When the children of the community of Tiracancha, resting high in the Andes Mountains in Cusco, Peru, received 50 indestructible One World Futbols, they rejoiced at the fact that they will never have to scavenge for another soccer ball again. Games at the school were often cut short when makeshift soccer balls fell flat, and a pump to re-inflate them was a foreign concept. But the non-deflatable One World Futbols are resilient and, as the name states, indestructible. The kids would now be able to play “o jogo bonito” whenever their hearts desired, not only when they had a ball. It was the best news they’d gotten all year.
10-year-old Lucinda Quispe of Tiracancha commented: “It’s so great to have soccer balls that we can use anywhere. They give us an opportunity to enjoy ourselves after school and forget the cold, windy weather.”
What the students didn’t know is that an incredible partnership is responsible for bringing those soccer balls to Peru – a partnership that illustrates how Partners of the Americas and its collaborative partners work together to connect, serve and change lives.
The roots dig back to 2010, where One World Futbol Project was founded on the basis that “play” is in our DNA – a need as important as food, medicine and shelter. Through play, their mission states, we become stronger individuals, build better communities and create a more positive future.
Now known as the One World Play Project (OWPP), the organization was founded as a Benefit Corporation (B Corporation), and with the help of its Founding Sponsor Chevrolet, has now distributed over 1 million soccer balls to impoverished communities around the world.
In 2011, OWPP made a decision that would allow them to grow their sphere of influence. In January 2011, OWPP donated 24 soccer balls to A Ganar, Partners signature sport-for-development program. The balls were to be used in A Ganar’s branches in Haiti and the Caribbean. This small gesture forged a greater alliance – a partnership that continues to this day.
Today, A Ganar receives hundreds of soccer balls from individual donors on the OWPP website. The soccer balls have found their way to over 19 different nations, thanks to A Ganar’s collaboration with other Partners’ programs including Farmer-to-Farmer. One shipment of over 400 soccer balls is being transported via a U.S. Navy ship that is making its way throughout Latin America this year. The balls will be distributed along with millions of dollars of medical assistance.
This year, Peru Partners and OWPP have collaborated to distribute over 5,700 soccer balls to disadvantaged children in Peru. Spearheaded by Harry Wing, President of the Peru Chapter, and Salvador de Anda, OWPP’s Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, the move has resulted in balls being distributed to schools and NGOs in remote rural areas and marginalized urban neighborhoods throughout the country. Nearly half of the soccer balls have been gifted to CEDRO, a Peruvian NGO that combats illicit drug consumption and production throughout the country.
Mr. Wing comments: “It’s a great feeling of satisfaction to see the joy on the children’s faces when they receive the balls and immediately start playing.”
But what use do soccer balls play in preventing young people from going astray? Soccer balls themselves provide the focal point for programs like A Ganar that work to keep youth off the streets. These programs help instill team qualities amongst youth, enabling them to stay or return to school and offer livelihood training that prepares them for job opportunities.
To the students and teachers at Tiracancha, soccer really does change lives. School director Lidia Torres Palomino says: “Soccer gives the students a chance to play together, enjoy themselves, and look forward to coming to school.”
Interested in sharing the power of play with communities across the Americas? Visit One World Play Project’s A Ganar campaign, where, for every One World Futbol you buy, OWPP will donate a second ball to A Ganar. With your help, we can bring the power of play to those who need it most.