L'Athletique d'Haiti is a private organization that has been operating in Haiti for the last five years with a main focus on sports education. Its long term goal is to introduce the practice of physical education into the national school curriculum. In reaching this goal, the organization's day-to-day objective is to promote and develop the potential of young boys and girls through a continued, disciplined and systematic practice of sports. The organization is non-profit and relies on donations and gifts to meet its obligations.
History of the Program
L'Athletique d'Haiti started with an objective to gather a very small number of young kids, ages 5 to 12. In less than 10,000 square feet of open space (roughly two football fields) located in a residential area of Petion-Ville, the goal at the time was to teach the basic skills of soccer on a regular basis (in Haiti soccer is the national sport and a favorite among kids).
After a successful year of training the initial twelve (12) children, the original location could no longer accomodate the growing number of kids from the surrounding areas who pleaded to join. Our training and games were always in the open, and the showing of our 12 kids practicing and excelling on a daily basis had become too much of a temptation for kids in the area who were looking for an outlet to show their talent. The day came when as many as 40 kids showed up, hoping to be added to the group. It then became necessary to relocate to a larger space immediately. This moved inspired us to move on to the next phase of the program.
The second phase of the initiative came with the hiring of a regular staff monitor. He was able to increase and enhance the level of activity by arranging for tournaments in various locations in Haiti. The idea for the kids to take part in competitive matches was met with lots of excitement and enthusiasm, and propelled L'Athletique d'Haiti into the national forefront of sports education in Haiti.
After a year into the second phase, it became apparent that in order for the organization to grow and flourish in its original objective, it was necessary to internally structure the organization. We simply could not allow lack of structure and lack of commitment on the national front to stifle what we saw as the promising future of sports and youth in Haiti. We had to move forward.
That realization became the basis for L'Athletique d'Haiti.
General Program Justification
While one private institution alone will not be able to meet the challenges of developing physical education nationally, by begining to address the problem, we hope to fill a crucial need in Haiti. The organization looks to improve the general enviroment for kids in Haiti, and provide a place where boys and girls can discover through sports the values of commitment, team-work, of setting goals and objectives, of making sacrifices and of achievement.
There are approximately 900,000 kids in the vicinity of Port-Au-Prince,Haiti engaged in a formal education program within compounds that currently have no space available for physical training. Though Haitian national law makes physical education compulsory as part of the school curriculum, the virtual absence of infrastructure has made compliance with the law a near impossibility. Hence, the development of physical education programs or any kind of organized inter-scholastic competition is hindered greatly. The current state of sports education in Haiti is poor given that thirty years ago, sports and physical education training was alive and flourishing. The fact that such programs permitted Haiti to participate in past Olympics and to compete in past World Cup Soccer games indicates our ability to achieve our goals.
Heart of the Organization
The heart of the program consists of training more than 650 kids, both boys and girls, ages 7 to 20. The organization trains the kids in the following sports: soccer, basketball, track and field, and more recently volleyball.
The soccer program has more than 200 participants, with sixteen trainers who supervise the practice sessions on a regular basis. The boys are sub-divided into age groups, under 20, under 17, under 15, under 13, under 12, under 10, and under 8. Apart from the practice sessions schelduled weekly, competitive games are also arranged with other groups. As we all know, competition and exposure are the best means of measuring progress while keeping enthusiasm high. With the older groups we are engaged in national competitions and frequently travel around the country for tournaments.
As a result of this activity we have been able to develop players who are now competing in the highest level of national divisions. We have ten players at the youth level who have been recognized for their superior skills by the Ministry of Sports Talent School and have been chosen to participate in a govermental program.
The basketball program currently has 80 kids; 60 boys and 20 girls. The program is supervised by four trainers and runs under the same principles as the soccer program. The younger kids learn the fundamentals and occasionally compete with other basketball teams. The older kids participate in national tournaments. The National Basketball Association (of Haiti), of which "L'Athletique d'Haiti" is a founding member, organized the last national tournament in December 2000. "L'Athletique d'Haiti" also organized the Inter-Scholastic Basketball Tournament which took place in February 23, 2001.
Track and Field
We have several runners who train daily at our facilities. Since they are the older athletes, they participate in the national races organized by the Track and Field Federation and the Olympic Committee of Haiti. The last major race in January 2001 was a cross-country race won by members of the organization, which gave us further recognition.
Evolving Role of L'Athletique d'Haiti
Apart from the 650 athletes regularly involved in our program, we also provide services to outside groups wishing to use our facilities. The Lycee Francais and L'Ecole Ste. Therese de L'Enfant Jesus School are among those benefiting from our facilities.
As a result of the economic circumstances in Haiti, our program participants are primarily imporverished children from depressed areas. We feel compelled to feed them a hot meal daily, and provide them with water and juice during the training sessions. We have even extended our services to provide transportation as most of these children have no means to and from our facilties.
"L'Athletique d'Haiti" requires that all kids involved in the program must be attending school. Since many parents are unable to afford education costs, "L'Athletique d'Haiti also provides financial aid for those kids' schooling. When feasible, we also provide medical assistance to the children.
The program has had a real impact on the surounding population. The parents of the children involved are very happy and relieved to know that their youngsters are being positively influenced and engaged in healthy activities both physically and mentally. Parents have grown to appreciate that through the programs provided by "L'Athletique d'Haiti", there are numerous opportunities for improvement in their child's future.