HOTFutbol: Berkshire students helping displaced Haitian students

Monument Mountain Regional High School senior Will Serkin reports on his work with Haitian students under the HOTFutbol program.

Last summer, I traveled to Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, with four other Monument Mountain Regional High School soccer players: Rowan Myers, Juri Kiin, Isaac Graves, and Sam Seckler. We traveled through HOTFutbol, along with the organization’s president, John Evans.

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Working to restore clean drinking water is one of the projects undertaken by the Monument students.

For those not familiar with the program, HOTFutbol is a grassroots non-profit, named for its dedication to Health, Organization, and Teaching using soccer — hence the acronym. The program has sponsored a park in the Delma 33 district for the last few years, using that as a connection to help the community, with a specific focus on younger students. Park Izmery once held a grass soccer field, yet after the January 12, 2010 earthquake’s devastation and a subsequent occupation by almost 2,000 displaced people, it looked far worse for wear. Over the course of many trips, it has been cleared of the several mountains of litter, and has a level dirt soccer field, a functional basketball court, a small garden, and water access.

John leads trips several times a year, taking a group of high school students with him each time. On our trip, we added a pump to the park’s well, and dug and placed several water lines throughout the park. The pump brought water to the garden so it may yield crops even during drought. Some water lines ran to a small hand-washing station to make for better sanitation for the children. The last line brought water to the far side of the park, making a set of old showers usable again. The youth program was called together for the duration of our stay, and we coached and trained five different teams, which ranged from U10-U14, both boys and girls.

The soccer team that benefited from the HOTFutbol program.
One of the soccer teams that benefited from the HOTFutbol program.

The work HOTFutbol is doing is far more important than just allowing the children a place to play soccer. In America, soccer is just another sport or extracurricular. In Haiti, any time not spent working or studying is spent watching or playing futbol. For many of the children, it is their only pastime. The structure of the program teaches them discipline and respect, incentivizes doing well in school, and gives them a social group in a safe environment. Almost more importantly, it provides a setting to teach the younger children about health and hygiene. Many Haitians have a very limited understanding of even basic health and sexual concerns, so HOTFutbol brings in doctors and presenters to educate them on proper sanitation, self-care, and safe practices. The park brings money to the community, hosting tournaments regularly, and giving living wages to the 12 staffed coaches and maintenance crew members.

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HOTfutbol players with students from Pittsfield High School and St. Joseph High School in Pittsfield.

However, the program is still far from becoming self-sufficient. It is almost entirely donation-based, and anything you can give goes a long way. In the spirit of December 1st, which was Global Giving Day, I am writing on behalf of the program, asking for help to meet its goal of raising $8000 by the holidays. There are two types of donations. Money can go to the program as a whole for all of its costs, or can be specifically designated for a group through “Team Up,” which connects a person, team, or organization to a particular team or age group in the HOTFutbol youth program, providing Haitian players with coaches, water, equipment, and league registration, and receiving updates from the team – including photos, videos, and stories – in return. www.hotfutbol.org has any extra information about the program or the work going on in Haiti, and online donations can be made through Paypal at www.hotfutbol.org/team-up/. Checks or cash donations can be sent to HotFutbol at 131 Bartlett Avenue, Pittsfield MA 01201. Any questions can go to hotfutbol.haiti@gmail.com or 413-429-6664. The program needs the help of any and all donations to continue affording these great opportunities both to the Haitian people in Port-Au-Prince, and to the high school students who are able to travel down, and experience service in a very meaningful way.

From the HOTFutbol board, the lucky Berkshire County students who have been able to volunteer, and especially from the Haitians in Delma 33, thank you for your time in reading this, and whatever else you are able to give.