In July last year, Liezel Huber was on top of the world.
She had just won the Wimbledon doubles title with partner Cara Black of Zimbabwe and was making headlines across the globe.
But it was her largely unpublicised accomplishments a few months later that have made a more lasting and long-term impression, especially on the lives of the people she has impacted.
Based in the USA, the Durban-born tennis star was stunned by the news of the devastation brought about by hurricane Katrina.
Having sustained a career-threatening knee injury just five days after winning her Wimbledon title, and being confined to her home in Houston, Huber decided she wanted to do something to help in the relief efforts.
“It was devastating,” explained Huber. “I just happened to be in the right place at the wrong time I guess. I had time on my hands and knew I could raise funds. I sent out an email to my friends, who then sent it to their friends and so on. That’s how Liezel’s Cause got started.”
Liezel’s Cause is the charity that Huber established to provide rent, utilities, furniture, children’s daycare and schooling and basic needs for the families left homeless by the hurricane, with the goal of helping them become independent.
“My main aim was to get these families back to normal,” she said. “To get them out of the shelters, get the kids back in the school and basically just meet their needs.
“I ended up helping 21 families, some large and some small. They are all doing great. Some have moved back to New Orleans and a lot have decided to make Houston their new homes. They are so grateful for everything and I am so grateful for everyone who came together, who made this possible,” added Huber.
“They were all so inspiring and uplifting to me. I mean they had nothing and I had everything. They smiled, laughed and felt they were so blessed. It puts things in perspective. It’s so easy to be unappreciative or dwell on the negative. This really motivated me through my knee rehab. I will always be grateful to them for that.”
Huber reckons that other top sportspeople in a similar privileged position to herself have a responsibility to give back to society in some way.
“I feel we are very fortunate and so why not give back to society? If everyone can make a difference, it doesn’t matter how big or small, it can only be a better world.”
Visit www.liezelscause.com for more details. – Heartlines Features.
By Karien Jonckheere.