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Bianca’s Story: Sports Bring out the best in me

by Jill Van den Brule

 

Carrefour, Haiti - 12 July, 2010 - Bianca Luchia, speaks in whispers as tears spill down her cheeks. She bends foward reaching for the hem of her long checkered skirt to wipe her sad eyes crowned by curled eyelashes. Life has changed dramatically for this lanky twelve year old who lost her sixteen year old sister in the devastating earthquake on 12 January. “I am now the big sister,” she says.

 

Bianca has taken on many new responsibilities in her home since her older sister’s death. This budding adolescent is now the older sister in the family. In addition to going to school she does the washing and helps her mother cook for her eight year old brother and nine year old sister. “Sometimes I have to prepare dinner for the entire family. It’s not easy for me to come back home after an hour’s walk from school and do all of these chores. I am so tired.”

 

Sport helps me forget

The schoolyard of Notre Dame de l’Assomption is different from most schools in Haiti where recreational activities are limited due to cramped spaces. Tents now fill most schoolyards where children used to play since their school buildings collapsed due to the earthquake. Here, however, large groups of children are bustling about in T-shirts, engaged in all sorts of organised sports and activities ranging from judo, handball, physical fitness and football to chess tournaments. The school which has over 2,800 students is supported by one of UNICEF’s partners, the Haitian Olympic Committee. Over 44 monitors ensure that each child has a minimum of one hour of sport per day. “While I am playing, I don’t have time to think about my sister’s death,” says Bianca wistfully.

 

Since the devastating earthquake of 12 January 2010, nearly 1,000,000 children have lost their homes and have been displaced. In Haiti, sport is one of the many ways of helping these young people overcome the trauma they have experienced and give them a real sense of normalcy. “While sport is a recreational activity, it can also be key to building self-confidence and increasing the feeling of psychosocial well-being”, says Stephane Rebu, Assistant Coordinator. “Sports are also used as a means of transmitting important messages about HIV/AIDS, family planning and the environment, issues that are key for adolescents,” says Program Coordinator, Michel Fline.

 

Sport brings out the best in me

Here children not only learn core values such as teamwork, fairness and citizenship but also put them into practice. Young people learn to reach beyond their limits. “ I want to be a pilot,” Bianca says. “I read about it in a book explaining different careers and think it would be a wonderful job. I would like to visit many new places. The first place I would take my little brother and sister to is Miami and then we would visit the rest of the world.”  I feel better about myself since I have been playing sports and it’s a way for me to make  new friends,” says Bianca.

 

Given what these children have been through, being active in sports has encouraged them to build resilience and regain their self-esteem but also give them an outlet from the stresses they face in their daily lives. “They are able to disconnect from their realities in tents and in camps and can liberate themselves through sport,” says Stephane.

 

Sports have taught me about peace

For the past four years, the Haitian Olympic committee (HOC) has been encouraging peace and social progress in Haiti, through its National Program for Peace and Development through Sport. Even before the earthquake the HOC was already working with children and teenagers in difficult environments in Port au Prince and the provinces. In November, many of these children will participate in the “Haitian -Dominican Goodwill Games” designed to bring together communities on both sides of the border by helping them overcome their prejudices through athletic competition.

 

“I used to fight with the boys in my class because I was angry about having lost my home and my cousin. He was my best friend. Since taking part in the activities, my mother says I have calmed down. I am now a member of the judo club and like practicing my new moves on my classmates without really hurting them though, says thirteen year old Guy Claude”

 

For more information

Cifora Monier, cmonier@unicef.org, UNICEF Haiti, Tel: + 509 38812374

Tamar Hahn, thahn@unicef.org, UNICEF Latin America and the Caribbean, Tel  + 507 3017485

www.unicef.org/lac  

 

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About UNICEF

UNICEF is on the ground in over 155 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

 

 
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