Joseph Oyebog provides tennis opportunities for children in Cameroon but needs American capital to do it. He leaves his wife, Nathalie, and two children, ages 1 and 2, for six months every year to teach tennis in Fairfield County. He returns to his native Cameroon in November to his academy, which is now 10 years old.
"It's hard,'' says Oyebog, who teaches most of his students at Dwight Elementary School in Fairfield. "It's one of the ultimate sacrifices. In my country, there's no way to me to make a living playing tennis. It's hard to raise the money for the program back home."
It would be easy for Oyebog to bring his family to America. But the Oyebog Tennis Academy is his passion. "There's a deep, burning desire me to give back,'' he says.
The academy provides more than tennis, Oyebog says. "We're happy with the fact that through tennis they have someplace to go other than the hospital,'' he says. "They don't have to worry about AIDS or malaria."
Tennis was Oyebog's outlet. His mother, worried that he was dedicating too much time to tennis, enrolled him in a boarding school in Cameroon. Unbeknownst to her, a tennis court was right outside his dormitory. He became the national champion of Cameroon and made the Davis Cup team. He also was the hitting partner for Venus and Serena Williams and played at Columbus College in Georgia.He has also hit with and received help for his academy from James Blake.
Oyebog will help the Fordham University tennis team but is most proud of his work in Cameroon, where the academy has given 5,000 children a taste of tennis.
Oyebog is committed to his tennis. "It's hard for us,'' Oyebog says. "It brings some amount of stress. My wife played tennis, so she understands for me to make a living at it, I have to be out of the country."
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