Four Little Red Balls

What do these four little red balls have to do with community development? If you asked me several years ago I would honestly answer – ‘well nothing!’ Seven years on and I must say that these little red balls have become one of our favourite community development tools.

My husband Chris bought them the first year we visited Swaziland to entertain children at parties we put on for vulnerable families. The children loved them!

Here’s how the magic balls trick goes …

Chris (pointing to the subject’s ear): “What’s that red ball doing behind your ear?!”
Subject: “Red ball? Ear? What red ball?!” (by now the subject is feeling in and around their ear – looking somewhat confused and perplexed)
(Chris reaches for the person’s ear and conjours up a spongy red ball)
(Chris puts the ball in the person’s clenched hand, gets them to blow on it and when they open their hands – abracadabra 2 balls!)
“Oww! How does 1 ball becomes 2?”
(Chris repeats the trick – 2 balls turn into 3 and then 3 turn into 4!) 
“Do it again!” 
“Show my family!” 
“Show my friends!”
“Make it change to money!”

The laughter and joy expressed on people’s faces was it’s own reward.

But we were yet to realize the many benefits these balls would eventually bring…

These 4 little red balls have become the ice breaker in community meetings, helping us to ease into discussions.

These 4 little red balls have broken down barriers and helped us make connections that have lasted these last 7 years.

These 4 little red balls have helped us in making new friends in the communities we work in.

Chris is now fondly known around Siteki as ‘Magic Man’ and is regularly requested to do tricks in the streets. The downside of this is that a quick 10 min grocery shop can become an hour visit! Even at the Royal Hlane Nature Reserve his food receipts have been recently marked ‘Magic Man’ (and he usually doesn’t leave without a mini performance).

These 4 little red balls continue to put smiles on faces and laughter in hearts. It always leads to hand shakes, hugs and sweet words of connection. Since his magic ball trick Chris has expanded his repertoire to coin, card and disappearing hanky tricks. Who knew they would be such a useful tool in community development?



  1. Kirsten Brice says:

    Love this story coz I so know the big smile on your face every time you have them fooled. It’d be hard to know which one is the kid!!

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