Samuel Dalembert plays through the pain. And the ache doesn’t stem from any typical injury, such as a sprained ankle or pulled hamstring. We’re talking affairs of the heart here.

As the NBA’s only Haitian-born player, the 28-year-old Philadelphia 76ers center stands in a prideful if not enviable position. And it’s that combination of dignity and defiance that now propels and sustains him.

“The plan is to be central to the effort to rebuild Haiti,” Dalembert, who lived in the all but destroyed capital city of Port-Au-Prince until his fourteenth birthday and has already been part of an emergency rescue team to visit the earthquake-ravaged region, told the Associated Press.

“I went to talk to the people,” said Dalembert, who in addition has already donated $100,000
to UNICEF and taped a public service announcement. “Its easy to sit down and give money,” he added. “But in times like these, people need to see your face, they want to see a loved one, someone they look up to. I feel being there will give them some hope.”

It’s that same indomitable spirit that within hours of the tragedy’s wake had Dalembert marching into the offices of team management and alerting them of his intentions of being upon the land where he felt most needed.

“I saw doctors having to do surgery on kitchen tables and amputating legs with saws for cutting wood,” a pensive Dalembert told a Philadelphia television station upon his return. “We need everyone’s help. It’s so bad it can stop you in your tracks. But we have to be strong.”

So Samuel Dalembert moves through all the pain in hopes that his homeland may again rise to prosper.

He still has several friends and family members that reside on the island, including his father, brother, sister and two uncles, but his overall motivation seems to run even deeper than that.

During his trip home, Dalembert was accompanied by former Miami Heat all-star center Alonzo Mourning and the two worked hand-and-hand with members of the Miami based Project Medishare relief group in bringing home scores of orphans slated to unite with prospective adoptive parents here in the States

“It’s going to be a long time,” Dalembert told the New York Daily News of the rebuilding process. “There’s no shelters, number one. People with houses, they’re going to have to put up some tents. They’re going to have to accommodate all these people for food and water, and after that, what are they going to do? Who’s going to build the houses? What are they going to do?”

But with native sons like Samuel Dalembert, at least there seems no shortage of hope.