Let the Children Play

All over the world there are kids, mad about soccer, who have to make do with soccer balls made of rags, leaves or paper, tied up with string. Now you can clean out and recycle all those soccer balls that your children have outgrown and put them in the hands of kids that will really appreciate them.

All year, Y FOCUS Fair World Sports is accepting donations of used soccer equipment to their "Let the Children Play" program. In Ottawa, we look for schools, soccer leagues and churches to collect donations and use local Fair Trade businesses and YMCA locations as drop-off points. Y FOCUS members and friends then sort and package the balls, uniforms and shoes for storage until they are shipped out via groups and individuals who are going overseas and have some room in their baggage, like Chris Seligy.

Chris Seligy wrote the following for Y FOCUS members on his return from Nepal.

The orphanage that I stayed at in Nepal was in Arubari, a small village about 8km outside of Kathmandu. The orphanage is run by Nepali staff and volunteers from all over the world and is under the general directorship of Childhaven International, a Canadian organization (seewww.childhaven.ca for more information).

There are over 100 boys and girls who live full-time at the orphanage in Arubari. They range in nepal age from 1 year to 18 years although the average age is probably about 8 years old. Not all of the children are orphans but they are all children who were not consistently receiving at least one meal a day before they were taken into the home. At the home they receive 3 meals a day which consists of mostly rice, curried potatoes, lentils and a few vegetables. They also have a machine that produces soy milk from soy beans and each child gets a glass of soy milk twice a day. The home is a modern design and equipped with electric lights, plumbing and a solar hot water heater but a low water table has left the well dry so water must be trucked in a few times a week. The children sleep on the floor, about 10 to a room that is roughly the size of an average North American bedroom.

In spite of the somewhat crude living conditions, the children are quite playful and affectionate and seem genuinely happy. They attend school in a nearby village and are taught in English so they are able to communicate quite well with English-speaking volunteers. They have few chores to do at the home so when they are not at school or doing their homework, they tend to spend most of their time playing various games in and around the home. They are quite fond of football (soccer) in particular but at the time of my arrival, they did not have a soccer ball to play with. When they heard that I had brought some soccer balls with me, I was immediately whisked away to a nearby "pitch" to play with them.Their playing field was a very uneven and odd shaped surface perched on top of a ridge, surrounded by terraced rice gardens, and there were frequent jaunts down the hillside to retrieve wayward passes. Both girls and boys participated in the games although it tended to be the boys who participated more frequently.

When not being used on the soccer pitch, the soccer balls were used for other games such as basketball and volleyball. The most remarkable thing was that in spite of the fact that the balls were in high demand and in constant use, the children insisted that I not give them more than one (of the six that I brought) at a time. They wanted to use one ball until it was no longer usable and only then be given another one.

All in all, it was a very fulfilling experience and one that will not soon be forgotten. Your gracious donation was certainly much appreciated by all of the children at the home. It's truly amazing how much of a difference a simple thing like a soccer ball can make to a group of children who have so few material possessions.