The socially-conscious basketball player finds her calling with children in need.
Lindsey Pluimer is a warrior of change. At a dazzling 6’4,” the former WNBA second round draft pick leaves an incredible impression behind that is rooted in her tall passions for social change. So what would make a draft pick for the Washington Mytics – an athlete who held the Number 12 all-time scorer and Number 10 all-time rebounder titles in UCLA women’s basketball history walk away in the prime of her career to start a nonprofit?
A Socially-Conscious Butterfly
Pluimer has always been a person concerned with the greater good. Her former UCLA professor Paul Von Blum described her to Lioness as “a thoughtful, socially engaged, deeply moral human being. I remember her very well, not only because she is tall and an extraordinary athlete but because unlike some other athletes, she took her school work very seriously. She is the ideal student athlete,” he added.
Blum was someone that Pluimer developed a close relationship with while at UCLA and still continues to keep in touch with today. Hearing about Pluimer’s successful career pivot does not come as a shock to him. “It doesn’t surprise me at all. One of the things she revealed when we first talked is a sense of ethics and social consciousness. I was extremely impressed with that. I’ve had over 40,000 students and she was spectacular.”
Pluimer thrived under the leadership of her coach Kathy Olivier. “I had an amazing coach who saw us as not only athletes but also as clearly developed people. In high school my whole life revolved around me and she opened my eyes to taking the lessons of basketball and team work into daily life. I was really committed to my education and chose UCLA because of their academic success,” which eventually led her to Blum’s class where she started growing a love for Africa.
A Dream Is Born
In an essay, Pluimer vowed that her feet would one day touch Africa’s soil. She was determined to get there in her lifetime and experience the magnificence of its vast cultures. After graduating with honors, she went on to play professional basketball. She also had a stint abroad in Sydney, Australia and then in Pamplona, Spain where she won a championship. When Pluimer returned home to California, it wasn’t long before she found volunteer work in South Africa through a connection of a friend’s mother. In July 2010, Pluimer volunteered in a village’s orphanage and never looked back.
“There was one girl that stole my heart. She had the HIV virus and her name was Shanti. She was very standoffish; she wasn’t one of the kids that gravitated towards you. We made sure that we could get Shanti longer clothes to cover her lesions and gave her two or three outfits.”
Pluimer said once Shanti received the new clothing, her attitude completely changed. “Her hands slid into mine. She showed up with a new outfit on and was a completely different girl. The outfit changed her day and energy.”
When Pluimer returned home, she retired. And though she had no experience in establishing an organization, she was determined to make a difference. Keeping her long-term vision in her sights, she leaped and launched, With My Own Two Hands, in Laguna Beach, Calif. Under Pluimer’s guidance as CEO, With My Own Two Hands is dedicated to improving the lives of orphaned and disadvantaged children and youth in need, with the believe that to diminish poverty, they must start with the children. Their goal is to provide an education to children in need while making sure they have the necessities of shelter, water and food.
“My whole mindset was if I raise $5,000 or $5 million it’ll go a long way,” Pluimer said.
Joel Misango who lives in Africa and is the organization’s African Program Director, helps keep her updated on how the projects are going when she cannot be there. Pluimer hopes that With My Own Two Hands will eventually be able to expand to neighboring countries. “We want to have Joel in Kenya and basically have another Joel in other countries. To know that your work is making an impact is a huge blessing.”
Evelyn Fiske is a junior, English major, at Western New England University. She loves tackling each day with a positive attitude and lots of coffee. Evelyn hopes to one day teach English in another country, with her biggest goal being to positively effect everyone she meets.