Months after his successful soccer career ended, Tony Sanneh strolls the ruined streets of Port-au-Prince amid buildings reduced to rubble by a 7.0 earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010. He is there as an ambassador of the reigning MLS Champion Los Angeles Galaxy. Struck by the pain and helplessness in the eyes of the children, he chooses the path less traveled, determined to bring help from his own organization, The Sanneh Foundation in St. Paul, Minnesota. His mission: to empower children, improve lives and unite communities.
Today, the Haitian Initiative brings joy to the lives of 320 Haitian children. For three hours every day from Monday through Saturday, these children come to the HI complex in Cité Soleil for English class, soccer training and a special meal high in nutrients, which is often the only meal they receive all day.
Cité Soleil is generally regarded as the poorest and most dangerous area in the Western Hemisphere. Cité Soleil is not a fun place even though it sits on the azure waters of the Caribbean. The United Nations designates Cité Soleil as a Red Zone, that is, it is unsafe for anyone to visit. Google ‘Cité Soleil.’ Regardless of which source you go to, you will learn that the slum of Cité Soleil is considered the most dangerous place on earth.
- Poorest slum in Haiti
- Population: 300,000
- 3 square miles
- No electricity, plumbing, sewer system or running water
This is where Tony Sanneh operates the Haitian Initiative. “If you can be successful there, people told me, you can be successful anywhere.”
The children served by HI smile despite their hunger, lack of adequate clothing, running water, sewage, electricity, mail delivery, police protection … the list of ‘needs’ to raise these children to a quality life comparable to the poorest American standards is endless. These children do not know what it is like to have clean running water, three square meals a day, a light to read by at night, electric or otherwise, a book to read much less a computer with games or even a deck of cards.