People of the Web, Can a Soccer Ball
Change the World?
New Year’s resolutions for 2008: Save a life with a net, inspire laughter with a ball, fund a business for the poor. And do it all online.
By KEVIN SITES, THU DEC 20, 2007
Every New Year we promise ourselves we will read more, eat less, cut down on the booze, beef up the exercise, listen better, talk softer. Usually the resolutions collapse faster than an O.J. alibi or the U.S. real estate market.
Giving comes in all forms in 2008 -- even a soccer ball.
Perhaps it's time to resolve to do something for someone else. Fortunately, some innovative, efficient non-profit organizations make it possible to help others with a click of a mouse. The good you do resonates far beyond your computer screen.
The following are three groups that enable you to help put an end to malaria deaths, give needy children a chance to play and needy adults the opportunity to work. And while they are about helping others, your participation will probably let you feel a little better about yourself in 2008 as well.
Little Feet - www.littlefeet.com
In 2006, American Airlines pilot Trevor Slavick and Denver Radio news anchor Steffan Tubbs discovered what they thought was a simple but powerful truth: a simple soccer ball could unify the world.
A Little Feet ball and a happy recipient.
Slavick, a lifelong soccer player, took a ball along on his travels so he could work out in-between flights. On a trip to Honduras early in his career, he gave the ball to a shoeshine boy he met at the airport before he left. While taxiing for takeoff, he says he saw the boy, with a group of other shoeshine boys, playing soccer on an open field at the end of the runway. "They were doing what they were supposed to be doing," says Slavick, "playing, not shining people's shoes."
Tubbs' revelation came after he spent a month embedded with the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division in Iraq. He met a young officer, Captain Ian Weikel, who told him soccer balls were like gold in Iraq — his troops would give them away to Iraqi kids while on patrol. Tubbs made a promise to Weikel that when he returned to Denver he would host a promotional drive on his radio station to get Weikel's troops the soccer balls they needed.
Steffan Tubbs playing with children in Iraq.
But when Tubbs got home, he received a message that Weikel had been killed by a roadside bomb three days earlier. "I felt like I lost a brother," Tubbs says, "I had only known him for the better part of a few days but there was a camaraderie."
Tubbs decided to move forward with the soccer ball drive in Weikel's honor and enlisted the help of his friend Slavick, who activated his network of airline colleagues and soccer friends.
They ended up sending more than 20,000 soccer balls to Iraq — a success so big they decided not to stop there. They started Little Feet with the intention of sending soccer balls to needy kids around the world.
A $20 donation to Little Feet buys one soccer ball for you and one for a needy child in the developing world — delivered for free through an association of airline pilots contacted by Slavick.
Dr. Jeffrey Sachs has worked with people across the globe to end extreme poverty, including Bono. Sachs says stopping malaria is an important and easy step in that work.
Malaria No More - www.malarianomore.org
While malaria has been eradicated in most of the developed world, it still ravages Africa. According to the Centers for Disease Control, an African child dies of malaria every 30 seconds, with millions dying each year.
The economic costs of malaria are just as staggering. World-renowned economist Dr. Jeffrey Sachs says the scourge of malaria costs Africa an estimated $12 billion a year in lost productivity, lost tourism and setbacks to the education system due to teacher/pupil absences.
The greatest tragedy is that malaria is one of the most easily treatable and preventable diseases. A regimen of anti-malaria drugs can eliminate the debilitating symptoms of the disease or keep them under control. A simple and cheap mosquito bed net, treated with insecticide, is priceless in helping prevent transmission through the bites of parasite-carrying mosquitoes.
Malaria No More has already helped distribute more than four million bed nets in Africa. You can help them continue their work by donating a single net for $10 or helping several families by buying as many as 25 of them.
Kiva - www.kiva.org
Microfinance might not sound that sexy on first blush, but Kiva founders Matt and Jessica Flannery and President Premal Shah have found a way to get everyone from Oprah to the New York Times talking about it.
Their organization, which means unity in Swahili, offered a way to combine the powerful international development tool of microfinance, providing tiny business loans to third-world entrepreneurs, with the internet. In doing so, they've given all of us an opportunity to become internet bankers to the poor, starting with loans as little as $25.
The Kiva team has raised more than $12 million in loans for poor entrepreneurs.
So far they've created more than $12 million in loans for more than 15,000 entrepreneurs in 36 countries, helping them to move down the road toward economic self reliance or even prosperity.
The process of becoming an international micro-lender in the Internet age is fast and easy. Log on to the Kiva website, then scroll through the pictures and profiles of entrepreneurs, descriptions of their businesses and loan amounts they're requesting. Once you decide whom you want to fund, click "lend now" and their profiles will be added to your basket--just as if you were making an online purchase. You can lend as little as $25 or as much as the full loan request. (Normally entrepreneurs are funded by a variety of lenders--until they reach their loan amount goal.)
The site is a treasure trove of interesting information that helps connect you as a lender with the entrepreneurs, including their current daily wages, struggles they have or face, how the loan will be used and what the terms of repayment are.
For example, Nazirjon Holdorov, from Tajikistan, is a hairdresser who is married with two children. The entire family lives with his parents. Nazirjon spends his day at the bazaars finding items to buy or trade, which his wife then sells from a small room from their home. When Nazirjon comes back from the bazaar, the description says, "He rests for awhile and cuts his neighbors' hair." He is asking for a $1,000 loan which will be repaid monthly. So far he's raised a little more than half the amount.
The funds are distributed to entrepreneurs through local non-profit microfinance partners in specific countries. What's most amazing is Kiva's entrepreneurs pay back their loans an incredible 99 percent of the time — a default rate unheard of at traditional financial institutions.
The loans require no collateral and are zero interest. PayPal processes the transactions without any fees — a deal negotiated by Premal, who worked for PayPal before joining husband and wife team Matt and Jessica at Kiva. Matt and Jessica came up with the idea for Kiva shortly after getting married, trying to reconcile Matt's careers goals of becoming a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and Jessica's goals of working in microfinance. Seems like they did OK.