Much More Than Basketball

Every week on the Haitian Christian Mission campus, youth are connecting with each other and with Christian mentors around the games of soccer and basketball through the Play It Forward sports program.  Earlier this month, four guys from Oregon had the opportunity to take part in that program, both teaching and learning as they went along.  Levi Wilson and Ben Comstock along with Levi's son Cameron and Ben's son Droiy traveled down to Haiti with the intention of helping train basketball coaches and lead basketball camp.  While there, they learned that the week was about much more than basketball.

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Each day they met with about 30 coaches on the porch of the Haitian Christian Mission guesthouse.  Thonny Fabien, director of Play It Forward, started off each session with 1-2 hours of leadership training, a key element of his program.

After that, Ben and Levi had the opportunity to train the coaches for a few hours both at their desks and on the court.  One day they spent several hours teaching about calls and refereeing.  

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Then each afternoon they had around 20 Play It Forward players come for basketball camp.  During the camp, many of the coaches jumped in and helped with the kids.  Ben and Levi took down 100 reversible blue and white jerseys for the coaches to use in their programs.  They make it easy to form two teams and start a game.  

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They were also able to take down 60 pairs of donated basketball shoes, including 30 brand new pairs donated by Nike.  These shoes will belong to Play It Forward and the staff will distribute them to all players before games.  That way, students eager to improve as players will always have shoes to wear on the court.  The team also brought down 50 basketballs that were distributed to the coaches.

"Coaching and playing basketball was a lot of fun for the kids, for the coaches, and for us," Ben explains, "but this week was about much more than basketball. It was about creating relationships and equipping the Haitian coaches with the leadership skills needed to make an impact with kids back in their own communities."  Ben and Levi got to see firsthand just what the purpose of Play It Forward is.

"Thonny is doing amazing work with the kids and coaches. It is evident that he is loved and respected by everyone that he is in contact with," Ben shares.  Levi adds, "He commands respect from every Haitian I saw him interact with. He is extremely genuine, intelligent, and focused without having any air of self-absorption. This is one of the highest caliber men I've met in my life."

The Play It Forward program has already had a positive impact in Haiti and that will continue behind leaders like Thonny.  You are helping make this possible through partnering with Project Living Hope.

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Highlights from Our Haiti Trip, Pt. 2

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While in Haiti in May, Sarah Comstock, Thonny Fabien, and I had the opportunity to attend an exciting and informative one-day conference in Port-au-Prince.  It was put on by HaitiOne, an organization “birthed from a vision of God’s people wanting to work together to see Haiti transformed for Christ.” We really did not know what to expect but we’d gotten on HaitiOne’s mailing list and were excited to see that their annual conference was taking place while we were already scheduled to be in Haiti.  We were in no way disappointed by how the day went.
 
We started off sitting a round tables and getting to chat with those around us.  We met missionaries working to opposite corner of Haiti than us as well as others who work just down the road from us in Fonds-Parisien.  It was encouraging to see so many Christian organizations represented and dialoguing in one room.
 
In addition to getting to connect, we heard from a number of different presenters.  We listened to a representative from Feed My Starving Children who shared their inspirational testimony of how their organization exploded in size after they rededicated it to Christ in 2003.  Then a gal from Lumos spoke on orphan reunification and deinstitutionalization in orphan care.  More than 32,000 children live in Haiti’s 760+ orphan institutions and get this, at least 80% of them have at least one living parent.  Haiti does not need more orphanages.  It needs its families to be strengthened and financially able to provide.
 
We heard talks about artisan jewelry best practices, about an alternative elementary school curriculum that’s been developed for schools in Haiti, and about the restavek situation in Haiti.  A restavek is basically a child slave, a norm in Haitian society, and for at least 450,000 kids in Haiti, that is their reality.  Another talk on women’s empowerment through business training was particularly relevant to what we are working on in Haiti and we plan to connect with that organization which has developed a small business curriculum.  A final presentation about people with special needs was inspiring as well.  
 
God has called a number of different people to different ministries in Haiti and we all need to work together for the good of all.  HaitiOne says “We seek to be more effective in bringing positive change to Haiti, as we resource each other’s strengths and expand our impact together.”  
 
The ambition of Project Living Hope is huge so we know we need to network with other organizations working in Haiti both for our good and theirs.  HaitiOne is there to help us do this.

Highlights from Our Haiti Trip

Life is such a whirlwind sometimes!  It's already been two weeks since my family and I returned from a two-week trip to Haiti.  It was a marvelous trip and we'd love to tell you all about it, but let me share a couple of the highlights:

SOCCER

We were able to attend two soccer games put on by Play It Forward.  Since we don’t have a soccer field at Haitian Christian Mission, all the games are held at Love a Child, a Christian organization down the road from the mission.  Calling it a field is quite a stretch.  With only a few patches of grass and a mix of dirt, sand and gravel, the ball bounces unpredictably when it lands. Unlike the grass fields we enjoy, the hard surface does not slow the ball.  The young players skid around on the rocks while we spectators cringe knowing injury or at least a torn up leg is a real possibility.  And yet, the athletes give it all they've got simply for the love of the game.  All ages come out to watch, standing all around the field.

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I know that Sarah Comstock, Guesly and I were all envisioning how awesome it will be when they play on a turf field.  A safer environment will not only improve players’ skills and increase participation, but also express how much Play It Forward values each life.  With your help, we will provide a soccer field for these hard-working athletes, and for the little children who were playing thumb wars and London Bridge with my kids on the sidelines.  

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JOB SKILL TRAINING

Sarah Comstock and I spent a couple hours talking with students in the Project Living Hope trade school.  The students are being trained in auto mechanics, culinary arts and artisanry.  We were touched by how serious some of the students are about their programs, and by how grateful they are to all of us (you!), who are making this training possible for them.    

For example, Roudine was in Philo (Haiti's 13th and final grade) last year but she didn't pass the national exam.  Her family cannot afford for her to repeat the year of school so she is studying on her own and hopes to pass next time.  The culinary class is giving her something else to work toward during this time.  If she can get a job as a cook, she wants to go to college to be a nurse or a teacher.   

In addition, Danul has long wanted to become an auto mechanic, but he never imagined he would learn the trade at the same time as he was completing his last two years of high school.  He appreciates his knowledgeable trade school teacher.  Sarah and I left our conversation with him determined to supply his class with more tools and more engines to work on.

Roudine and Danul represent a small sampling of the numerous inspiring stories being written through the trade school.  With your help, we will keep this education opportunity available, improve it every year, and secure additional classroom space.