Back in 2006, Californian entrepreneur Tim Jahnigen watched a documentary about children in Darfur who found comfort playing soccer using balls made of trash and string. It was a documentary that would change his life forever.
He was so moved by what he saw that he decided to do something about it. After carrying out a little research Jahnigen discovered that even though many children living in poverty or war torn countries were donated soccer balls by charities or relief agencies, they would end up resorting to using the homemade trash ball because the normal leather balls would not survive on the rocky, hard surfaces that were often the only places they could play.
“The only thing that sustained these kids is play…Yet the millions of balls that are donated go flat within 24 hours.”
Over the next two years, Jahnigen set about developing a ball that would last on the surfaces these children played on, one that would not puncture, need to be pumped or go flat. Numerous engineers that Jahnigen consulted about the project were skeptical but eventually he discovered PopFoam – a form of hard foam made from ethylene-vinyl acetate.
It seemed like the perfect material, however Jahnigen worried that figuring out how to mould the PopFoam into a spherical shape could cost hundreds of thousands. However one morning, whilst having breakfast with the successful musician Sting, (whom he had made friends with whilst working it the music industry) Jahnigen told him about the idea. Sting was so moved that he told Jahnigen he would pay for the development of the ball – even if it cost as much as $300,000!!
In a public announcement that Sting made with Jahnigen, the infamous musician said; “Even on the harshest of terrain and in the worst of conditions, the ball could survive and the kids could still play…I said, wow, yeah, let’s make it.”
That is how the first prototype was made and they decided to call it One World Futbol – in homage to a song that Sting had sung when he was with the rock group the Police – “One World (Not Three).”
The prototype was tested in numerous ways and now Jahnigen has an incredibly durable ball that he is happy with.
So far he has produced more than 30,000 balls, half of which were bought for $40 each. Jahnigen opted to use the ‘Buy One Donate One’ model of transaction based-giving to get his soccer ball out to as many needy children as possible – when one is bought, one will be donated to a child less fortunate.
Over a hundred different organizations and charities use Jahnigen’s ball and it has been distributed in more than 140 countries.
Jahnigen’s One World Futbol scheme is not without its challenges however; because the ball cannot be deflated – it is much more expensive to ship than a traditional ball, they are also much more expensive to purchase than a standard leather soccer ball.
However as production numbers increase, the costs will also come down – in May of this year General Motors agreed to purchase 1.5 million One World Futbols over the next 3 years to donate to needy kids all around the world.
Jahnigen is obviously pleased with the demand and is currently doing all that he can to meet it, in the Taiwanese factory where the balls are produced, workers are doing double shifts to try and meet targets of 45,000 balls a month! But Jahnigen is confident that his One World Futbol project will help millions of kids in the near future. He said; “A child can play to their heart’s content where there are no content hearts.”
BODO UK is another fledgling organization that is adopting the ‘Buy One Donate One’ model to help vulnerable people, but instead of soccer balls, BODO UK will be delivering footwear to those who desperately need it.
BODO CEO Peter Lochan was inspired to start the company after hearing about the hardship faced by people who could not afford footwear; these people ran the risk of contracting diseases and suffered debilitating injuries that impeded their opportunity to work and support their families.
BODO UK were also deeply saddened by the fact that in many parts of the world, children are prohibited from entering schools if they did not have footwear, therefore denying them access to an education and the opportunity to better themselves.
With their flagship product, the BODO Sandal, the company hopes to provide practical and durable footwear to people living in poverty stricken communities – initially targeting Africa, South America and the Caribbean.
The BODO sandal is an innovative design which uses recycled car tires to form the sole of the product to ensure that it is eco-friendly as well as being ethically friendly.
Source: NY Times