Spring Break Impact Trip Day Five Blog Post by Jennifer Ridgeway – 3/17/17
I am honored and again inspired to participate in another Haitian Initiative Impact Trip and so appreciative of the US State Department for offering these cultural exchange opportunities across the world. I celebrate this program as it recognizes the importance and value of utilizing sport to empower kids, improve lives and unite communities ~ aligned with the mission of The Sanneh Foundation.
As I reflect after our 5th day of the trip, I am awed by the growth of the program and continuous improvement in particular to the empowerment of young women. Three years ago, our field was populated with 90% young males. After a purposeful effort to attract, retain, and empower young women in the program, I was so happy to be greeted with hugs and warm welcomes on a field populated with 50% girls and young women ages 6-18! Their beautiful smiles and excitement for our arrival exhibited that the “beautiful game” was able to break down the gender barriers of sport and education in Haiti!
Highlights for me thus far;
- Arriving at the feeding center in Cite Solei hearing the squeal of joy shouting “Jennifer” and looking up to see the gleaming smile of “Joshua” as he invited me to help him teach English to the six year old girls. They have grown so much in one year and their language skills have improved tremendously ~ truly seeing the change in one year in stability and structure of our new English program.
- Listening to the reflections of the young men on this trip sharing how they are amazed at the power of soccer to communicate and watching them connect with one another and our youth in the program! They escaped their “shells” and are engaged and using the “Beautiful Game” to play and build friendships on and off the field.
- Visiting “Sport Disciples” Program and so happy to see they are also strongly encouraging young women to participate in their soccer programming – 40% of their fields were populated with young women!
- Conducting a reflection with 16 year old young women in our program ~ inquiring why they like Haitian Initiative and what they want to do when they graduate from High School. So powerful to know that many of these young women and their families were reluctant to join our program and today 4 of them personally told me, “Jennifer, I want to be a professional soccer player,” 5 of them aspired to be nurses, and one asked if she could be a police woman and I strongly and confidently told her YES!
- Visiting “World Orphanage” ~ truly inspired by the women who are providing day care, health and learning services to orphans in Haiti. Funded by a family in MN, this is a new partner of HI and excited to host toy and clothing drives to support this program. Gifted and talented staff using music, love, and education to provide valuable services to youth in Haiti.
Jogo Bonito. The Beautiful Game of Soccer is having a significant impact on the youth in TSF’s Haitian Initiative. Every time I visit our program, I am awed by the power of soccer to transcend….education, health, wellness, and equality. Proud to be a part of this initiative to provide the power of sport and play to communities that are underserved in Haiti!