are on and Irving’s humanitarian legacy grows. As Khan said in an Instagram posting...
“If you’re looking for a new team to cheer for - we HIGHLY recommend Mr. Irving and the Brooklyn Nets!”
Find it hard to disagree.