Soccer, more often called futbol, is the most popular sport in Uganda. Requiring only a ball to play lends its appeal to children in underprivileged countries. Unfortunately, many Ugandan children cannot afford to buy a soccer ball at a store and make their own using plastic bags, newspaper and string.
As part of a Uganda study unit last year at St. Andrew School in Chicago, I held a workshop to teach children how to make homemade soccer balls just as the children in Uganda do. Afterwards, the children were allowed to play with the homemade balls in the gym before taking them home.
Fast-forward to this July when I visited Uganda with the One Heart Uganda team. I witnessed several children using their homemade balls to play soccer. Thanks to a significant donation from Margot Browne and her family, we were able to purchase and provide brand new soccer and net balls to children at the various schools we visited.
One afternoon while visiting a school in the hills off of the main road, I noticed a quiet little boy watching us. We were distributing new soccer and net balls to the elementary school administrator. The little boy, who was watching, held a homemade ball much like the ones we had made in our workshop. I walked up to him and gave him one of the brand new soccer balls. He gave me a shy little smile and started to play with the ball up and down the field close to where I was standing. He looked over and smiled at me a few more times and I was overjoyed that we could provide him with this gift. It is a cherished moment that I will never forget from a trip filled with so many moments. It reminds me that even a small deed can mean so much.
Paula Thivierge is an elementary teacher and a board member of One Heart Uganda.