This past Friday I had the opportunity to spend a few hours at the Haitian Embassy, considered to be Haitian soil, for an event put on by the National Organization for the Advancement of Haitians, in conjunction with the Haitian Sports Foundation and the US Olympic Committee. The event was a prelude to a solidarity and fund raising walk that was held EARLY Saturday morning. It also served as an opportunity to update those interested on the progress that Haiti has been making as far as sports is concerned, both before and after the earthquake. We got a chance to meet the ambassador and some individuals who truly appreciate the potential of sports to motivate, inspire and unite the country of Haiti. It was truly a great event.
Not only is education not guaranteed for children in Haiti, but neither is 3 square meals or clean water. Likewise, sports programs are relatively non-existent, as are venues for kids to run and play in safety. Since its inception the Haitian Sports Foundation has provided thousands of children with the opportunity to receive basic education on a daily basis, as well as at least two full meals. As an added bonus, children in HSF programs get the opportunity to learn sports like judo, boxing and tae kwon do from people who have excelled in them and want nothing more than to work with kids in need. There are also sports oriented summer camps, where the kids can continue their exploration of different sports and although the track and field season extends through August we (myself and the others in the picture above) are looking forward to going down and working with the HSF for a time. We’ll definitely be recruiting other US based Haitian athletes (and even non-Haitian athletes a la Ayanna who represents Trinidad and Tobago) who may want to make the trip. That said, apparently track and field has become pretty popular in Haiti so I think we’ll have a great time; although the work itself would have been more than worthwhile either way!
The USOC has also been doing an immense job of assisting Haitian sports on the international level. They have helped facilitate the transportation and outfitting of some of the Haitian teams for the Central American and Caribbean Games to be held in Puerto Rico in July. They’ve also donated a ton of money and equipment which I’m sure will be put to good use as long as it ends up in the right hands. While I’m looking forward to standing atop the podium at the CAC Games in July, I must say that the support that the USOC has shown and the efforts of others whom I met on Friday evening are beyond heartwarming. It means much more than people realize.
In related news, the Haitian track and field team now has a website up and running so feel free to check it out: www.rohtf.com. For me, meet number one is less than a week away. Mt. Sac Relays here I come; “I’m going back back, to Cali Cali…”