For college students, finals can dull some of the brightness and cheer of the holiday season, but in the season of giving, a trip to the mall can be so much more than another reason to stress.
When it comes to gift-giving this season, Tim Jahnigen wants students to consider contributing to The One World Futbol Project, a new initiative created to give the gift of endless play by donating a ball to the children who need it most.
Inspired by news footage featuring young refugees in Darfur playing soccer with balls fashioned from trash and twine, the One World Futbol Project is an initiative designed to provide nearly indestructible — or “ultra-durable” — balls to children in harsh environments and at-risk areas that would otherwise not have a sturdy ball for play and essential social development.
Jahnigen, the project’s founder, called the footage of children playing soccer with trash, larger rocks and other discarded items “depressingly ingenious” and an obvious cry for a simple fix. Jahnigen said he believes that providing outlets for children to simply play is a fundamental and oft-overlooked aspect of many charities that give to the less fortunate, especially children.
“‘Play’ has been shown to be how we prepare for life,” Jahnigen said in an interview with Outside magazine. “Without ‘play’ we cannot adapt and evolve. In fact, ‘play,’ in its truest form, is the very basis for all civilization.”
Jahnigen, an award-winning lyricist, music producer and native of Berkeley, Calif., turned his idea into a reality with a little financial help from the musician Sting, and formally founded the non-profit organization in July 2010, right before the South African FIFA World Cup.
The ball, named after The Police song One World (Not Three)/a>, is made from a similar material used in Crocs shoes — ethylene-vinyl acetate foam. One World boasts that the balls are virtually indestructible and will never need a pump, even if it is punctured. Designed to withstand extreme heat and cold, Jahnigen said that these balls will last for decades.
Priced at $39.50, these brightly colored balls follow the one-for-one business model made famous by TOMS Shoes in 2006 — with every ball bought for your own personal use, a ball is donated to children in a disadvantaged community. (If you only want to give a ball, without getting one for yourself, it’s $25.) These communities are not limited to foreign countries; inner-cities and disaster areas in the United States are targeted for donations as well. Currently the balls are in use in nearly 150 countries, on six of seven continents and in all 50 states.
Jake Embrey, a youth group leader at Sunnybrook Christian Church and a sophomore at Northern Oklahoma College, is organizing a drive to raise money to buy 15 balls before the holiday season.
“I’ve played with those balls; they’re indestructible,” Embrey said. “If I can step on it and it pops right back up, that’s a product that’s worth raising money for. So many times, people will slap the word ‘charity’ in front of a product and expect you to spend money on it. This time, it’s for a quality product and idea.”
Embrey said that he thinks the people of Stillwater, Okla., will not hesitate to donate to One World Futbol because of its simple concept, and he isn’t the only student who is getting behind the One World Futbol movement.
Barrett Witten, an environmental science junior at Oklahoma State University said that not only is the ball practical for kids in at-risk areas, but it’s a gift he’d buy for his younger nieces and nephews.
“Those kids go through toys — especially balls — so quickly,” Witten said. “Unless they lose it, I see this ball being around for a long time. And I love how it donates one to someone in need, too. That’s a great investment for $40.”
Jahnigen said the success of this project is dependent on the support of consumers like Witten and Embrey.
“By donating one ball for each ball we sell, we invite the average consumer to do more than just spend money,” Jahnigen said in his Outside magazine interview. “They get to share both in the giving and the getting and help spread happiness and purpose in a simple, straightforward way.”
The balls can be purchased and donated to online at oneworldfutbol.com.
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