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Ed. Note: Don’t forget to participate in our Giving Challenge for a chance to win money for a charity or cause of your choosing.

When I was a seven-year-old towhead living in Shaqlawa, Iraq while my parents worked for a humanitarian organization after the Gulf War, it was the soccer ball my three-year-old brother and I kicked out on the brick street under the ancient mulberry tree in front of our house that transcended the language and cultural barrier and integrated us with the neighborhood kids.

Kids the world over love playing soccer. Giving soccer balls to kids in dire situations is one awesome way to bring a little joy. Problem is, the majority of kids playing soccer aren’t playing on grass. Most soccer balls are manufactured for well-manicured pitches and flawless artificial turf. Dirt swaths hacked out of the mountain rain forests in Thailand, rock-strewn hard-pan in Mexico, or uneven and cracked sidewalks in Brazil’s favelas are hard on soccer balls.

Most of the balls gifted by well-meaning individuals or donated in bulk by humanitarian organizations end up popped, deflated, and destroyed in a matter of days due to the sharp and uneven surfaces. If they survive the popping, they eventually go flat anyway. Without a pump, they’re as useful as a screen door on a submarine.

Entrepreneur Tim Jahnigen (hat-tip to The New York Times for bringing his story to my attention) decided to improve the gifts’ impact by improving their construction. With backing from Sting (the singer, not this bro), he developed the One World Futbol. It’s made out of Crocs-like foam material and is virtually indestructible. Giving has the most impact when you match the gift to the context it will be used in, and One World balls are now being kicked around in harsh environments in 137 countries. For $25 bucks you can donate a ball, or get one for yourself and give one for $39.50.

It’s great to give, but it’s even better to give in the most-effective way possible. Don’t just look for the quickest and easiest way to temporarily fill the need, but figure out the best way to make a long-term impact.

I’m getting ready to head to Thailand in a couple of days to partner with a local church on a building project that’s providing homes for children in the rural mountain regions. It’s a locally run project with 20 years of sustained success at keeping kids in school and off the streets of Thailand’s major cities. I was planning on packing some regular deflated soccer balls and a pump to kick around with the kids. Now I’m going to order some One World Futbols.
 

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