It’s been just over a month since the Toronto Raptors won the NBA championship. Old news or not, I’m still celebrating—and will be all summer!

I love basketball—partly inspired by my Filipino heritage. In the Philippines, basketball is not just a national sport. It’s a national pastime—a way of life. So much so, that the town square in many small towns in the Philippines often doubles as the local basketball court. It brings communities together.

While football—what we North Americans call soccer—might be the world’s sport, basketball isn’t far behind. Even though every country may not have as many basketball hoops as the Philippines or the United States, spotting a group of kids playing a game of pickup is becoming more and more common.

An increasing number of NBA players come to the league from around the world, and more and more leagues outside of North America are gaining popularity. Kids—no matter where they’re from—have tons of inspiration to play the game and reach for big dreams.

A boy jumps to reach for a basketball, amongst a crowd of other boys engaged in the game.

The Raptors’ win got me thinking about how basketball has the ability to bring people together.

I loved seeing so many people, and especially kids, across Canada get excited and inspired by the Raptors. I believe that’s why sport is so beloved around the world—it brings people together regardless of things that might try to keep us apart. Everyone can cheer, everyone can get behind the buzz around a basketball court. Being inspired by your favourite players and getting outside to play is a universal experience. And for many kids in Compassion’s programs, their Compassion centre is one of the few places they can play in a safe environment.

With all that in mind, I thought I’d keep the championship celebration going by sharing some everyday basketball moments from Compassion children around the world.

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Two boys on opposite teams playing basketball. One boy is dribbling while the other defends.

Two boys faceoff in a fast-paced game of basketball at a regional tournament organized by a group of Compassion Centres in the Philippines. These events are a way for kids in Compassion’s program to meet kids from other Compassion Centres! (Photo by Edwin Estioko.)

A green board with a metal hoop fixed to it, nailed to a tree.

People get creative to be able to play their favourite sport! Makeshift basketball hoops come in all shapes and sizes, like this one in the Dominican Republic. (Photo by Ryan Johnson.)

Girls in uniform are engaged in a game of basketball. One girl is preparing to pass the ball to another girl preparing to catch it.

A group of girls play a game of basketball at their Compassion Centre in Tanzania. For many children, their Compassion Centre is one of the rare places they get to play, dream and just be kids. (Photo by Ryan Johnson.)

A boy in a blue t-shit and blue and red basketball shorts holds a basketball in both hands while walking outside his home.

Jostin holds his favourite toy—a basketball—in front of his family’s home in El Salvador. (Photo by Nora Diaz.)

Five teenagers sit on the bleachers of a basketball court, smiling at the camera.

Mary Cris (far left), a Compassion student in the Philippines, sits with some friends while waiting for her turn on the court. She is the captain of her school’s varsity basketball team and sees basketball as a way to share the love of Jesus with her friends. (Photo by Edwin Estioko.)

A boy lunges to tag another boy, who is sitting on the ground trying to dodge, with a basketball. They are smiling and laughing.

Sometimes a basketball is used in other games, too, as demonstrated by these boys at a Compassion Centre in Indonesia. (Photo by Ben Adams.)

A woman in a pink shirt and a boy in a grey t-shirt stand in front of a brown door to a cinderblock home. The boy is holding a basketball on his hip.

Dominic and his mom, Alicia, stand in front of their home in the Philippines. Compassion helped to rebuild their home with sturdier materials, after their previous bamboo home was destroyed in a typhoon. Of course, Dominic is holding an ever-present basketball. (Photo by Edwin Estioko.)

A group of boys play a game of basketball. One boy is shooting the ball while another has his hand up in attempt to block the shot.

A group of boys play a pickup game at an outdoor court in the Dominican Republic. (Photo by Ryan Johnson.)

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Many children living in poverty don’t have the freedom to play, connect and learn safely with their peers where they live. But at Compassion centres based in local churches around the world, children are known, loved and protected—and are able to play and dream.

Will you give a child the freedom to play?

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Written by: Alyssa Esparaz

Alyssa brings her passion for youth, justice and Jesus to her role of Writer and Communicator at Compassion Canada, as she works to inspire and equip the Church to live compassionate lifestyles. Her favourite things in the world include her family, basketball, ice cream and riding on airplanes.