BlazeSports was back in Haiti for a week in October as part of their ongoing United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP) funded project. A busy week of events and training culminated with the National Disability Sport Festival hosted in Merchand Dessalines.
The week of activity kicked off by an Amputee Soccer Workshop, where 31 soccer coaches and enthusiasts attended the event. Coach Derek Arnaud, member of the US Soccer Athletes Council, who supported BlazeSports staff in delivering the workshop said, “It was amazing to see the enthusiasm and desire of the Haitian coaches to make a difference to their country and players. There are without doubt many obstacles in the way of developing soccer in this country but I am thankful I was given this opportunity by BlazeSports to, in a small way, help assist the development process.”
Following the workshop, BlazeSports staff had the opportunity to watch the semifinal matches of the Haitian Amputee Soccer Championship in Mirebalais. The Championship was sponsored by the UNOSDP disability sport project and organized by the Haitian Amputee Soccer Federation and BlazeSports.
On October 17th, a festive day in Haiti, over 500 persons with disabilities participated in the National Disability Sport Festival organized by the Haitian Paralympic Committee. BlazeSports’ previously trained coaches planned, organized, and delivered the activities at this event. The participants were divided in group of 50 and had the opportunity to experience recreational games, powerlifting, table tennis, basketball, sit volleyball, and athletics.
Concluding the festivities was the final of the Haitian Amputee Soccer Championship won by Team Zaryen. BlazeSports’ intern Sam Zapatka was in Haiti for the first time and recognized “it was incredible to see first-hand the power sport has on people with physical disabilities and its ability to bring people together”
It was a very successful week for disability sports in Haiti. BlazeSports staff were delighted to witness, throughout the week, the leadership skills of BlazeSports in-country alumni who were trained previously thanks to a US Department of State SportsUnited project. Stuart Sharp, BlazeSports Director of International Development, evaluated the successful week in Haiti, “It is clear there is an emergence of new leaders with positive attitudes towards persons with disabilities in Haiti. There is no doubt there is still a long way to go however with this new generation comes a new opportunity for hope and future for Paralympic sport and those with disabilities in the country to realize their full potential.”