The southern Brazilian state of Parana is Charles Gbeke's favourite place in the world to chill, but the striker does more than laze around in the offseason.
Gbeke, who fell in love with Brazil while playing there between 2000 and '03, developed an appreciation for community work growing up in Ivory Coast. He was 11 when his family moved to the Montreal area.
"I go to my friend's church when I'm there [in Parana] and we do some social work in the community," said Gbeke, who counts Arsenal's Brazilian star Eduardo Da Silva among his friends.
The two met while Gbeke was on trial with Croatian side Dynamo Zagreb in 2005.
"We try to help people by giving food and we go into the schools, talking about drug prevention, stuff like that. I love to do that, be in contact with the people."
In Montreal, Gbeke became good friends with Canadiens forward Alexei Kovalev, whose Kovy's Kids box supports the Canadiens Children's Foundation.
Gbeke was the World Vision spokesperson in Quebec and also worked with the Quebec Breakfast Club.
"I went to church as a young kid and I always liked helping other people," he said. "I was born in Africa so I saw poverty, but I was blessed to be living in a household where I didn't struggle with food and stuff like that.
"I think that's what triggered me to do things like this."
© The Vancouver Province 2008