The Friday NY Times Giving section addressed innovative approaches — large and small — that nonprofits are developing to improve the world. Reporter Ken Belson described one organization that makes a practically indestructible soccer ball for kids who are stuck with playing on rough terrain.
“Tim Jahnigen has always followed his heart. whether as a carpenter, a chef, a lyricist or now as an entrepreneur. So in 2006, when he saw a documentary about children in Darfur who found solace playing soccer with balls made out of garbage and string, he was inspired to do something about it.
“The children, he learned, used trash because the balls donated by relief agencies and sporting goods companies quickly ripped or deflated on the rocky dirt that doubled as soccer fields. …
“ ‘The only thing that sustained these kids is play,’ said Mr. Jahnigen of Berkeley, Calif. ‘Yet the millions of balls that are donated go flat within 24 hours.’
“During the next two years, Mr. Jahnigen, who was also working to develop an infrared medical technology, searched for something that could be made into a ball but never wear out, go flat or need a pump. Many engineers he spoke to were dubious of his project. But Mr. Jahnigen eventually discovered PopFoam, a type of hard foam made of ethylene-vinyl acetate, a class of material similar to that used in Crocs, the popular and durable sandals.
“ ‘It’s changed my life,’ he said.
“Figuring out how to shape PopFoam into a sphere, though, might cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and Mr. Jahnigen’s money was tied up in his other business.
“Then he happened to be having breakfast with Sting, a friend from his days in the music business. Mr. Jahnigen told him how soccer helped the children in Darfur cope with their troubles and his efforts to find an indestructible ball. Sting urged Mr. Jahnigen to drop everything and make the ball. Mr. Jahnigen said that developing the ball might cost as much as $300,000. Sting said he would pay for it.” More.
Today the One World Futbol is making a positive difference in the lives of many children.
Photograph: Nicholas Hammond
The One World Futbol stays inflated, even when used on concrete in El Salvador.