Monday, June 9, 2014

Haitian Initiative Soccer Program: Feeding Bellies, Minds and Hearts

There are many obstacles that keep a Haitian child from going to school. Too often, the parents are unemployed and cannot afford tuition, school uniforms or supplies for their children. Other times, the child has to stay home and care for other siblings while the parents are away working long hours for very little money.

In Cite Soleil, Healing Haiti has sponsored children in school, purchased uniforms and supplies, and still children did not attend school regularly. It broke my heart when we discovered that these kids had to face a daily decision: Go to school, or spend their day on the streets, begging for scraps of food to quiet their empty and hurting stomachs. 

The Haitian Initiative Soccer Program started in Cite Soleil two years ago. Its premise was to use soccer as a catalyst to motivate kids to stay in school and get good grades. This is the requirement to be in the program, and soccer is a great motivator in Haiti. Every child dreams of becoming a professional soccer player! However, as an Advocate for the program I soon discovered that even the dream of becoming a professional soccer player does not account for the main obstacle that these kids face each day. Hunger.

Hunger makes it difficult for a child to focus in school. Hunger and malnutrition keep these kids from growing and warding off disease. Hunger leads to low energy and lack of motivation. Hunger keeps children from following their dreams. This realization moved us to partner with Feed My Starving Children and add the provision of a meal after each soccer practice. When children know they will have a meal to count on each day, it removes a major obstacle from their path. They can attend school. They can play soccer. Most importantly they can be a kid again!

I am so thankful to our partners and supporters who keep this program running.  Because of their support, we are providing daily nutrition to 250 kids in the Haitian Initiative Soccer Program. That means that 250 kids living in one of the poorest slums in the world will not go to bed hungry tonight. Instead they can go to school and thrive, and doors of opportunity will open for them.

(Written by Laura Fixsen, Soccer Feeding Program Advocate)

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