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Homeland Hero
Jeffri Chadiha
May 07, 2007
Chargers offensive lineman Roman Oben goes back to give back in Cameroon
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May 07, 2007

Homeland Hero

Chargers offensive lineman Roman Oben goes back to give back in Cameroon

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THE GIDDY children serenaded Chargers offensive tackle Roman Oben and his wife, Linda, as soon as the couple reached the tiny school in Nguti, Cameroon. The kids offered gifts—hats, a homemade shield, handwritten notes of appreciation. This was one of the stops on Oben's recent eight-day visit to his home country. "They didn't care that I was a pro football player," says the 34-year-old Oben, who has two sons. "They only cared that I was there."

At 6'4", 305 pounds, Oben makes an impression. So did this journey, during which he visited the grave of his father in Buea (whom he never knew and who died last year) and devoted himself to charitable work. Oben set up bank accounts to help families in Nguti buy groceries, and he earmarked donations so children could receive birth certificates from the government. A starter on the Buccaneers' Super Bowl team of 2002, Oben lived in Cameroon until he was four, then moved to Washington, D.C., with his mother, Marie, who had gotten a job at the Cameroon embassy. Roman last went to his native country in '04. "When Roman saw the severity of their poverty," Linda says, "he realized that could have easily have been him in that situation."

In all, Oben says he has spent nearly $40,000 of his own money to fund projects in the West African nation. He has also helped build a dormitory for an orphanage in Buea and not long ago received a $30,000 grant from the NFL to assist with future efforts. "It's become fashionable for people to help African countries," says Oben, "but a place like Cameroon tends to get overlooked. I just want to do my part."

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