In late February Ben and Esther took a trip to work with Patrice Millet, founder of of an innovative sports project in Port au Prince, currently supported by Children on the Edge. Here they talk about some of their experiences.
"I thought I was already very familiar with the work of Patrice, having spent the last few years writing about the project" said Esther, "But actually seeing the massive impact a simple football project can have on children that vulnerable was amazing".
The purpose of the trip was for communications and some general capacity building, so the start of the trip involved going along to a series of the football training sessions to get a feel for the day to day work. Each session was extremely professional and disciplined. Patrice always finished with an awesome pep talk, often focussing on good citizenship, working as a team and respecting others. The boys were completely transfixed throughout and always clapped at the end, which is a rare sign of respect in Haiti, meaning ‘I have learnt something, thank you for teaching me’.
The discipline is well balanced with a good dose of fun. One session ended with piggy back races and spontaneous singing, spilling out into a Conga. At Children on the Edge we talk about bringing ‘life, colour and fun’ to children living in the worst conditions, and here it is really brought to life. Children living in abject poverty, living with loss, disease and violence, all in a conga line on their way to pick up a sack of food from the back of Patrice’s jeep.
"The food parcels are given at the end of each training session and we can’t stress enough how vital they are" says Ben, "We interviewed 8 boys who live in the tents and many of them said they only eat once a day". They also talked to one boy’s mother at her home in the camps. She described how she wakes up every day worried about where she will find food to cook for a family of seven. The parcel her son brings home will feed them for two days.
One of the most moving experiences of the visit was taking 20 boys from the slums for the trip of a lifetime in the mountains. Patrice had described how these children had never been out of the city. Where he was taking them was to a place owned by a friend of his, who let us use it for the morning. It was a place that closely resembles paradise, with a beautiful pool overlooking breathtaking scenery.
The whole morning the boys were yelling with excitement, splashing, playing, singing and dancing. Esther described how "With charity we usually give second hand shoes, send clothes that we don’t want or things we don’t need. There’s a place for that, because it’s practical, but here it was amazing to be able to take children who live in the worst of the worst conditions, and actually give them the best of the best".
As a sobering contrast to this experience, the following afternoon consisted of a trip to the ghettos to visit one of the older boys. He lives in one tiny hot room, with one bed. Most of the 8 people that he shares with just sleep on the floor, and it was hard to imagine how there was even room for that.
It costs about £100 to do one of these trips for 30 children. Obviously there’s various ways you can quantify what £100 can do in Haiti. It would buy around 16 food parcels or 15 footballs, but to be able to give these boys the time of their life for a day is priceless.
Please find out more about the project we support in Haiti, or consider donating to the work out there.