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Lending All Hands to Haiti

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Photo Credit: All Hands Volunteers

In January 2010, one of the most destructive earthquakes in recent history struck the nation of Haiti, uprooting communities, tearing families apart, destroying homes and schools. When relief supplies arrived, children gathered, and one of their most common requests was for soccer balls.

There wasn't a dry eye in my house when we learned the true extent of the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti. We had a sense of the destructive power of earthquakes, because we live in California, but the images brought home the horrific suffering. For Lisa, me, and the boys, giving money wasn't enough. When One World Futbol Project opened for business, we knew this was a way we could do more.

Soccer is Haiti's national game and has brought joy to the survivors of the earthquake, many of whom still live in the midst of the rubble and destruction. From the outset, Haiti has been a focus at the One World Futbol Project. Within days of our launch last July, we received a frantic email from a vacationing teacher who was about to leave for Haiti to help a friend working at a school in the hinterlands. We quickly filled a large duffel bag with One World Futbols the day before her departure so she and her friend could organize soccer games for the local kids.

Shortly after that, the One World Futbol Project learned about the work of Zynga.org, the nonprofit arm of Zynga.com which incorporates charitable contributions into its online games. Since the earthquake in January 2010, Zynga.org has focused efforts and resources to help families in Haiti, and specifically, in its Plateau Central region. Within weeks of contact with Zynga, four dozen of our futbols were en route to Zynga-supported schools in Haiti.

A number of other Haitian relief projects followed -- but none of them has so captured our imagination as Vini Jwe ("Come play" in Haitian Creole).

Vini Jwe -- Our Biggest Effort for Haiti to date

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Photo Credit: All Hands Volunteers

Leogane, the epicenter of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, was catastrophically affected with 80-90 percent of buildings damaged. Leogane's soccer stadium, the fourth largest in the country, is currently being used as an Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camp, housing more than 6,000 people. Games that would normally be played in the Leogane Stadium are instead being held on patches of spare land around the city, which are often no more than an uneven field with makeshift goals at either end.

The Vini Jwe project is a "thank you" to the city of Leogane and to all their volunteers and partners. The project originated with All Hands Volunteers, a U.S.-based nonprofit dedicated to empowering disaster relief volunteers around the world. All Hands Volunteers has been bringing volunteers to Leogane for more than a year.

Vini Jwe is a collaborative effort of All Hands, GOALS Haiti, Crocs, and the One World Futbol Project to celebrate National Volunteer Week (April 11-15). During the week, All Hands is constructing a soccer field for the community and commemorating its completion on April 16 with a tournament involving international aid organizations, Haitian league teams and the local community. During the same week, GOALS will also begin an on-going soccer program, featuring sustained community involvement and environmental work with 200 pairs of donated Crocs shoes and 140 donated One World Futbols.

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Photo Credit: All Hands Volunteers

It takes a ball as durable as ours to even come close to the strength and durability of the Haitian people. My colleagues and I at the One World Futbol Project are proud to be part of this exemplary volunteer effort. Join us in helping the citizens of Haiti by supporting these great organizations -- and post your comments and suggestions for other ways people can get involved.