In the midst of all the news about construction and the launching of our youth soccer program, we also had two teams visit Camp Marie to train soccer and basketball coaches. Here is a brief synopsis of each trip.
By Collin Box
We started with seven of us driving to PDX in the pounding rain with 11 full-sized bags full of soccer equipment, not including our personal items. After nearly 24 hours, picking up other team members from Eugene, Colorado, and Kansas, we made it to our home for the next week just outside Camp Marie. The home was a hostel of sorts with 35 beds, of which our team took up 11, along with our driver, security and 10 Haitian coaches from Port-au-Prince who were there for the coaches training.
After catching up on some rest and settling in, we went to church in Montroius (pronounced Mowi) on Sunday morning. I had been to this church one year before, and as we sat on the hard wooden benches in the back of the concrete church building, Benedic, who I had met last year, opened the service.
After he said something in Kreyol, we began to sing. The highlight was a line from one of the songs - “Li Kapab” - He is able. The phrase stuck with me throughout the week.
After the service, we visited the Project Living Hope Property, had lunch, and then decided to head out to the field in Montrouis for a soccer game against the locals. This was by far the best American team I’ve played with down in Haiti, but the terrain still made it difficult. The game finished 3-0 in our favor.
Our coaches training began the following morning and would continue through Friday. We had about 35 coaches at the training. In the morning, we met in a small church building right next to the road. Guesly brought a battery powered projector that allowed Aaron Lewis and myself to show some slides and video each day. We also were equipped with two 18”x24” white boards and a bag of mostly dried out markers. We had a classroom session assisted by several translators, and then spent part of our time on the basketball court across the street demonstrating drills. Intermixed with our coach education were some powerful devotionals and trainings on how to be a “coach de vie” - a life coach. The intention of Project Living Hope is to utilize soccer as a means to create community and make disciples. These trainings were provided by both Guesly and Thonny.
After lunch inside the church (which was getting pretty hot by that time), we had the coaches plan their session in small groups before heading over to the soccer field at the Project Living Hope property just down the road. We walked the mile down the newly completed road, side-by-side with the Haitian coaches as they offered us free Kreyol lessons. We also seemed to accumulate kids everywhere we walked. One of the days, I was walking towards a girl who must have been two years old as she announced over and over again, “Blanc! blanc! blanc! blanc!” (White, white, white, white!)
After school got out, the kids began to arrive. We had around 200 kids by the end of the week, who were divided into smaller group. The Haitian coaches took the lead as we gave a little advice and simply participated alongside. It is amazing how quickly relationships can happen with a ball at your feet.
My biggest takeaways from the week:
After coming for the first time to this community last year, it was incredible to see the amount of progress that has been made. One year ago we did our first coaches training in the area, had our first English classes, didn’t have a field to play on, and PLH did not have any staff living in the area. One year later, they have a soccer field, a road, weekly English classes for three different levels, four local staff coaches, two administrators, a land manager, a U23 league, and a youth soccer program. There are some great people on the board at PLH, but it is apparent to me that God is behind this and is very active in the community. The people are excited, and the culture is already changing.
I was really impacted by the relationships we formed with the Haitian coaches and staff that we stayed with. I had met some of them before, but this time I felt like we really got to be with them and understand their way of life more than ever before.
There was one night in particular where we were back at the house after a long day of soccer. After dinner, we had a devotional that Josh Noonkester led. Then one of the Haitian coaches spoke up and called out in front of everyone else, “Two of you are here who are not followers of Jesus. How can you claim to be a ‘life coach’ if you don’t know the One you are leading them to?” These two coaches then proceed to, in front of all 30 of us, tell everyone their reasons for not following Jesus and then both asked us to pray for them because they wanted to do so. It was a special night.
Thank you to all of you for your prayers and support. It was a blessing to go and play a small part in helping empower Haitians to build a better Haiti.
To read more about the soccer mission experience here is a blog post written by Ryan Botkin who served on the team.
By Tyler Butenscheon
Empowering Haitians to Build a Stronger Haiti is the heartbeat of PLH. I saw this in right before my eyes on a trip to Camp Marie, Haiti in March. Every morning trained coaches were taught, encouraged and then released to lead their own kids basketball camp in the afternoon. Can empowerment be effective with that short of a turnaround? The answer is a resounding yes.
We had dozens and dozens of coaches that came out each day to the community basketball court right in the center of town. At the end of our training we had 35 coaches receive a coaching certificate. These are the coaches that were with us every day. They listened, worked hard and implemented our skills and leadership principles. Beyond that we had dozens of more coaches and community members who came out to watch and learn about basketball and PLH for one or more of our training days.
Because of the draw of our coaches camp there were a couple of great scrimmage games that we got to be part of. One was the American coaches verses the Haitian coaches. The Haitians loved seeing how they matched up with us. Their skills are still developing but their athleticism and tenacity are phenomenal. The other game was two local adult Haitian teams that squared off against one another. This second match brought people out from everywhere in Camp Marie. The sidelines were filled with people 3 deep trying to get eyes on the game as we simply provided referees and cheered them on. What a beautiful site it was to see how sport can bring a community together and build relationships.
Part of our training with the coaches each day was an opportunity to remind them just how important the afternoon would be as they coached and led the kids camp. Sure, we taught them some fundamentals of the game (dribbling, passing, shooting, defense, rebounding, etc). And yes, we coached them in how to run drills to help kids practice and develop those skills in fun ways. But beyond that, and more importantly, we emphasized over and over how these coaches weren’t just coaching kids in a sport but they had opportunities to coach kids in life. They had the opportunity to empower the next generation to be the leaders necessary to change the course of Haiti. They had a platform to show the love of God and share the gospel of Christ.
We were amazed each afternoon as the coaches stepped up and led the kids camp. All in all there were 80-100 kids throughout the week who were led by these newly trained coaches. The coaches were passionately engaged in their interactions with kids. They were nurturing in their approach. They were wonderful examples of sportsmanship and hard work. Ultimately, they were great examples of Jesus to their players. The highlight of the kids camp was when the coaches specifically paused to gather the kids and teach them about Jesus. It wasn’t forced or awkward. It was simply coaches who were empowered and passionate about their first love, Jesus, and sharing him unashamedly. It was a beautiful site to see.
Athletics is one of 4 main areas we focus our work at PLH. We say, "Lives of young people can be drastically changed for the good when they become involved in an excellent, Christ-centered sports program.” We saw truth that first hand. We witnessed relationships blossom. We saw confidence rise. We experienced the love God among people. Basketball was the bridge we used to aide these endeavors. As one coach put it after receiving his certificate, “Thank you. You changed my life."
To read more about the basketball mission experience here is a blog post written by Jacob Biviano who served on the team.