And life continues on, we can affect it…but we have to do something.
A group wearing tracksuits and carting 15 large hockey-equipment bags down the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport terminal is quite a common sight. But this particular story is not common at all. In this case, this group was not off to defend gold or to play in a football tournament, they were set out to bring some hope to children through the power of the beautiful game—over 340 kg of football gear, to be precise.
The Dark Clouds Silver Lining, a community service section of one of Minnesota United’s most historic supporters’ groups, partnered with The Sanneh Foundation—a FIFA Football for Hope supported organisation— to bring new soccer equipment to children in need in Haiti. The goods were donated by FIFA Football for Hope and The Sanneh Foundation. Readers may recognise the name ‘Sanneh’.
Tony Sanneh was a regular in Bruce Arena’s defence for the USA during their quarter-final run at the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™. Sanneh started the foundation a year after that World Cup, while still a professional. In 2010, after retiring from the game, he devoted all of his time to the organisation, becoming the president and CEO. It was also in 2010 when the Haitian Initiative was birthed after Sanneh witnessed the destruction a 7.0 earthquake left in the country.
“It’s about opportunity and hope,” said Sanneh, speaking with FIFA.com about his foundation’s work in the Caribbean. “If I was going to do something, how do I make it sustainable? We basically said, ‘If we can produce something in the most difficult spot, it can be replicated everywhere’.”
The Sanneh Foundation established a year-round program in Cite Soleil, generally regarded as the poorest slum in the country and one of the poorest slums in the Western Hemisphere, to bring hope to children through football. The programs at Cite Soleil have flourished in the past few years, with children receiving education on and off the pitch, training six days-a-week, being fed each day and being taught English once a week. The foundation’s progress is even more encouraging considering the context in which Sanneh first launched the program in the wake of the devastating earthquake.
“Everything was closed down for six months,” he said. “There was no school, dead bodies everywhere. Everything was a ten-foot pile of rubble.” Sanneh was visiting Haiti with Los Angeles Galaxy at the time on a short-term trip, but he was determined to do what he could to make a long-term impact. While great strides have been made with the foundation, Sanneh has a vision to give the people of Cite Soleil something to be even more proud of, including a community centre and a new pitch.
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