Haiti: Sport in the Slums
Vulnerable children in the slums
Haiti is a desperately poor country. In 2010 when the earthquake struck, Haiti already ranked 145th out of 169 countries in the United Nations Human Development Index; making it the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. Within this country 80% of people are living under the poverty line and 54% of these are facing abject poverty.
The epicentre of that earthquake was just 16 miles from the centre of Port au Prince; the nation’s densely-populated capital city. Throughout this city and the surrounding area many of the buildings just crumpled because of their poor concrete construction. The loss of life was an estimated at 250,000 and the rebuilding programme in the years since has been unbearably slow.
As is so often the case, it is children that are particularly vulnerable in natural disasters. According to UNICEF one in five Haitian children now have no access to clean water. Many have ended up living rough on the streets where they are forced to depend on the kindness of strangers, making them vulnerable to traffickers and violent gangs.
For children living in highly populated urban slums, life is fraught with danger and hardship. The Port au Prince area was once described by Mother Teresa as the worst few miles of slums anywhere in the world and is rife with criminal gangs, malnourishment, illiteracy and disease.
Children here are not only vulnerable to gang culture, but have very little to eat and no opportunity to learn to read or write. There are hardly any safe places where they can play with their friends. For those who still have families, many of their elders have been drawn into gangs and are unable to give them positive examples of how to live.
What we did to help:
Throughout the slums Children on the Edge supported a remarkable programme of sports training called FONDAPS which helps to give childhood experiences back to those who have lost everything.
FONDAPS was founded by Patrice Millet, a truly heroic Haitian business man, who since 2007 has been battling the crisis in Port au Prince whilst battling his own terminal illness. He describes his hopes, "Our vision is to provide these children a different reality. One with a field of their own where they can have access to sports. One with a school with qualified teachers. A reality which will get them away and out of the misery in which they live daily".
The football training, plus the support and mentoring that Patrice and his coaches provide, helps to keep these children out of the criminal groups which sadly provide for many the only real family they will ever have. As the children have fun and gain a sense of belonging through team sports, they also have access to education, learn from positive role models and are provided with a food package after each practice session to take home. The food package contains enough to feed a family of ten for two days.
Since the earthquake hit, much needed funding for this project was diverted to rebuilding the area. Two of the three football pitches used by the project have become tented camps for the multitude of people made homeless by the tremors. Many of the Haitiians that had been helping these children are now in need themselves. Having reached 1000 children before the quake, Patrice can currently only cater for around 400. We have helped get the project back on it's feet, but they still need support to expand so please visit their website to find out more.