The One World Play Project has started #AllGirlsCanPlay, an initiative to empower girls around the world using play. Photo: One World Play Project

One World Play Project, a Berkeley-based organization that sends indestructible soccer balls around the world, has launched an initiative that aims to empower young women through sports. Called #AllGirlsCanPlay, the campaign began on May 7, and its roll-out coincides with the women’s World Cup in Vancouver, which kicked off this week.

#AllGirlsCanPlay has been in the works for a while, but became a concrete idea in the fall of 2014, said Neill Duffy, whose title is “Chief Catalyst” for One World Play Project.

“We were looking for a trigger point,” Duffy said.

One World Play Project has used international soccer events to dovetail with its campaigns in the past. After working on the prototype “indestructable” ball for two years, the company launched during the 2010 men’s World Cup in South Africa and sent balls to São Paulo during the 2014 men’s World Cup in Brazil.

#AllGirlsCanPlay is raising funds to send 2,200 of the all-terrain soccer balls to global communities, reaching up to 60,000 girls across the world.

Partner organizations Bay Area Women’s Sports Initiative (BAWSI), co-founded by former U.S. national soccer team player Brandi Chastain, and Women Win are working with One World to fundraise and distribute the balls. Other high-profile athletes, including former U.S. national soccer team player Julie Foudy, and U.S. Olympic volleyball team member Kelsey Robinson, are working with #AllGirlsCanPlay and are raising awareness of the campaign through social media and in interviews.

One World Play Project began in 2010 as One World Futbol. Founder Tim Jahnigen, a Berkeley native, was inspired to design a tougher soccer ball after seeing a documentary about children playing soccer with bundled up trash bags. In November 2014, in order to encompass a wider vision, the company changed its name to One World Play Project and began working on a cricket ball that could survive the same harsh terrain as its soccer ball.

One World Play Project’s Berkeley origins have continued to mold the company as it has grown, Duffy said

The One World balls come in a variety of easy-to-see colors. Photo: One World Play Project
The One World balls come in a variety of easy-to-see colors. Photo: One World Play Project

“Berkeley is home. It’s where we laid our roots and have continued to grow over the years,” he said.

In addition to being based out of Berkeley – its headquarters are on Ninth Street – both of its founders, Tim Jahnigen and Lisa Tarver, are locals.

One World Play Project will continue to promote women in sports as it moves forward, Duffy said.

“It’s part of an overarching global conversation and our theme for the year,” Duffy said. The goal, as it always has been, he added, is to “shine a light on the power of play to transform lives.”

Eden Teller, a junior at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota, is a Berkeleyside summer intern. She is majoring in media and cultural studies and minoring in geology.

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Eden Teller is a freelance reporter, writer and amateur gardener. She began reporting for Berkeleyside as an intern in 2013 and continued her career with a B.A. in Media Studies from Macalester College...