This is the second installment of the blog by BlazeSports’ intern Kit McCluskey
After a week of reflecting upon our trip to Haiti Josh, Tommy and I realized how much of our outlook on life and sport has changed. As Paralympians, Josh and Tommy have traveled all over the world, but have never been to a developing country like Haiti. I have never been out of the country so like them, I wasn’t sure what to expect. We knew the 2010 earthquake affected the country tremendously, but had no idea how much. All of us were surprised with the amount of poverty and destruction. Josh imagined there would be a lot of homelessness, but not nearly to the extent there actually was, especially two years later.
On our last day, driving through Port au Prince, there were times when I couldn’t look out the window anymore. The level of poverty is heartbreaking. For some reason, it really hit me when it started to rain (and when it rains, it pours). People were huddled underneath anything they could find and all they could do was wait for it to pass. I thought about all the times it poured at night during the week and imagined people trying to seek shelter. Many of their houses didn’t even have four walls.
We all agreed that we enjoyed the training sessions the most, because we were able to interact with our Haitian counterparts. Everyone was really engaged and eager to learn how to work with people with disabilities. This is where it all has to start – with people who want to make a difference. Tommy believes the most valuable thing we did was exchange knowledge about different sports and recreation opportunities for people with disabilities and how to make them happen. Living in a developing country, opportunities may seem limited, but given the right tools people can make a significant impact.
The Disability Sports Festival was such an amazing event to be a part of. It was great to see how many people came out to the Festival from all over the country to participate and learn about different sports. Having events like this one will only continue to increase awareness and provide inclusion throughout the communities and country. We saw many people who didn’t have any type of assistance like a wheelchair or crutches and had to crawl to get where they were going. Seeing the severity of this situation was a bit of shock.
As a sport management major, traveling to Haiti really opened my eyes to the different career paths I could take. Being part of the training sessions and the festival, I was able to experience first hand the possibilities of working with people with physical disabilities internationally. All that I experienced in one week in Haiti I would not have been able to learn in the classroom.
The three of us, Josh, Tommy, and I had an unbelievable experience and if given an opportunity like this again, we would take it. Even with the challenges the people of Haiti have to face everyday it was incredible to see how everyone is able to adapt and continue on with their lives. With the short time we were there, we believe we started to make a difference and we can’t wait to see how Haiti will continue to grow in disability sport and as a country.