The Banana Leaf Ball – How Play Can Change the World | book launch

Today’s a very exciting day… It’s the official book launch of The Banana Leaf Ball, How Play Can Change the World written by Katie Smith Milway and Illustrated by Kansas City based artist, Shane Evans.

We were contacted by Katie in January of last year when she reached out to the boys through their website, BananaLeaf. She mentioned that she was writing a book about the Banana Leaf Ball and found their website while researching for the book. She was excited about their story and their connection with Banana Leaf Balls and asked if they would be interested in being featured in the back of the book? Of course they were thrilled and so excited to have this amazing opportunity.

Each and every one of these balls are one of a kind and incredibly unique, but I chose this one to feature the amazing handcrafted quality of these works of art. 

Background story on how our boys were connected with Father Vincent and the Banana Leaf Soccer balls.

Their Aunt Julie first introduced them to Father Vincent Kajoba, a priest from the Mityana Village in Uganda. While visiting her family he had the opportunity to come to Kansas City for a weekend to stay with us and when he arrived he came with Banana Leaf Soccer Balls as gifts for the kids. The boys are avid soccer players and they were so excited to hear the story of how children in the Mityana village would handcraft these balls to play soccer. Through conversations we talked about ways we could help the people of their village and asked if he would be willing to ask the children of the village if they would like to make more soccer balls and our boys would sell the balls for them here in the US, with 100% of the proceeds going back to the village. He was excited about the idea and the boys were already thinking of many of their friends and teammates that would love to have one of these unique handmade soccer balls. Currently 100% of the proceeds of the Banana Balls are used for school fees that village families cannot afford. Read more about the story and inquire about the soccer balls through their website BananaLeaf. It’s been a great experience for them to learn about helping children in another country while gaining knowledge about social enterprises and a host of other business practices. This has also been a spiritual gift for our entire family as we’re always thinking about Father Vincent and the families of the Village, keeping them close to our hearts in prayer and connecting with them through letters and pictures. The boys are hoping to have a book launch celebration soon to showcase the books and also the handcrafted balls. I will keep you all posted on the details. You can also purchase the book through Amazon.

Below is a description of the book from Kids Can Press, Publisher of The Banana Leaf Ball

“Separated from his family when they were forced to flee their home, a young East African boy named Deo lives alone in the Lukole refugee camp in Tanzania. With scarce resources at the camp, bullies have formed gangs to steal what they can, and a leader named Remy has begun targeting Deo. Then one day a coach gathers all the children to play soccer. Though Deo loves soccer and has even made his own ball out of banana leaves, he’s unsure at first about joining in when he sees Remy on the field. But as Deo and the other boys get drawn into the game, everything begins to change. Their shared joy in playing provides the children — including Remy — with a sense of belonging. “Ball by ball, practice by practice, children who were once afraid of each other laugh together,” the book explains, and “no one feels so alone anymore.” Based on a true story, Katie Smith Milway’s inspiring tale shows how a desperate situation can be improved by finding common ground through play.”

Katie has written many other books, including The Good Garden: How One Family Went from Hunger to Having Enough and One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference. Read more here about these books and other inspiring work Katie is doing for our world. Jack and James had the opportunity to meet Shane Evans, the Illustrator, years ago during a comic book workshop he was teaching at Leedy Voulkos Gallery. We were really excited to hear that that he was Illustrating the book! Throughout the book he uses incredible collage work, painting, and drawing to capture the details and textures of the banana leaf fibers, village life, and the characters of the story.

The boys enjoying a first look at their advance copies of the book!

Although this little girl is not in the book with her brothers she was very excited to receive her very own copy of the book!

The boys with a shipment of handcrafted Banana Leaf Balls.

Father Vincent Kajoba on his first visit to Kansas City. We gave him a tour, including visits to many community gardens to see their gardening practices first hand to share this knowledge with the people of his village.

Father Vincent was happy to take some pictures of the boys making and playing with the Banana Balls and a few other pictures to capture life in the Mityana Village.

Photo by Father Vincent – Front row, left-right- Peter, Enock, Moses, Joseph, Andrew (in yellow), Henry (in Brown)

Banana Leaf fibers ready to harvest / Andrew cutting fiber from the stem to make Banana Balls.

The image on the left shows a ball in progress at the bottom and the top shows the ball becoming tighter and stronger as the leaves get wrapped, rolled, and tied. The picture on the right is Henry making a soccer ball.

Here are other organizations that are featured in the back of the book including:

Right to Play,


America Scores

Gonzo Soccer

Grassroots Soccer

Naz India

Here are the websites that were started after two other books by Katie Smith Milway, One Hen and The Good Garden. Both are fantastic resources for learning about ways for parents and teachers to guide discussions with children about the importance of social good!

One Hen – One Hen empowers students to become social entrepreneurs who make a difference for themselves and the world.

The Good Garden – The Good Garden enrichment program introduces kids to the concept of food security and what they can do about the global food crisis. Through stories, interactive games and integrated curriculum, The Good Garden engages kids to help families everywhere go from hunger to having enough.

A huge thank you and blessing to everyone involved in the creation of the book, Father Vincent and the families of the Mityana village, and our dear family (The Simpson’s) that introduced us to Father Vincent. These connections are good people! And so much good in this world to focus on!