July 5 2006, Geneva – The image on the billboard looming over the busy corner of New York’s 7th Avenue and 34th street last week was startling and unusual. It was not plugging a company or a product, but simply depicted a barefoot boy with a soccer ball and the slogan: “ninemillion.org.”
The giant photo of nine-year-old Steven Makong, a Sudanese refugee in Uganda, was part of a new year-long internet-based campaign by the UN refugee agency and its corporate partners to improve the lives of children in refugee camps through education and sports. Nine million refers to the number of uprooted children in the world.
Since the campaign was launched on World Refugee Day (June 20), the ninemillion.org website – hosted and supported by MSN – has received more than 300,000 visitors. So far, almost 700 donations worth a total US$46,000 have been made through the site.
One of the most innovative aspects of ninemillion.org is that it aims to create a global community dedicated to giving the world’s refugee youth the chance to learn and play. Members are linked through the ninemillion.org website, which explains the background and objectives of the campaign.
A key feature of the campaign is the distinctive green and yellow soccer balls developed by Nike to withstand the tough conditions found in most refugee camps. Forty thousand of these special balls have been produced using recycled materials and will be distributed to refugee children around the world. T-shirts featuring the ninemillion.org logo will be available for purchase at selected Nike retail outlets worldwide, with net proceeds supporting the campaign.