Photo: Lisa Tarver Co-founders of the One World Futbol Project, Tim Jahnigen and Lisa Tarver.
As the new year approaches, I'm thankful for the entire team working on the One World Futbol Project. But, this idea would never have come to fruition if it weren't for the hard work and support of my incredible co-founder -- and wife -- Lisa Tarver. Lisa has been involved in social activism and volunteerism since she was a teenager.
From the time when we launched the One World Futbol Project, we've been traveling the world together and separately -- and running at full speed. I'm excited that I finally have a chance to introduce Lisa and give you her perspective on this endeavor we started.
Tim: Looking back, did you ever think you'd be selling and distributing ultra-durable balls for a living?
Lisa: No, definitely not! If someone asked me five years ago if I thought I would be a principal in a sports ball company, I'd have thought they were crazy. But looking back, it makes sense.
As a teenager, I became involved in the U.S. solidarity movement with the people of El Salvador who were struggling under a brutal U.S.-supported government that was waging war against its own people.
Salvadorans from all walks of life risked their lives to change the future of their country. Overnight, I went from a tentative volunteer to a full-time, unpaid activist.
Through my work, I travelled many times to El Salvador, and eventually moved there to live, work, and start a family. I saw the poverty that controlled the lives of the majority of the population.
Are there any parallels from your experience in El Salvador to what you see now as part of the One World Futbol Project?
It seems like no matter how difficult the circumstances, people around the world still find a way to play. Play is a critical part of rebuilding lives, resolving conflict and keeping your sanity in the midst of chaos.
Children in El Salvador, as in the rest of the world, instinctively know how to play. Toss a child a ball, and they will kick it, bounce it, throw it. When it goes flat, they will try to repair it or find another object to play with.
Soccer (futbol), in particular, is everywhere in El Salvador as in most of the world. Children learn to juggle and dribble with a soda bottle or can, a rock or wad of trash. If they're lucky, their community or school has a soccer team, and if that team is lucky, they have a ball to play with.
Is soccer also a passion of yours?
When I moved back to the U.S. from El Salvador with my two sons, I found myself immersed in the world of soccer. My boys are avid soccer players, and over the years, I have been a coach, team manager, league volunteer, and soccer mom. Even though I am not a soccer player, it's in my blood, just as the tiny country of El Salvador is.
So, when you had the idea to create a ball for soccer and other sports that would never go flat, would last for years, and that we could make available to those living in the most dire conditions worldwide, it resonated deeply with my past experience.
Photo: Erin Kunkel Photography Youth in El Salvador playing beach soccer with the One World Futbol.
How has being part of the One World Futbol Project impacted you?
It's now the holiday season, and to me, the holidays are about giving back in whatever ways we can. I am fortunate because every day I feel like I make a difference in the world by simply helping children play. Along with the fabulous One World Futbol Project team, we get to sell the coolest ball and give it away to organizations working with kids in the toughest places.
Play is vital to recovery from trauma. And, the gift of a ball that will never go flat will help make life a little better. To me, giving the gift of play is about as good as it gets.
Returning to El Salvador
Photo: SHARE Foundation-UCRES Road in El Salvador washed out by flooding earlier this year.
El Salvador remains close to Lisa's heart -- and the country and its people are still recovering from decades of civil war. To add to the hardship, this past October, 11 days of torrential rains dumped up to 59 inches of rain, the latest in a series of natural disasters. Once again, people lost their homes, and are left with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
The One World Futbol Project, with the help of many supporters, will send futbols to 10 communities in the hardest-hit, Lower Lempa region, where entire communities lost everything. We're working with SHARE Foundation, an organization with a long history of supporting justice, economic sustainability, and human and civil rights in El Salvador.
Join us in helping bring the gift of play to the youth in El Salvador -- go to oneworldfutbol.com and help send balls to kids in need this holiday season.