L’Athlétique d’Haiti | ‘The soccer program is going to be back on track’

L'Athletique d'Haiti

Boys at training, L’Athlétique d’Haiti, Port-au-Prince. (Photo courtesy L’Athlétique d’Haiti)

We interviewed Laura Anduze, international liaison for L’Athlétique d’Haiti, the youth soccer club and NGO founded in Cité Soleil, Port-au-Prince, in 1996 by Robert Duval. A native of Puerto Rico, Anduze was in San Juan securing assistance for L’Athlétique as well as longer-term sponsorship from Puerto Rico Islanders. Duval was in Washington, DC, when the earthquake hit Jan 12, meeting with the Inter-American Development Bank about regional sport development.

Interview with Laura Anduze, 22 January 2010

GG: What happened at the training center on the day of the earthquake and shortly after?

LA: [Duval] made sure his nuclear family was fine, then obviously he went looking for the children. The children had not been in the program since the day of the earthquake. They were there when the earthquake struck. It was at the end of the practice. The practice is an after-school program, so it’s from 2 to 5. The majority of them were still on the site in Port-au-Prince. They were with their coaches who tried to retain them, and they couldn’t. … So as much as the coaches pleaded with them to stay, the kids just wanted to go find their parents. So they left. Maybe a few of them stayed but the vast majority went back to their homes or wherever they live. Some sleep in the little slum houses, some live in the street, but they went back.

Then it took Bobby a couple of days to figure out where the kids were. It wasn’t until [Jan 21] that 150 of them started coming back. They came with their families. There are currently 50 families living in the soccer field in tents. … Also we will have the kids who lost their parents or whose parents are displaced somewhere else in the country that cannot make it back. Some of the parents work in the countryside during the week and come back during the weekends. Maybe now they’re separated from their kids and have no means of communicating or of coming back. So it’s a very big responsibility because now we have to take care of the families.

GG: These families are located in Cité Soleil?

LA: They are in the training facility in Port-au-Prince where we have a big soccer field that accommodates on a regular day 700 kids playing in little groups. So imagine how big it is. It’s huge. You could build a stadium there. It’s one of the few flat, open spaces in Port-au-Prince. It’s two miles from the airport, which is ideal for when they reopened the airport to get donations. Bobby can just hop on a truck and go pick them up. It’s also an ideal site for an enormous number of people to be in a refugee camp, because there’s a lot of space.

The soccer program is going to be back on track when this situation subsides. The priority is to have families sheltered from this terrible circumstance.

GG: You are anticipating a long-term process of recovery.

LA: The country went back to zero. Whatever had been built until this point has been destroyed. So they’re back to square one. For L’Athlétique, for every organization, for every family in Haiti it has to be long-term. This is not going to be fixed in the next couple of weeks or years. It’s going to take a long time.

Bobby commented that of the people working on the ground, the people that have been most available in helping at L’Athlétique are Doctors without Borders. They donated the tents. They have donated a lot of medications, foot supplies. So [Duval] is already set to accommodate a few more families, but we still need more donations. Right now I’m in Puerto Rico asking my fellow countrymen to help Haiti, because we are used to helping Haiti. We are both Caribbean nations, and people here have a culture of giving. We are sending things on boats that left today to the Dominican Republic.

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