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

GG: How has the existence of L’Athlétique helped you organize in the aftermath of a disaster?

LA: Bobby’s program is extremely structured. The children know they can come back. They know they will get food. Bobby is a person who—just like he trains kids to be great players—he has a mind that works quickly. So when he realized the kids weren’t on the site he went to the airport. He said, “I need to help somebody.” He started helping international organizations. … He was helping people move around [Port-au-Prince] because all the streets are blocked. He knows the back roads, he knows the side roads, so he became instrumental for a lot of outsiders who came to help.

GG: Have these connections facilitated aid for L’Athlétique and Cité Soleil that might have been more difficult otherwise?

LA: I guess it’s the club connection and [Duval's] personal connections. He builds relations with anybody that he needs. I am basically the face of L’Athlétique right now because Bobby is unreachable, people in Haiti are unreachable. I’m the contact in the US. I’m getting e-mails and calls from people all over the world—people that met Bobby in a tournament, who met him at the airport, who met him in school. In Puerto Rico, he lived here three years when his family was in exile because of the Duvalier dictatorship. The people who went to high school with him 30 years ago who have never seen him again are giving me $40,000, just for him, for L’Athlétique.

GG: How will the psychological needs of people at L’Athlétique be assessed?

LA: As soon as the kids come in, they will assess their state of well-being psychologically. Obviously these are children. It has affected everybody’s psyche. Definitely the kids will need some psychological support.

GG: When requesting support, how do you balance the needs of L’Athlétique against those of Cité Soleil and Haiti as a whole?

LA: I think people are giving, and people are saturated now with everybody asking for donations. Most people gave right away when this happened. But some people don’t even know where their funds went. What is the Red Cross doing with the five dollars I gave? Is it for overhead or will this translate to the children or to the people affected right away?

What I say is this man has been doing this for 15 years. There is a system that works, and this will translate directly to the children. … In my case it’s a one-on-one effort and convincing [donors] that the money is going straight to the people, that Bobby doesn’t have a salary, that I don’t have a salary, that we only pay the coaches and that the rest is for food, structure and institutional support.

GG: What was the extent of the damage to L’Athlétique and surroundings?

LA: The wall that’s around the field, that’s the main thing. We need to rebuild the wall because the field is exposed right now. For safety reasons, especially inside feeding people, [people] are going to come in and out, because they’re hungry. What Bobby was doing yesterday was asking the kids and coaches to pick up cement blocks that were in good condition so they can make a little fort around the kitchen. We can make sure that we feed one person at a time, so they have to make a line and not storm into the kitchen. So they’re reusing the broken-down wall to re-create the structure and protect the kitchen and be able to feed people without any trouble.

GG: What is the situation with supplies: food, water, medicine?

LA: They have enough for a couple of days for the amount of people there right now. If the amount of people increases … we’re going to need more food and more medical supplies and more tents.


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