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How the Thunder reached a small village in Rwanda

A Peace Corps volunteer from Oklahoma City and a small boy in Africa bonded over what he knew about her home state: Russell Westbrook and the Thunder.
by Anthony Slater Published: September 3, 2013

Tucked deep inside Rwanda's mountainous terrain, the small Central African village of Rwankuba doesn't have Internet, doesn't have running water and doesn't have much connection to the outside world.

It's a war-stricken country, still recovering from the devastating mass genocide that killed more than 500,000 people (about 20 percent of the population) in 1994.

So it came as no surprise to Betsy Dewey, a Peace Corps volunteer from Oklahoma City, that the Rwandan natives had never heard of her home state.

“New York or California?”  they'd ask back in January, her first month in the village, when she introduced herself as an American.

“Oklahoma,” she'd reply. “It's in the center of the country, but it's not famous. Don't worry.”

 There was no expectation that they'd know. So there was no reason for her to believe Luke, one of her oldest students, when he proclaimed: “Oh yeah, I know Oklahoma.”

 “No you don't, Luke,” she laughed.

 “Yeah, I do,” he replied. “They have the Thunder. Do you know Russell Westbrook?”

Dewey teaches English at the village's boarding school. At around 8 or 9, the kids are required to learn the language. She's there to help them through it.

But because of convenience — she has a personal laptop, one of the only computers in Rwankuba — Betsy also teaches a regular computing class.

 Fifty-five students, no Internet, one computer.

 “I'm kind of just winging it,” she said. “I didn't study computers in college, but I'm American, so they figure I know more about computers than them. It's a slow process, but they enjoy seeing my laptop. We draw pictures and try to make it work.”

Because of that, Betsy quickly learned of their lack of access to technology and globalized information.

So there she stood, in awe, when two weeks into her stay, one of the students was striking up a conversation about a basketball player halfway across the world.

“I was in complete shock,” she remembered. “I called home and was telling everyone that you'll never believe it, but one of my kids knows about the Thunder.”

The students are given a break in November and December, allowed to visit any remaining family or friends across the country.

That's when Luke, apparently, was first introduced to his new favorite player. He heard Westbrook's name on the radio, saw a few highlights and decided he liked the Thunder.

Continue reading this story on the...

by Anthony Slater
Thunder Beat Writer
Anthony Slater started on the Thunder beat in the summer of 2013, joining after two years as's lead sports blogger and web editor. A native Californian, Slater attended Sonoma State for two years before transferring to Oklahoma State in...
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