Basketball scout Sarah Chan’s career has taken her all over the world, from Sudan to Kenya, Europe and the US – but she’s had to face war, racism and gender-based violence along the way.
“I have been spat in the face for the colour of my skin,” says the former professional basketball player.
“I’ve experienced racism in more ways than I would like.”
Now the first woman to manage African scouting for a team in the NBA – the world’s top professional basketball league – Ms Chan is inspiring a new generation of young people to seek out opportunities in the sport.
“Basketball illuminated my way to where I am today. It is everything,” says Ms Chan, who is featured in the BBC 100 Women list of inspiring and influential women this year.
She and her family lived in Khartoum during the second Sudanese Civil War. There were several attempts to arrest her father and she recalls often being woken in the night by noises outside their house.
Eventually they fled, hoping to find a safer life and better education in Kenya.
“It was the first place that we could actually enjoy the right of playing sports, because in Sudan [playing] sports and seeing a girl or woman in shorts was a taboo,” says Ms Chan.
It was here that her passion for basketball would emerge. She remembers a conversation that led to her and her sister playing the sport for the first time.
“I remember being one of the tallest kids in school in Kenya and our principal approached us and asked if we could play.
“And at the time, honestly, my mind wasn’t there. And so I said, with all respect, I didn’t want to join – and because of that, he immediately made sports mandatory.”
After years of training, she went on to secure a four-year undergraduate basketball scholarship at Union University, in Jackson, Tennessee, in the US. Over a 14-year playing career, she competed professionally in Europe and across Africa.
“Through basketball you touch so many hearts. Basketball changes lives,” she says.
But Ms Chan also encountered racism in the sport – including an incident she says happened when she travelled to Algiers, with her teammates and was spat at on the face by a man.
“Without the foundation of what my family instilled in me, I wouldn’t have been able to withstand all of that,” she says.
“Right before I left home, my dad and my mum said, ‘You’re beautiful just the way you are.'”
When she took her first trip back to South Sudan in 2012, Ms Chan witnessed injustices against women, including early and forced marriages.
“At the age of 18 you’re expected to start looking for a mate,” she says.
Girls are forced to choose whether to stay in school “or to get financial relief from the man that the family might choose for you”, she explains.
“I cried for way too long.
It got to a point where I was done crying and I needed to find out what I could do to contribute towards making some things right.”
After years of training, she went on to secure a four-year undergraduate basketball scholarship at Union University, in Jackson, Tennessee, in the US. Over a 14-year playing career, she competed professionally in Europe and across Africa. (BBC)