Jack had a plan.  Jack, my husband, an inveterate people/project person, is my companion on our tours throughout Western and Eastern Turkey.  Jack loves people but he especially loves kids.

Boys with Soccer Ball in Van


The wheels were turning in Jack’s head when he visited with my niece’s husband Archie in North Vancouver. Archie, father of two, and coach of his eldest daughter’s soccer team was telling Jack about the season and about the replacement of the used practice balls with new balls for the next season.  The light went on for Jack.  In his mind’s eye he could see those kids throughout the East of Turkey without soccer balls, kicking a deflated plastic water bottle back and forth, and here was a net bag of used balls languishing in Archie’s garage.  So the small scale project, but meaningful to those involved (Jack included) began and continues.  Jack takes deflated soccer balls as well as pumps and needles that he purchases along in an extra bag to Eastern Turkey and when he sees kids who could ‘use’ a soccer ball the van comes to a stop and out Jack jumps with ball and pump to give a North Shore soccer league ball to some shepherd kid in the middle of nowhere, or a

ten year old girl in a tiny village, or to a teacher in a remote schoolyard or on our last visit to Van to two boys who were hanging about us as we climbed at the fort at Van to view a tomb and calligraphy dating back to the Urartian civilization of 8th c BC.   The van was waiting to take us on to an Armenian church on the island of Akdamar in Lake Van but before we left Jack grabbed a ball and pump and gave it to these two boys.


Boys with ‘NEW’ Soccer Ball in Van


The 7.1 magnitude earthquake of October 23rd of this year made the news as it hit Van killing over six hundred people, injuring another 4000 and leaving over 8000 households homeless.  In Van the 7.6 people is the average size of each household.

This morning I read this blog on FB, a first hand account from an individual in the region.

This morning I also awoke to the first light snowfall here in Calgary.  We live at an elevation of 1,048 m and I was thinking of Van in Eastern Turkey; elevation 1,546 m.  The snow will be flying there before too long as well.

If you want to help the people of the region here is a relief fund that has been set up and then there is always the Turkish Red Crescent that is the equivalent of the Red Cross in the west.  I know that people need help in every corner of the world; Thailand, Africa, here at home.  These are the people who on one level I ‘know’ so I am writing about their need.

I have loved my travels in Eastern Turkey and for me the many kindnesses extended from anonymous individuals have opened my heart to this beautiful, complex and ancient land.

Who would think that an interest in carpets, textiles, history and travel would expand to include soccer balls and kids in Van?  Well, these interests have broadened my awareness of people whose life experiences are vastly different than my own yet on another level we share many basic human commonalities.  I am thankful that I have seen these people with my own eyes and I am aware of them in their need.


6 Responses

  1. Jack says:

    I REMEMBER those two guys! Thanks for the reminder, sure hope they are OK. I am looking for more used soccer balls and pumps for our next trip.

    • Robert Gourley says:

      Hello Jack,
      One of my favourite charities is one that collects the extra/ old eye glasses that everyon ehas at the back of the drawer, cleans and categorizes them and ships them off for distribution in the 3rd world.
      Does every team replace its practice balls every year? How many thousand used balls can htere be in Canada/ US/ Europe?
      I have a vague recollection of a Premier League player from an African country setting up soccer camps for kids in his country.
      There has to be a fit for a slightly bigger project here.

      • Catherine Mortensen says:

        @Robert – Great to hear from you – I will certainly pass your vision on to Jack for expanding the project that he has just slipped into. There have been a lot of eyes light up when kids have received soccer balls. Sometimes there has been disbelief that the ball is being left with them – lot’s of fun to see the joy of an unexpected gift. I love the fact that a whole passel of kids can play with a ball – kind of beats kicking an empty water bottle around.

  2. Catherine Mortensen says:

    Thanks to my readers who pointed out the broken links in the post. Everything should be up and working now. Steep learning curve – I appreciate your help!!

  3. Alice Campbell says:

    I remember them too, Jack. These soccer moments were wonderful highlights in a wonderful, full, memorable tour.
    I hope these kids are okay, too, and I remember the class of children arriving to visit the ruined city of Ani, just as our group was leaving. They were so excited. Hope they are OK.

  4. I could help Jack explore this idea. Ideally it should expand from a visitor-to-kid basis to an “organization”-to- “community organization” basis.

    All the best, Robert

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