Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The world on a soccer ball

"Chile" shouts a boy, indicating to Felipe that he should pass the ball over to him. The sun is already setting as this group of children of the SOS Children‘s Village in Santo runs after the ball trying to score as many goals as possible. "I did not know a single word in Haitian Creole when I came here", says the Chilean social worker Felipe, "but as long as we are playing soccer, language does not matter. I just came here, told five children to go to one side, five children to go to the other side, so we had two teams and started to play. You really don't need more than this to understand each other.“

The basic principles of soccer know no language barriers - Photo: Sophie Preisch

Felipe came here with the Chilean organisation "América Solidaria", which cooperates with SOS Children‘s Villages and provides professional staff. He has been picked out of many candidates to do this voluntary work with the organisation. Felipe was told that he would work in the Dominican Republic and was already well prepared, when he received a call one week prior to his departure. "They told me I‘d be going to Haiti instead. It was quite a change for me, but then I just said to myself: 'that‘s probably where they need me the most.'"

Working with children is important to Felipe. Here, he usually works with youths from the SOS Children's Village, so he decided to spend his spare time with the children. He has the idea of training boys and girls in soccer and probably organising a SOS Children‘s Village championship one day. "When I entered the children‘s village trying to get to know the families and the kids I did not think: I need to do that in order to be accepted here. I just did what I wanted to do. I wanted to get to know people."
Felipe sees soccer as a way of getting to know people without speaking their language - Photo: Sophie Preisch

These days you hear a lot of talking about aggression against white people, against the strangers here in the country. Indeed, says Felipe, there would be some dissatisfactions amongst Haitians with regards to international staff. "I do understand that. Everything is chaotic here, some organisations bring voluntaries for one week or two. Everyone starts working on a project, and leaves it after a few days. To me, that seems more like some kind of social tourism than actually helping this country to get stronger", Felipe says. To him, it is important to actually understand people and their culture to be able to work together.

Language, of course, is one big part in the act of getting to know someone. Felipe takes classes in Creole. "I‘m here for a year, so of course I want to be able to talk to people. But the matter of not knowing the language should not be a reason to avoid contact with people either.“ After all - all you need is a soccer ball.

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