Cité Soleil is full of a lot of things, but hope is not one of them.
There’s the fetid smell of smoldering trash. The deafening noise of jets landing at the airport nearby. The piles of cement rubble, some even older than the historic 2010 earthquake. And the tents — scores of blue-and-gray tarps clustered among the ruins.
The neighborhood is one of the poorest and most violent in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince. Armed gangs used to rule the streets. Many residents lack running water and electricity. For as many as 400,000 residents, there is only one public school.
The devastating 2010 earthquake was just the first tragedy to strike thirteen-year-old Emmanuella's young life: She escaped the rubble of her home, only to lose even more amidst the violence in her neighborhood as her father was murdered and never found.
"When the earthquake reached my house I was watching TV. When I tried to get out a cement brick fell from above onto my leg. I saw people who had died, and people who were trapped. I was afraid because I thought I was going to die. After the earthquake I lived in a tent with my mother. We didn't have beds. We made beds with bricks. I live in Cité Soleil but I am often afraid because sometimes there is killing and violence."
"Life is really hard for children in Cité Soleil," says Franz, Emanuella's mentor and Soccer for Life coach. "Soccer for Life is a program that Mercy Corps has set up in Cité Soleil. Soccer is one of the tools we use to help the children forget a lot of things and live together in harmony. Emanuella has become a model for the children. Emanuella's life turned around. I see that soccer can bring the change that we want in Cité Soleil."
"Playing soccer makes me happy," explains Emanuella. "When I pass, when I hit the ball with my stomach or with my chest, when I score a goal, when my team is the champion, and when we jump when we win."
"Now I feel comfortable like I used to be because I'm not stressed anymore and I'm not scared anymore. That's why I feel better."
Click here to watch this uplifting video to find out how Emanuella has found comfort — and confidence — playing in Mercy Corps' Soccer for Life program.
Emanuella with her mentor and coach, Franz