Balloon covers for Sierra Leone

Are these cool or what?!!?

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These are NOT balls.  They’re fabric covered balloons!

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Here’s the story behind this project.

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My sister-in-law, Janet, is returning to Sierra Leone next month.  She went a couple of years ago with some of her fellow church members.  This is her description of what they’re accomplishing, along with some pictures from her most recent trip:

“My church has adopted a village near Freetown,  Sierra Leone.

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Our mission is to partner with the approximately 2500 people in our village area, Tissana, so they can learn skills to be self supporting.

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We support the medical clinic;

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the education system;

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and we are teaching them farming skills.

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They have been crippled by years of hand outs and we are focused on giving them sustainable skills to change lives now and for future generations.”

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I wanted to make some kind of contribution.  Last time Janet went, I sent a collection of bras & underwear with her.  This year I wanted to do something fun for the kids.   I’ve seen a couple of fabric-covered balloon tutorials floating around the internet and wondered if these “balls” might be just the thing I was looking for.  I picked up a package of balloons from the Dollar Store, shopped my stash for fun fabrics, and cranked a test ball out.

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It was a hit with both my 10-year old son and his 45-going-on-12 year old father!  They kicked it, tossed it, whacked it, played soccer with it, put it through all kinds of crazy paces.  They were very good testers.  The fabric cover protects the balloon from popping, and the balloon is so lightweight that you can kick it into a television, houseplant, or window with no resulting damage, which made it ideal for some rambunctious and competitive indoor soccer games at my house.

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The construction is simple; 6 side sections and a center bottom piece that has a buttonhole.  The buttonhole allows you to stick a (deflated) balloon inside, which you blow up, tie off, then cram the balloon’s umbilical under the fabric.  The balloon will eventually deflate over time.  I made the first ball 6 days ago.  It’s getting a little saggy, but is still rolling along.  Kind of like me, actually.  😛

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Originally I was concerned about toddlers choking on a deflated balloon, but after playing with them for a while, I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.  When the balloon deflates, it’s stuck inside the fabric, and is pretty difficult for little fingers to fish it out of that buttonhole.

I ran the idea past Janet last weekend.  I wanted to know what she thought, since she’s been to Sierra Leone already.  She gave it a thumbs-up. The children don’t have a lot of balls to play with because they have no way of inflating them.

Another consideration was space.  Janet has to pack a lot of stuff to take with her, and this project was great for space management.  The fabric shells will ship very flat inside a Space Bag, along with several packages of balloons.  Extra balloons will be given to the pastor as replacements and rewards.

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I only wish I could see the children’s faces when they play.  Hopefully Janet will be able to take pictures!

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p.s.  How do the women DO this?!!?!?!?

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2 thoughts on “Balloon covers for Sierra Leone

  1. I was thinking of making some of these for my niece volunteering in Peru with the Peace Corps. Can you give me an update about how they were received and further suggestions?

  2. Hi Patricia!
    Unfortunately, due to postal holidays, weekends, and me being a calender moron, I didn’t get the balloon covers to my sister-in-law before she left for Sierra Leone. She is planning another trip and will take them with her then. However, SHE thinks they will be a hit. She’s been to Sierra Leone several times, and is planning on using them as rewards for reaching goals.
    I started with this volleyball tutorial as a base: http://assets.usoc.org/assets/documents/attached_file/filename/13508/balloon_volleyball.pdf
    I DID make a few changes, and I’ve been asked by several people to do a tutorial. You’re welcome to try the volleyball tute, or stay tuned and I’ll write up a tute for them.

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