By Corbyn Hightower
What happens when you gather a group of young people who love playing football (or soccer, as they call it in America) and drive a steamroller over their ball? If it’s a nearly indestructible One World Futbol, it’s GAME ON. The whoops of joy when it re-inflates unharmed represent just what these balls can mean for children who often lack simple tools for play. For the majority of locations where children are in need, not only are resources limited, but the terrain itself can be rugged. A standard ball wears out within days, some within hours; but the One World Futbol is an engineering marvel: It can survive punctures, never needs inflating, and will weather years of happy use and abuse. Like the human spirit itself, this ball can survive almost anything.
Back in May of 2012, Chevrolet became the founding sponsor of One World Futbol Project, pledging to donate and support distribution of 1.5 million One World Futbols over three years to youth in war-stricken zones, refugee camps, disaster areas and other underprivileged communities around the world. True to that mission, over the first year of the partnership donated balls have made their way into the hands of at-risk children in more than 37 nations, including Thailand, Indonesia, Mexico, Paraguay, Zanzibar, Kenya and Haiti.
Laurent Berthet, Director of Communications for Chevrolet Thailand, was not only personally involved but also moved by the wave of volunteerism and goodwill that surrounded the donations of balls to rural areas such as Ranong, a southern province: “These balls were more than just a gift. They were the promise of hours of fun, teamwork, entertainment and exercise—and also a little escape from some of life’s harsh realities.” Local Chevrolet affiliates banded together to add donations like rice, books and other essentials.
In Kenya, Chevrolet Global Marketing Senior Manager John Gasloli participated in a donation made in an area called Kibera, on the outskirts of Nairobi. Kibera is a massive urban slum, populated by hundreds of thousands of people from many rival tribes.
Through the efforts of residents and volunteers (in particular the nonprofit organization Carolina for Kibera, with which One World Futbol and Chevrolet are partnering), football tournaments have become a way to heal a community lacking cohesion and hope. Gasloli describes a smaller, more personal moment: “I saw a toddler playing ball with some adults. Just a flat, lopsided, dirty ball. I kneeled down to his level and, through gestures, communicated that I would like to exchange his ball for the One World Futbol I held out to him. I can’t adequately express the joyful emotion of that exchange.”
In Brazil, in the slums outside Sao Paolo, One World Futbol is working closely with the group Coaches Across Continents (CAC), an organization dedicated to training youth mentors. These young coaches, in turn, support their most disadvantaged peers in the learning of key life and social skills through the global language of sport. “I think the One World Futbol is the first ball that’s ever been invented that impacts community,” says CAC founder Nick Gates. “It’s not just going to score goals. It’s been designed to allow communities to make changes.”
Even in one of the most dangerous cities in the world, Cuidad Juarez, Mexico, those changes are beginning to happen:
The balls have made their way to at-risk kids right here in the United States as well. In Detroit, Chevrolet teamed up with Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Police Athletic League to donate 1,350 One World Futbols to 23 public schools in the metropolitan area. Chevrolet Global Marketing Manager Charlotte Blank relives her favorite memory: “We drove up in a Silverado filled with hundreds of these balls. When we opened the hatch, the children’s smiles, and their excitement, were like nothing I’d ever seen.”
Lisa Tarver, One World Futbol Project co-founder and chief giving officer, explains the importance of play to the well-being of children around the world: “Children everywhere need to play—it’s a necessity of life. Play helps in recovery from trauma, in coping with challenging situations, and in developing physical, psychological and spiritual health. The mission of One World Futbol Project is to bring the healing power of play to the most vulnerable parts of society—our children—and maximize human potential. Working with Chevrolet to provide nearly indestructible balls that won’t go flat and never need a pump is a simple, invaluable contribution that enables children to keep playing, growing and thriving—and nurturing the indomitable human spirit.”
Stay tuned for more inspiring videos from the field. And join us in the Power of Play:
Individuals can support One World Futbol Project through their “Buy One, Give One” program. Use the special discount code “ChevyOWFP” to get $5 off the $39.50 price (plus shipping).
The trademarks mentioned in this story are held by their respective owners.
Corbyn Hightower is a community moderator/writer for The Huffington Post whose writing has also appeared in More magazine, The New York Times and Yes! Magazine, as well as on shareable.net. She's been interviewed on national television for her writing about living well post-recession, and has appeared on radio stations across the globe. She and her husband and three children preach the good word about sustainability, vegetable gardening and keeping chickens in your backyard.