After a January 2010 earthquake devastated the capital of Haiti, Nike Inc. designer Tom De Blasis visited the region to get a better idea of how the sports giant could best help the country and victims of the quake.
The result, the Gamechanger Bucket, combines a water filtration system to aid in day-to-day survival and a soccer ball and other equipment to also give families and children a way to have fun and do more than simply survive, covering both health and happiness.
Now De Blasis is looking for expertise from the plastics industry to move the project forward and help clean waterways and provide clean water.
Haiti, like many other impoverished areas around the world, had little trash collection and no recycling efforts prior to the quake, said De Blasis, design director for global soccer with Beaverton, Ore.-based Nike, during the Industrial Designers Society of America's annual conference, held Sept. 14-17 in New Orleans.
As a result, rivers and streams have become clogged with waste, including thousands of pounds of bottles and other plastics. Haiti also has a large number of unemployed who could earn money collecting and sorting materials, if the infrastructure were in place to turn that waste into the buckets used in the Gamechanger program.
“It's the idea of an industrial process that can be mapped on a humanitarian project,” De Blasis said.
“When you see the trash in the water, and you know you can make it better, that's a big thing.”
Gamechanger is already working with a plastics molding firm within 100 miles of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, that manufactures the buckets. Nike wants to keep the recycling effort local as well, but existing partners in the project lack the expertise to establish the system.
The Gamechanger program receives support from Nike and also works with Waves for Water — a relief group started by surfers — and local nonprofit, non-governmental agencies. De Blasis first saw the filtration bucket program during his initial visit to Haiti, at aid camps operated by J/P Haitian Relief Organization.
A filter is built into the bottom of a 5-gallon plastic bucket. Water poured into the top flows out of the bottom, clean and safe for drinking. De Blasis said he was quickly convinced that the project was a good one for Nike to back. But at the same time, he saw the opportunity to do more, since there was a lot of room in the bucket beyond the filter that provided the perfect place to package something extra.
During that same trip, he said, he saw makeshift soccer fields everywhere. Even in crowded and confusing tent cities, there was always some small patch of ground left where kids and adults alike kicked around soccer balls — or something vaguely ball-shaped, if they did not have an actual ball. De Blasis noticed one boy who had stuffed a sock to create a makeshift ball.
“I head up the soccer design group, but I didn't go down there thinking we had to involve soccer in whatever we did,” De Blasis said. “But it was apparent that they really, really loved soccer.”
So to create the Gamechanger Bucket, the group added a ball, a ball pump and a set of small cones to mark goal lines. In addition, a tarp and rope included in the kit can be used either for emergency shelter or to set up a rainwater collection system to cut back on the need to walk long distances for water.
Gamechanger has handed out more than 1,000 buckets so far in Haiti, and is expanding the program to other areas such as India, Pakistan, Brazil and Africa, where there is a need for greater access to clean water.
Videos and a means to donate are posted at globalgiving.org/ projects/gamechanger-bucket.