Back in December of 2012 I visited Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to check up on the country’s progress since a devastating earthquake in January 2010 ("Road to Recovery"). One of the places I visited was a ruined sports facility, it had been used as an emergency tent city for thousands—almost 700 families—for many months and had become damaged and derelict because of it. But a C.R.S. planner with me that day talked about his vision for the site, restoring it as a playground and recreational site, vastly improving it over what had been before. He told me that otherwise this impoverished, crime-afflicted neighborhood would have nothing, no place for its children.
That hopeful vision has been realized three years later. Opening today in Solino is Celtic Park Haiti, described as “a top-notch soccer facility on the grounds of what was once a makeshift camp for people displaced by the Haiti earthquake.”
The park has been restored by C.R.S. with the assistance of the Celtic FC Foundation, the charitable arm of Scotland’s Celtic Football Club. Celtic footbal is a legendary name in European soccer.
The recreational park includes a nearly regulation-size soccer field, basketball and handball courts, a stage for community events, bleachers, lavatories, lighting and new Celtic Park signage. Pretty much the complete package envisioned by the C.R.S. dreamer I spoke with three years ago.
“We all witnessed the devastation caused in Haiti by the earthquake of 2010 and the impact it had on the lives of so many people,” Celtic Chief Executive Peter Lawwell said in a statement announcing the restoration of the park. “We are so pleased to be involved in this particular project and it is fitting that the Solino soccer field, once the scene of such heartache will now act as a major positive focal point within the community.”
“Celtic FC Foundation is delighted that we can support such an initiative in a part of the world that has seen more than its fair share of natural and devastating disasters,” said Tony Hamilton, Celtic FC Foundation CEO, who is coming from Scotland for the dedication. “We know that Haiti has struggled to rebuild since the 2010 earthquake -- as recently as 10 days ago it was battered again, this time with tropical storm Erika. But with help from organizations such as Spiritans and Catholic Relief Services, we hope the people of Solino in Port-au-Prince can continue to rebuild their lives and homes.”
You can see the video below to get an idea of the condition of the park when I saw. C.R.S. tells the rest of the story about its opening today:
In the months after the earthquake, CRS helped the Solino community clear drainage canals backed up with debris and garbage from other parts of the city, rebuild its homes, and kickstart families’ livelihoods.
An American philanthropist (who wishes to remain anonymous) and Celtic FC fan saw firsthand the challenges faced by the people in Solino during a 2012 visit. He was moved to act.
When the earthquake victims were eventually relocated and provided with temporary housing, his foundation, along with Celtic FC Foundation and CRS jointly funded the project, transforming a garbage-strewn lot into a recreational and sports center that will bring life and joy to the community.