From the Slums to the Soccer Field – FONDAPS Seeks Volunteers
Below is a guest blog from Esther Smitheram, who visited Port au Prince to work with FONDAPS, a charity founded by CNN hero Patrice Millet. She describes her trip, the FONDAPS mission, and passes on a request by Patrice for volunteers with backgrounds in administation and/or project management. An appreciation for soccer is a plus! Please share with good candiates you may know.
I work for an international charity called Children on the Edge, based in the UK. I recently travelled to Haiti to work with Patrice Millet, founder of the FONDAPS project in Port au Prince and wanted to tell you a little more about it, as the project needs your help. FONDAPS was founded by Patrice Millett, a Haitian businessman diagnosed with terminal bone cancer in 2007. This experience motivated him to dedicate his remaining years to helping the children in his country. He has done this by setting up a simple football (soccer) project where children can come and play, learn and receive a food parcel to take home to their families. He was a CNN hero last year and it is easy to see why.
Soccer is Haiti’s national obsession and the sessions that Patrice leads are professional and impressive. Patrice always finishes with an awesome pep talk which can be about good citizenship, working as a team and respecting others. The boys are completely transfixed throughout and always clap at the end. Food parcels are given at the end of each training session and I can’t stress enough how vital they are. I interviewed 8 boys who live in tents and many of them said they only eat once a day. We also talked to one boy’s mother at her home in the camps. 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.
The project caters to as many boys as turn up, which at the moment is around 400. Before the earthquake the project reached 1,000 young people, but two of the three soccer fields they used became camps after the earthquake - many of the resources that were once directed towards FONDAPS were directed to the re-building. Those who were previously helping needed help themselves. Girls are helped indirectly through families receiving the food parcels. Patrice is also planning to build an academy in the future which runs activities for girls. He had to start somewhere, so he decided to start with football.
One of the most moving experiences of the trip was taking 20 boys from the slums for the trip of a lifetime in the mountains near Mirebalais. These children had never been out of the city and we took them to a house owned by a friend of Patrice’s, closely resembling paradise, with a beautiful pool overlooking a breathtaking landscape. The whole morning the boys were yelling with excitement, splashing, playing, singing and dancing. Charities often give second hand shoes, send clothes that people don’t want or things they don’t need. This was not charity so much as providing the boys with an opportunity to play, learn and just be children for a while. It was sobering to contrast this experience with a trip to a slum in order to visit one of the older boys. He lives in one tiny hot room, with a single bed. Most of the 8 people that he shares it with just sleep on the floor, and we couldn’t even see how there was room for that.
The goals of the organization are to provide education through sport, nutrition through food packages and encourage good citizenship to change the future of the country. What the project really needs to accomplish this, aside from sustainable local funding, is voluntary skilled administrators or project managers for at least a year. Patrice is first and foremost a coach and a mentor and he needs someone working alongside him to assist with the administrative and communications side of the project. This would be a fantastic leg up to increasing the capacity and sustainability of what is already an incredible project. Knowledge of some French and/or Haitian Creole would be preferable but Patrice is a fluent English speaker.
I only spent a week out there and it blew me away. It would be a fantastic and inspiring experience for anyone looking for some volunteering experience in Haiti, or someone who wants to use their skills to make a real difference to people who need it most.
For more information or to send a CV e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information is available on the Children on the Edge website and be sure to take a look at this CNN Heroes clip, which featured Patrice.
Even if you can’t volunteer we hope you will enjoy learning more about the project. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions. We’d love to hear from you.