Brooklyn Center Firefighter Gives Back Through Nonprofit Hawa’s Wings
For the last nine years, Korboi Balla has worked as a Brooklyn Center firefighter.
Although “work” might not be the proper word.
“It doesn’t feel like it’s work anymore. You know, cause everything that I’m doing right now, I love doing it. It’s a passion,” Balla said.
For Balla, saving lives and helping people on their worst days is a rewarding profession, to say the least.
“Serving your community, giving back, is what I stand for,” he said. “So I really do enjoy it.”
But this native of Liberia doesn’t stop at fighting fires and responding to medical calls.
When Balla isn’t saving lives, he spends his time impacting children’s lives through his nonprofit, Hawa’s Wings, which he named after his sister who died from cancer.
“You know because my sister has always been a person that’s caring, full of love,” Balla said.
Now, Balla is spreading that same care and love through sports.
On Martin Luther King Day, Hawa’s Wings hosted the second annual Ballers and Badges youth basketball tournament. Dozens of kids participated with teams coached by firefighters, police and sheriff’s deputies.
“I know that there was a bad stigma with cops and everything else in the city,” Balla said. “So being a firefighter, I’ve worked with police. You know, so I wanted to find a better way that we could start having the conversations, start to heal, the healing process.”
It’s a healing process that he thought was necessary after the murder of George Floyd. And while this initiative is in its early stages, so far, it’s paying dividends.
“To see the transformation from, ‘we don’t mess with the police’ to ‘oh my gosh, you’re cool, I like you.’ You know so just seeing how everything changed or how they started to engage with the police was like rewarding for me, you know.”
The basketball tournament doubled in size from last year. Some of the participants received prizes ranging from shoes, to clothing, to gift cards.