Despite the notable absence of United Nations goodwill ambassador Angelina Jolieusually a fixture at the annual World Refugee Day event at National Geographic headquarters in Washington, D.C.this morning's celebration was highlighted by appeals from former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, Olympic gold medalist Joey Cheek, The Kite Runner author Khaled Hosseini, and other luminaries.
(Watch video of Colin Powell's speech.)
The centerpiece of the presentation was the launch of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees' ninemillion.org project, a global campaign dedicated to giving the world's estimated nine million refugee children a chance to learn and play.
The love of play may be universal, but for children living in refugee camps around the world, play is often out of bounds.
One basic problem: There are usually no balls to play with.
Working with corporate sponsors and Right to Playan athlete-driven international humanitarian organization that uses sports and play as a tool for the development of children and youth in the most disadvantaged areas of the worldninemillion.org plans to donate 40,000 soccer balls to kids living as refugees around the world.
The balls, donated by Nikea corporate sponsor along with Microsoft, Merck pharmaceuticals, the NBA, and otherswere specially designed for durability in harsh refugee-camp conditions.
But shipments of soccer balls are only the beginning.
Calling sports "far, far more than just fun," Hannah Jones, Nike vice president for corporate responsibility, extolled the power of play to help rebuild lives and announced the Nike Foundation's pledge to match the first million U.S. dollars donated to ninemillion.org.
The Power of a Ball
Brazilian soccer superstar Ronaldo, who is a goodwill ambassador for the UN Development Program, is one of the backers of the new campaign.
Jones said he "knows firsthand the power of a ball to change a child's life."
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