Haitian soccer players fight for the ball during a friendly match at the national stadium in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Jan. 10. Sprinting on their crutches at breakneck speed, the young players who lost legs in Haiti's earthquake last year, displayed hope and resilience in a land where so much is broken. (CNS photo/Kena Betancur, Reuters) (Jan. 11, 2011)
As we come upon the one year anniversary of the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the Knights of Columbus, together with Project Medishare, are proud to report ‘a promise kept,’ one whose fruits were on full display this past Sunday in a soccer match that drew worldwide media attention.
Thanks to the more than $1 million commitment from The Knights of Columbus and the tireless work of Project Medishare, the “Healing Haiti’s Children” program is successfully providing free prosthetic limbs and a minimum of 2 years rehab to every child who suffered an amputation as a result of the calamity. To date, more than 100 children have been fitted with prostheses. Some of the newly fitted youth have gone on to become members of Team Zaryen, Port Au Prince’s own young amputee soccer team which was formed in the wake of the tragedy. Each team member receives treatment, athletic training and prosthetic limbs from the Healing Haiti's Children program.
Zaryen was named after the Haitian Creole term for ‘tarantula’ because of the way the spider keeps on going even after it loses an appendage. In the midst of the country’s growing sense of pessimism and despair, team Zaryen has become a symbol of the city’s hope and resilience, its players showing the world that disability does not crush the human spirit.
“Sport is a universal vehicle that brings us all together across the world, whether it be the World Cup, the Super Bowl, or the World Series. We all love to rally around athletes and we all use athletes as role models. Haiti is no different. We have folks that receive their prosthesis, they've learned how to walk, and within hours they are out on the soccer field seeing and testing whether or not they could kick the soccer ball. Our hope is that through the program with the Knights of Columbus, we're going to use sport in the same way,” said Dr. Robert Gailey, Project Medishare’s rehabilitation coordinator.
Amputees have many prejudices to overcome in Haiti.
“Historically, the amputees have been viewed as second-class citizens, unable to contribute and therefore a drain on the society. We're hoping to change that stigma for the people of Haiti,” explained prosthetist Adam Finnieston.
To commemorate the anniversary of the quake, Team Zaryen played a friendly match against Haiti’s national amputee soccer team on Sunday January 9th.
Both teams were tied 0-0 at the end of regulation play (two 25 minute halves). While international rules for amputee soccer allow no extra time, the teams were given another 35 minutes to play during which the national team scored 2 goals, one at the 32 minute mark and one at the 35.
“Our guys played their hearts out and are very proud of their accomplishments,” said Dr. Gailey.
“We are honored to be able to give the important gift of hope to the children of Haiti,” announced Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. “It is rare to be able to give a gift that changes a life forever. Providing mobility does just that, for few things can change a child’s life as completely as the ability to regain freedom of movement.”
In the News: Reuters | CNA