Opinion

Kathy McAllister
Executive Director of GOALS Haiti and 2019 Peace and Sport Award winner

See all opinions
19/02/2020 par Kathy McAllister

Football is Guiding Young People to School in Haiti

“For our organization, GOALS Haiti, and for all Haitians, 2020 is a notable anniversary. It marks the 10th anniversary of the country’s devastating earthquake which occurred just before 5:00 p.m. on 12 January 2010 and measured at a magnitude of 7.1. Over 300,000 people tragically lost their lives in the earthquake and in Leogane, the epicentre of the disaster, 70% of the buildings were destroyed.

GOALS Haiti was created by its founder Kona Shen that same year. Ten years have gone by and the country is still recovering from the massive damage and trying to rebuild. At GOALS Haiti, we are working with communities in rural Leogane to foster long term positive change.

Football was the catalyst for our organization and remains our focal point. It is its origin. In the spring of 2010, just a few weeks after the earthquake, Kona Shen was exploring the countryside in Haiti and came across a fishing village, Destra. A group of children were playing football in a field. They didn’t have shoes and the pitch was an abandoned sugar cane field. Kona could see their passion for football. As she talked with them, she saw that sport could be a great tool to help these young Haitians move forward, have a positive outlet and help them set goals in life. On her return to the United States, she developed her project – to set up an NGO in Haiti focused on football and education to impact young people. She got funding to start and the rest has been an inspiring journey. Kona Shen’s dream has become a reality for thousands of young Haitians. And more than that, it’s given them hope.

In 10 years, the programs developed by GOALS Haiti have made a real difference to the daily lives of the children we work with and their families. Kids come to daily football practice and receive a meal which is sometimes their only meal of the day. They benefit from the physical exercise and the opportunity to improve their skills as football players and learn valuable life lessons. Our curriculum includes education on conflict resolution, inclusion and gender equality. The kids become more confident and by having a safe space to learn, play and grow they can realize their potential.  They learn to overcome stress, to make the right decisions, and to find their place in the community.

In Haiti, access to education is a hardship for most families. Traditional schooling does not exist in some of our communities. So, we adapted and added a Literacy program so that kids would not be left behind. Football has been the tool to bring kids into the program and education goes hand in hand. We got creative designing an educational program with analogies to football. For example, we marked numbers on the footballs to teach counting. We also incorporate song, dance and theatre into learning. The method has paid off. Many parents tell us that their children are more attentive and have gained motivation.

Since last year, Haiti has been shaken, this time by a long period of political unrest. A great number of NGOs have disappeared or were forced to cease their activities due to the challenges. But GOALS Haiti has stayed operational. That is thanks to our local staff and coaches who are from their local area and are trusted members of the community.  We have several members of our staff that are GOALS Haiti alumni and are now giving back to the next generation. It is great to see how a love of the game has expanded what is possible in these communities and fostered a love of learning”

Share this opinion