It was poignant to land in Port Au Prince on January 12, the anniversary of the 2010 earthquake that shook the place to the ground, causing so much death and destruction. Walking onto the field at Park Izmery and seeing all that has changed over 7 years makes my HotFutbol heart jump out of my chest with warmth and pride. The tents are long gone, and there’s no more wailing in the middle of the night. Smiles greet us, and the sense of desperation is absent. Children run and play soccer while our work crew constructs the new basketball court. That’s why we’re here.
Ricardo, HotFutbol’s Country Director, managed to collect all of us at the airport in Port Au Prince, where he has expertly coordinated all activities for the next several days. Twelve Americans who have just met will stay at our house and walk to the park every day for five days to work with the Haitian crew to mix and pour concrete for the court. They’re from Building Bridges Worldwide, and they have raised over $20,000 and are backing that up with their own labor – what a gift! And what sweet irony that on the anniversary of all that concrete falling to the ground 7 years ago, we are now tamping down the rubble of the “tremblement de terre ” and encasing it in new concrete.
The folks who’ve come to help are led by three Holy Cross alums who graduated 25 years after I did. All 3 were part of the JVC (Jesuit Volunteer Corps) and spent some time after college volunteering in the developing world. They started a nonprofit called Building Bridges Worldwide and go somewhere each year to complete a single project. This year it’s HotFutbol in Haiti, and we are thrilled. Steve Ribaudo, the trip leader, has come with his dad, Tom Ribaudo who also graduated with David and I back in 1974. I haven’t seen him in 40 years, and it’s been great to reconnect. We are 10 men and 2 women, all cramped in the second floor of the house with Claudette, our cook and marvelous caretaker, watching over us. Great food, conversation, physical challenge, cultural exposure, and a tremendous sense of accomplishment. What a trip!