Can’t get enough of GOALS?We will now be posting updates directly on the home page to make them more accessible. Be the first to get news of GOALS by subscribing to the site on the home page! Fall 2010: Storms, Cholera & Elections 2010 has been one of the most difficult years for Haiti in the country’s history. The fallout from the earthquake is still a daily reality. In October, Tropical Storm Tomas swept the area, flooding communities, and causing deaths from drowning. Cholera is blowing up in nearly every region, with exponential spikes in the number of cases each week. The disease is nearly certain to reach vast epidemic proportions despite the fact that cholera is easily preventable and easily treatable. With extreme poverty, even diseases which are technically simple can wreak havoc and affect millions. Finally, the country is holding presidential elections on Sunday and most voters are pessimistic about the candidates and the expected winners. There is good news as well. Though most coverage of Haiti emphasizes the slow pace of reconstruction, progress is visible on a day-to-day basis. Rubble is gradually being cleared, and many families have been able to rebuild. Cholera in Leogane has so far been limited and the international community and Haitian government have launched aggressive education campaigns on disease prevention. Political rallies have largely been non-violent, and the potential havoc of Storm Tomas never occurred. Of course, it’s a qualified success when the good news is mostly about how the bad news isn’t as bad as it could be. That’s why GOALS is happy to report that its after-school program is running successfully, and is continuing to have a positive impact in the area. What’s new with GOALS?
On average, about 175 children and teens participate in the GOALS weekday after-school program
Participants receive food and soccer equipment (such as cleats, shorts and jerseys) and participate in soccer training, community clean up, recycling and leadership activities
GOALS has teamed up with The School Fund to provide scholarships to the program’s youth leadership group, called The Dream Team.
There are now 4 staff members who run the program on a daily basis, consisting of a local site director, program manager and two coaches
GOALS has partnered with the Passback program, by the US Federation of Soccer, to receive free soccer equipment and has worked with the Sports Challenge Alliance and Soccer1 to develop GOALS programs.In the coming weeks, check back here for more updates on the Dream Team, the School Fund partnership, and GOALS plans for expansion in Leogane, Haiti. October 18, 2010: “Development never had so much fun” Friday, October 15, was Global Handwashing Day. At home, I never would have known such a day existed, but among the organizations in Leogane, Haiti the day was a big event. Global Handwashing Day coincided perfectly with the grand opening of Destra’s first public toilet – hurrah! – and the first week of the new GOALS afterschool program. My favorite part of GOALS is that we have a lot of fun doing development work. It’s easy to underestimate the importance of having fun when tackling big issues. But in a place still devastated by the January 12, 2010 earthquake, where extreme poverty is everywhere, it’s an accomplishment in itself to put a smile on a kid’s face. What’s more, not only are the children enjoying themselves and playing soccer, they’re improving their communities in a tangible way. Our new afterschool program is a perfect example. Every afternoon at 3pm, the program begins with our local site director, Emilio, blowing his whistle. The kids line up to wash their hands and eat a snack right away, which all but ensures punctuality from everyone. We divide the kids into groups according to age and gender, and rotate the groups between discussions, projects, singing and dancing, and soccer. Through this playful approach, kids learn about hygiene, public health, and disease transmission. At the same time, we’re introducing participatory involvement, critical thinking and applied learning. It also gives a chance to survey the children we work with. At the beginning of the week we administered a simple evaluation. We found that 95.4% of the 67 kids surveyed say they know when to wash their hands. However, 69.7% of the children only wash their hands 2 or 3 times a day, so there was definitely room for improvement. Our first day of the program saw nearly 70 kids. Our community party had over 200 people, and our audience ranged from grandparents to infants. To kick off our party, everyone washed their hands. Kids dove into the water and soap, laughing their heads off as they scrubbed away germs. Then we all ate sandwiches and listened to Site Director Emilio Jean Paul kick things off. The courtyard was decorated with balloons and the drawings of younger kids, who were challenged to draw handwashing scenes. The afternoon was filled with singing, presentations and contests where we awarded t-shirts and soaps provided by UNICEF. The grand finale was a hilarious skit written, directed and performed by GOALS teenagers. The crowd cheered on the actors boisterously, shouting out helpful advice: “He has dirty hands! Wash your hands!” Everyone cheered when the characters washed their hands. People were rolling on the floor with laughter by the end of the day. Now that we’ve covered handwashing, we are set to start the area’s first recycling program. This week our goal is to attack the litter in the area and reuse it in creative ways. Not only will we make an immediate difference to the community’s environment, but we’ll have so much fun doing so that kids will enjoy themselves, promote the project, and start thinking about recycling on their own. September 30, 2010: Back to School It’s officially fall in Leogane, Haiti. The days are shorter and cooler. The fields of sugar cane, with their tall, waving stalks, have been cut and sent to local factories. When darkness falls around 6pm, night seems to occur instantly, immediately giving way to the shockingly bright moon. By dawn, I am shivering in my bed, and the mornings have a definite autumnal crispness. It is a strange feeling to hear leaves crackling underfoot, yellowed and crisp, just like they do in the United States. With the advent of fall, it’s nearly time for schools here to open. Schools will re-open on October 4, and seem to represent a hope for a return of some kind of normalcy for children and their families. When schools resume, so will the GOALS program. GOALS is planning a weekday after-school program to run throughout the academic year. The program will build on the work done this summer. This means more soccer, environmental projects, and community development activities that focus on youth and their families. A new “Dream Team” will acknowledge standout teen participants and give them opportunities to become stronger leaders in their communities. The Dream Team will be responsible for coordinating activities with the village’s youngest children, as well as for conducting outreach workshops with kids, particularly orphans, in nearby areas. The first week of the GOALS inaugural afterschool program in Destra will be marked by Global Handwashing Day on October 15. The week will be based on education and activities to highlight the importance and ease of handwashing with soap. On Friday, there will be an open community event where GOALS kids will perform skits and songs that demonstrate when, why and how to wash hands. By using our community-based approach, now familiar in Destra, GOALS is ready to make a difference in the public health of the area. Handwashing, combined with the grand opening of the new 2-unit toilet, will hopefully improve make an immediate positive impact in people’s daily lives here. Soccer, gardens, toilets and handwashing: really, what could be a better start to the school year? Aug 31, 2010: “Destra, this is our toilet!” Last week, GOALS ended its first summer soccer program in Destra, Haiti. How did we celebrate? We built a toilet. When we began working in Destra in July, we conducted a census and needs assessment. Our program managers found that of the 147 households surveyed, just 6 had toilets. This meant that 95.9% of our site’s community had no access to a bathroom. Nearly every survey respondent ranked toilets as one of the top 3 community development needs. Because Destra lies in a floodplain, people could not build simple pit latrines to solve the problem on their own. The result is “open defecation.” Children in the GOALS program told us that without toilets, the waters offshore were polluted, and fish were being contaminated. Seeing as how Destra is a fishing village, building a toilet meant we could impact the community’s health, economy and environment all at once. How do you build a toilet? In some ways, it’s very easy. A local plumber gave us the design, masons volunteered their services, and the labor was provided by the men, women and children of Destra. GOALS provided the materials, delivered them, and organized volunteers. Of course, sometimes the simplest things aren’t easy: we transported materials on motorcycle taxis, on foot, and on ancient rented trucks, all the while dodging rainstorms that turn the rutted road to mud. Once the materials had arrived, children carried small containers of sand on their head to the build site, where it was mixed with concrete. Women – and not just women, but grandmothers – carried cinderblocks, at times stacking two at a time on top of their heads. Men dug the latrine pit and mixed cement for mortar. The masons, known as “bosses,” stacked the blocks one at a time. After just 4 days of this work, the toilet was nearly finished. Now what happens? The community has pledged to independently maintain the toilet and keep it clean. We are going to paint the outside, publicize a village honor roll for those who volunteered, throw a party for the grand opening and use the toilet as an opportunity to promote hand washing and sanitation. On the last day of the program, we had a public program to celebrate the children and their families. We shared the latest news, children sang and made presentations, and we shared a big meal before the girls team played against visitors in an official match. My favorite part of the day? Head program manager, Emilio Jean Paul, announcing the near completion of the toilets: “It is our responsibility to keep this toilet in order,” he said. “We need it, we built it, and we are going to take care of it. This isn’t an NGO’s toilet, this is our toilet!” After 7 weeks of the GOALS pilot program in Destra, this sentiment sums up the heart of our successes. GOALS doesn’t do charity. Our work with Destra is driven forward by the community’s needs and the community’s own contributions. This is aid dependency in reverse: in Destra, GOALS relies on the community to organize, support, complete, and then maintain projects. This is why I know that this toilet isn’t simply improving quality of life in Destra. It is also showing that we can improve the way people and organizations tackle development work, from soccer and gardening to toilets and houses. Where soccer balls come to die The first day that GOALS began environmental clean up in Destra, I ended the work by handing over a brand new soccer ball to a clamoring horde of children. When I came back the next morning, just about 15 hours later, I couldn’t believe I was looking at the same ball. The ball I had left was full of air, shiny new, and . . . intact. The ball I saw the next morning was deflated, scuffed, and its sides were falling apart, peeling away to show the canvas below. Two weeks later, the ball has been completely stripped of leather. It is a dark brown, ratty-looking canvas ball that has been played nearly to shreds. I can’t help but love it, even though it must by now be the ugliest soccer ball on the planet. I love it because when I see the disintegrating ball, what I’m really thinking about is the thousands of times children kicked that ball from dawn to dusk for days without stopping, never letting it come to a standstill. The kids in Haiti live and breathe soccer everyday. They play in rags, they play without shoes, they play in front of the rubble from their destroyed homes. When they can’t get hold of a soccer ball, they kick socks stuffed with sand, roundish fruits, and old tin cans. Just as children in Haiti have embraced soccer, the community of Destra has embraced GOALS. Children prize their green program t-shirts. They wear them every morning while we play and work, and the t-shirts are washed every afternoon and left to dry in the sun for the next day. On special occasions, the children don their t-shirts as formal wear, pairing them with their best pants, skirts, and shoes. When the children scrimmage and have matches on their small dirt field, parents come to cheer them on. At our town meetings, adults – gran moun – come to listen, talk and ask us questions about our work and the organization. We aren’t just present in the community. GOALS has been taken in, tested, and pushed on by Destra. Our second week is coming to an end. What have we done so far?
- We expanded the program from 80 children to 100 children. Each child practices soccer, works on our environmental projects, and receives a massive midday meal. We monitor attendance and participation of each child to track them in our rewards system. Based on their involvement, the children will be eligible to pick out new cleats, shorts, shin guards and socks during the run of the program.
- We have planted 90 trees, including mango and almond trees. Each child in the program is responsible for a specific tree. To this end, the children create small wooden fences to protect their trees from hungry goats, and make sure the tree is getting enough water and sun.
- In addition to maintaining our community trash sites, we have started a public composting space. The participants created the new compost pit, and are responsible for adding to it and monitoring it for trash and other uncompostable materials.
- We have started 4 square foot gardens” with the help of Sustain Haiti. These gardens will be maintained by our program and will produce a wide array of vegetables not usually available to the children. Our compost will be used to nurture the gardens, and the yields will be used by our cooks for our program meal.
- Organized the players to clean public spaces in Destra, including the health clinic, the beach and our program space
- Dug trash, recycling and compost pits
- Started educational efforts about the environment and pollution
- Hosted a Haitian psychologist, who came to talk about his work and lead art-therapy exercises about the January 12 earthquake.
- More soccer! We look forward to starting our camp scrimmages next week.
- More environmental work! We are working on incorporating environmental practices into all aspects of our operations.
- More photos! We can’t wait to show you the kids and community of GOALS in Haiti.