“A Child Can Play to Their Heart’s Content Where there are No Content Hearts”

Some impoverished children in third-world countries find great joy in kicking a ball. Unfortunately, many of the soccer balls given to these children do not last very long. Tim Jahnigen made it his mission to develop a ball that would not quickly wear out on rocky fields where children play. His inspiration was a documentary about children in Darfur who made balls from garbage and string. Mr. Jahnigen said, “The only thing that sustained these kids is play. Yet the millions of balls that are donated go flat within 24 hours.” He learned that PopFoam, a type of hard foam made of ethylene-vinyl acetate, could be used to make balls that would take years to wear out. However, discovering how to use the material to make balls could cost as much as $300,000. Fortunately, Mr. Jahnigen, who used to be in the music business, has a famous friend: the musician Sting. And Sting paid for the development of the ball. Sting 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.’” Fortunately, the actual cost of developing the first prototype of the ball was approximately $30,000. Sting named the ball the One World Futbol. Mr. Jahnigen said, “A child can play to their heart’s content where there are no content hearts. We don’t understand that having a ball is like the best PlayStation 3 or a rocket to Mars.”

For Further Information: Ken Belson, “Joy That Lasts, on the Poorest of Playgrounds.” New York Times. 8 November 2012


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