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altSoccer For Kids ( www.pencilsforkids.com/our-projects/programs/soccer-for-kids ) and the dream to bring soccer balls to impoverished African nations were conceived back in 1983 while, the Founder Mike Mitchell, was a Peace Corp volunteer in Niger, West Africa. He experienced first-hand the poverty, despair and hardship in which the people lived as well as the immense joy soccer brought to the people of Niger.

Teaching & coaching at the local high school and playing for the local local soccer team, L’Equipe Espoir, in Zinder, he came to understand the power of the ball as a tool against poverty and violence. Mike realized he couldn’t solve the big problems but he could bring joy through soccer, especially to the children. Mike was overwhelmed by their tremendous enthusiasm for soccer but lack of opportunity to actually participate in the game.

 Returning to Chico, California, to complete his education, the concept of Project Play was born in Mike’s Physical Education Master’s thesis titled, ‘The Manual for the Implementation of Project Play Niger’. Leaving Chico to pursue his career to coach and teach at several universities and eventually settle in Brazil as an entrepreneur.alt

Mike lacked the time and manpower to fully implement Project Play. In 2005 with the assistance and motivation of his long time friend and fellow Chico soccer alum, Dave Stahl, they put the wheels in motion to make Project Play a reality.

In 2007 more than twenty years after it was conceived, Project Play became a registered non-profit organization, Global Understanding Though Sports, Inc. In February 2008, Mike Mitchell, Dave Stahl, Jim Meicke and Paige Dunn made Project Play’s first journey to Niger, West Africa to deliver over 2000 soccer balls.

After seeing the positive results made in Niger and realizing the magnitude of impact a soccer ball can make, Mike and Dave knew they wanted to replicate and sustain their efforts in other African nations. The overwhelming positive response to the media coverage they received following the trip to Niger was motivation to take Project Play to the next level.

 

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