Soccer Balls for Refugees

Healing kids through play.

Heart to Heart International has been sending supplies and hygiene items to refugees in some of the most precarious positions of the world for years.

“With more than 60 million people, mostly women and children, displaced from their homes around the world, we knew this was a crisis we could not ignore,” Jim Mitchum, HHI CEO, said.

While traditionally known for providing disaster relief, Heart to Heart International’s mission has always been to create a healthier world, and this includes mental health. Today’s refugee camps are home to millions of children who have lived through trauma. This can cause them to become anxious, nervous, withdrawn and angry. Heart to Heart International is dedicated to helping these children. And one thing has been proven to help children cope with their emotions: play.

Play as a fundamental human right

In fact, play is so critical to child development that it has been recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as a right of every child.

“Play is the same across cultures, across languages, across developmental stages; it is the natural medium of communication,” Rebeca Chow, Assistant Professor of the Counselor Education Program at MidAmerica Nazarene University and volunteer for Heart to Heart International, said. “It allows an opportunity for resiliency by allowing children to focus on the present. When you are playing a soccer match, you are not thinking of the traumas of your past or the worries of the future. But just on the present moment of kicking a ball. And, when you can complete the game, it gives you confidence to continue on in life.”

Overcoming trauma as a refugee

Children constitute 51 percent of people living in refugee camps. These children have been traumatized by the loss of their homes, their communities and even their families. Research shows that play is critical to physical, social, and emotional development, especially for kids living in challenging circumstances.

“We have been providing humanitarian aid in the form of medicines, hygiene supplies and tents for years, but that still was not addressing the fundamental need for these children to be children. These children are living in tremendously difficult conditions for the sole reason that they were born in a particular part of the world. We are not going to ignore the needs of these children,” Mitchum said.

Unpoppable soccer balls

In March of 2018, HHI sent 500 unpoppable soccer balls from One World Play Project to a refugee camp in Syria. These ultra-durable balls are perfect for the difficult and harsh conditions children face in refugee camps.

“For refugee youth and adults living in exile, play builds community, empowers individuals, creates joy and helps keep hope and optimism alive,” Lisa Tarver, co-founder and chief impact officer, One World Play Project, said.

The average duration of exile for refugees is more than a decade.

How could we not do it?

“It has been proven that play improves mental and emotional well-being, especially in those who have experienced trauma. With these unpoppable soccer balls, these children, many of whom cannot remember a time where they didn’t live in a refugee camp, have the chance to play and receive all the benefits that play provides,” Mitchum said. “If sending One World Futbols across the ocean helps these children deal with their situations, how could we not do it?”

Immediately after the balls were unpacked, the children began PLAYING. The shipment was such a success, HHI is sending more balls to more children in more refugee camps. Help us continue giving children a chance to be kids. Help us continue to deliver the power of play.

Categories: Access to Healthcare , Donations , General News