Since 2007 we have used soccer to give Haitian street kids and child workers in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic a chance to relax, have control over something, make friends, and learn lessons that are applicable and valuable for their lives.
Project Esperanza first conducted a street census in 2006 among the hundreds of children who walk the streets of Puerto Plata each day selling sweets, hard-boiled eggs, or shining shoes. Over the course of two months, we learned their situations, and began a day program to meet their needs. All of the 140 youth interviewed were male. Most were from Haiti and lived without family here in the Dominican Republic. All from Haiti were not in school. The average age they gave was 14.
During the day program, we quickly learned that soccer is one thing that the boys love to play and excel at. Giving them the organization and materials to run their own soccer team that has lasted throughout the years has given them family where they were without, control over something when they had little control over anything in their lives, and has given us a chance to put a role model in front of them to give good advice, which was previously lacking in their parentless lives.
Since 2007, the team has engaged an average of 30 players each year. Not only have the team members been encouraged, but other Haitian community members have truly engaged watching the team grow, and watching the boys grow. Street kids who were once without value have become well respected members of the community. A sense of community remains among players even when they are no longer involved in the team. Our first group of boys are now an average age of 20 and are the coaches and role models.
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