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A Ball that Snowballed

December 7, 2007

Filed under: life,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 15:21

In early November, my wife and I stayed three nights in a rustic lodge outside of Livingston, Zambia, Africa. We discovered that a group of kids from a small village nearby wanted a soccer ball, but could not afford one. So, we went looking for a soccer ball in downtown Livingstone. After visiting at least a half dozen shops, and asking where we might find one, we stumbled across a very small place that sold everything from notebook paper and inkjet cartridges to snacks and soccer balls.

Three teenage foster boys that lived at the lodge took us to the village. It was a 10-minute walk along a narrow footpath through the brush. Upon arriving, we quickly saw that the standard of living at the village was very basic, as expected. Most of the homes were a single room constructed of mud/clay walls and thatched roofs. The death rate there is high, with malaria being the primary cause and AIDS being the second. Every day, 3,000 children in Africa die from malaria. One of the boys told us that the village was given mosquito bed nets from the government.

I later learned that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation supplied mosquito nets for all of Zambia. The foundation has teamed with the Nothing But Nets campaign initiated by Sport Illustrated columnist Rick Reilly. One insecticide-coated net costs $10 and can last a family for four years. As of mid-September, the campaign had raised $16 million to purchase mosquito nets for Africa, with the Gates Foundation matching it dollar for dollar.

When we arrived at the school, we were overwhelmed by the excitement of the children. They treated us like rock stars and we had never experienced anything quite like it. We presented the schoolmaster and children with the new ball on behalf of our daughter’s soccer team. It was our understanding that he would share it with a local church and they will use it as an incentive to get the kids to come to school and church.

The next day, we summarized our experience in an email to our daughter’s team, parents, coaches, and managers and sent pictures. When talking with the three boys, we discovered an interest in team uniforms, but we knew it was not an option for them. We passed this along to the team and they decided to send uniforms from a Fort Collins high school, additional balls, and soccer shoes to the foster boys and village. Two boxes of gear was shipped to them on December 1. What started with a single ball snowballed into equipping the boys at the lodge and many children at the nearby village with a lot of gear. We hope this holiday season is a special one for them.

1 Comment

  1. *sigh* The actions of you and your wife have impacted the lives of many, in more ways than the two of you will ever imagine. It is truly an honor to meet, yet another leader, who has not lost the most important aspect of leading – and that is compassion and love for humanity.

    ~ Carmen

    Comment by digitalfemme — January 3, 2008 @ 08:12