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A safe haven for the young of Haiti’s capital

On wasteland near Cite Soleil, a slum area of Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince, one of the country’s former football stars runs a youth sports and education centre called L'Athletique d'Haiti.

Here, Boby Duval provides support and services for around 1,500 children and young people. The centre has been in operation since 1996, staying open through the years of political upheaval and offering a refuge to around 30,000 Haitians after the earthquake of 2010.

As well as providing free education to around 200 schoolchildren, healthcare services and meals are available at L'Athletique d'Haiti. And of course, sport plays a large part in the centre’s activities. Apart from soccer, youngsters come here to play basketball and practice karate or boxing in a safe environment. Speaking to Alernet, Boby Duval said “I believe you can teach values of self-esteem, tolerance, teamwork and respect through sports”. Having toured round the world as a football star, Duval also expresses his desire to give something back to his country. With his privileged background, he is determined to help some of Haiti’s poorest youngsters.

Given the high unemployment in Haiti – currently running at around 70% – the centre has begun an education programme aimed at helping 16 to 24 year-olds find work. Through the scheme, around 400 young people are learning life and job skills, and getting help with finding placements for work experience or internships. The three-month courses also help to raise the confidence of young people, who frequently “start doubting whether they can get somewhere”, according to Boby Duval, who battles hard to raise the 20,000 dollars needed each month to keep the sports centre operational.

Haiti has no country-wide public education system. In order to gain an education, most children therefore have to attend private schools, where fees can be around 135 dollars per year. This is well out of the reach of most families in Haiti, where four-fifths of people live on less than 2 dollars each day. Centres like L'Athletique d'Haiti are therefore providing a vital education to youngsters who would otherwise have little chance of going to school. 

An estimated 3 million Haitian children have no formal education. Therefore, SOS Children’s Villages are also focusing on education in Haiti and are funding the refurbishment of four new schools. Meanwhile, in the new class space set up at the SOS Children’s Village in Santo, outside Port-au-Prince, 500 extra pupils are benefiting from access to free education, bringing the number of attendees at the Santo school to nearly 1,200 children. To find out the latest news about SOS Children’s projects in Haiti, see the Haiti: two years on section.

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