For University of Michigan students Sikander “Sonny” Khan and Taha Syed, James is more than an athlete they admire on the court.
“LeBron is a role model,” said Khan.
“I’ve always been a LeBron follower because of his playing style on the court and how he gives back to his hometown in Akron, Ohio,” said Syed.
So, Khan and Syed decided to name a well after James in Pakistan. Located in the Mirpur Khas District of Sindh, Pakistan, this well is not just any ordinary well. It tells a story.
Khan and Syed are both involved with a nonprofit organization called Paani. Paani, which means water in Urdu, was founded in 2017 and operated by student volunteers dedicated to alleviating the water and sanitation crisis in Pakistan.
Khan, co-founder of Paani, said estimates suggest Pakistan will reach water scarcity by 2025.
The organization has raised close to $100,000 and built over 200 wells, giving over 20,000 people access to clean water. In addition, the organization has donated over $1 million worth of medical supplies, feminine hygiene products and children’s clothing to the same communities.
The organization dedicates wells to public figures who use their platform to bring awareness to social issues and help communities. One well is dedicated in honor of James because he is a symbol of empowerment. Other wells have been named after Pakistan Prime Minster Imran Khan, Jaden Smith, small businesses and families.
“There are many athletes who use their platforms to bring awareness on social issues, but LeBron is the most visible,” said Syed. “He does the most and talks about social issues to help his community.”
James’ initiatives such as the I Promise School, the LeBron James Family Foundation, his partnerships with the University of Akron and Walmart, and the community of Akron itself align with Paani’s mission.
“What LeBron and Paani have both realized is that it is important to give back to where you came from,” said Syed.
Khan’s and Syed’s parents are both from Pakistan. Both wanted to give back to their parents’ countries because of the sacrifices their parents made to give both of them better lives in the U.S.
“Many people in Akron and Pakistan are in adverse situations but for those of us that are in a position of opportunity, we can leverage this to elevate those communities and enable them to enjoy the same positive outcomes,” said Syed.
“By spreading awareness, we hope to create opportunities for those who need them most,” said Syed.