In Ouanaminthe, the work of setting up Camp Shriver at the public school was no small feat. A basketball court had to be rebuilt on a slab of concrete. A soccer field had to be created from a dirt patch piled with rubble and scrap metal. Goals were made up from plumbing pipes and sugar cane stalks — more Creole creativity.
As we arrived, we joined the campers for lunch. Jean found a guitar for me and we entertained the group over lunch. We did a couple of Beatles songs, some Rolling Stones and I also learned a traditional Haitian song, and was accompanied by one of the beautiful volunteers with an angelic voice. The music unleashed a full-on Karaoke session at the camp. Lots of campers took their turns coming out and sharing their hearts in song. It was magical.
After lunch, as the campers returned to their sports activities, we tried to get a soccer ball signed by all the campers that day as a gift to Kim Samuel Johnson, a member of the Special Olympics International Board of Director who generously provided the support that was needed to restart Camp Shriver here. Unfortunately, one of the campers snuck off with the ball under our noses. I can’t really blame him, so Kim, if you are reading this, please know we tried and we will bring you pictures of the signature gathering process!
At the end of the day, we met with the Principal of the School to discuss how we can continue a partnership going forward during the school year. He was interested, but his concerns were very reasonable: there are no special education teachers in the area– who will help him? Do we offer more than sports? What other educational or vocational elements can we bring to occupy them? How do we address very real issues of transportation?
In many ways, the issues faced by this small school are a microcosm of the broader uncertainties across Haiti. Developing sustainable programming here will take a villiage. Special Olympics can certainly be a part of the solution, but we will need to partner with other organizations to fully realize our vision for Haiti.
All in all, this was a day filled with grace and spirit.