Sunday, October 23, 2011

Haitian Soccer Amputees Assist Wounded US Soldiers

Members of a Haitian amputee soccer team were in Washington this week to conduct clinics for wounded American troops from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.  It was the Haitians' way of saying thank you to the U.S. military for providing assistance to Haiti after the devastating earthquake last year.

It’s called the Haitian Inspiration Tour, and nearly all members of the "Team Zaryen" soccer team lost limbs in the 2010 earthquake.  The team's visit is being co-sponsored by a U.S. service group, the Knights of Columbus.

Pat Korten is the group's spokesman and told VOA about the impact the team is having.

"Many of them were playing soccer before the earthquake, before they lost their limbs.  Now they're relearning how to do that, and showing everybody in Haiti," Korten explained. "This is a big deal in Haiti. Everybody's watching.  Everybody knows about this in Haiti.  These guys are ambassadors to the United States this week and everybody is really happy about that."

Life goes on

Team Zaryen’s founder and captain is Wilfried Macena, 27, who lost his right leg in the earthquake. 

“I did not know if I could play soccer anymore when I got physical therapy by Medishare hospital in Haiti, and I felt very confident and used my crutches very well and I saw I could play soccer again,” Macena said.

Zaryen is the Creole word for tarantula and Macena explained the team's special jersey logo.

“One side has four legs.  The other side has three legs.  That means if that spider [tarantula] lost one leg, his life still continues.  You can do everything like you have two legs," he explained.

Got skills?

It was clear the Haitian soccer players are skilled, as they demonstrated a number of drills for the amputees in the U.S. military.

Bradley Ritland, the head of physical therapy for amputees at the Walter Reed Medical Center outside Washington, said it was inspiring.

“It’s been an outstanding experience for their team as well as our guys," Ritland said. "I think a lot of our guys see the positive outlook on the patients from Haiti, and see how they’re dealing with their injuries and how through sport they’re able to maintain a positive outlook.”

The Haitian team played an exhibition game here in Washington against the U.S. national amputee soccer team.  For all matches, prosthetics are removed and left on the sideline.  Players use their one good leg and their crutches to move the ball.  Goalkeepers have both legs but only one arm.

Newfound love

Army First Lieutenant Cameron Kerr, who lost part of his left leg in Afghanistan early this year when he stepped on an explosive device (IED), said he played soccer when he was younger and now has a newfound love for the game.

"Especially in those first few months of recovery you come back from Afghanistan, you’re missing a leg or two, or like an arm and two legs, you just don’t know what life is going to hold for you in the future," Kerr said.  "So this is pretty critical, events like this, and adaptive sports like this are instrumental in helping us see what’s possible, and then helping us get there too.  So not only seeing that it’s an option, but really helping us in terms of the training, and the actual fun of playing soccer again."

Kerr added that he and other amputees have to get used to what they call the new normal - that is, realizing that their legs are not going to grow back, and they need to keep pushing ahead and making the best of it.

(Courtesy VOA)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Spartanburg International Festival 2011

We had fun representing Haiti at the Spartanburg international festival and I have the honor of giving to my readers a report about how it went down. Let me start by first of all thanking the city of Spartanburg for this wonderful initiative. I would like to thank the Haitian consulates in Chicago and Atlanta and all the Haitians who helped me in my booth and also all the countries who participated as well as the organizers which are too many to name. I would also like to think particularly the United States of America to allow us to live and share our diverse cultures in such a welcoming country. This This is our 4th year participating and it keeps on getting better and better. This is how it went down. 

The event is usually held on the first Saturday of the month of october which happened to be October 1st of this year. It starts from 11:00 AM till 7:00 PM but I was there as early as 8:30 AM since we had to be ready by 10:00 AM. At the entrance of the park you have immigration where the kids and adults as well are given a passport and each country as a stamp with the name of the country on it and this is the proof that the person has been in this country. Participants are encourage to ask questions about the country that they are visiting and just in case they have no clue what to ask specially for kids there is a list of questions they can use which is posted in each tent/country such as: how much is a loaf of bread in your country, the price of gas, the kind of animals etc... and some schools and universities even give their students credits for participating.

Kids from Laos in their native outfit!

Of course you know kids and even adults will just try to collect as much stamps as possible in the quickest time possible without really inquiring about what is going on in the specific country they are getting the stamp from. This is why in Haiti we went a little step further, everyone who came to get their passport stamp if they did not ask a question we ask them one, first of all they have to come all the way through so that they can read about Haiti and view what we have and in return we ask them question like: can you tell me one fact about Haiti? For 2-3 year olds we asked them by showing them the flag to show us the color blue or red and yes they knew it, or the older one can they spell Haiti etc... In other words, it was very instructive for everyone. All this was the avenue of Nations!

Getting a stamp

Here is a list of the countries who participated in the Avenue of Nations: Austria, Brazil, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Haiti, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Kenya, Laos , Latvia, Mexico, Palestine, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Scotland, South Africa, Switzerland, Tanzania, Ukraine and the United States of America.

There is a big stage called Global stage where different performers can exhibit their talents and it range from children choir to tap dancers, salsa dancers etc.... and more stages all around the parks meaning at anytime during the day there was something going on.

There was one street block and this was the International Boulevard of food and you can buy food from different countries! I am telling you these people can cook! From Bethlehem to Jamaica without forgetting Mexico and many more there were a dozen or more countries represented in this section. There was also the Global Interest Groups ranging from Faith oriented school to English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) International Kids Zone: Had a lots of kids activities, crafts and a stage of non-stop full entertainment. The global sports Zone: Which emphasizes the national sports of different countries, they had of course soccer (goooooaaaaaalllllllllll!!!!! You know what I am talking about if you ever watch soccer or been in a game), Ping Pong, Washer Toss, Hackey Sack, Chess, Badminton, Ladder Golf, Cornhold, Rock CLimbing Wall, Cubb (Swedish Game), Fencing, Zumba and so forth....

Last but not least the International Trade Zone: where you can purchase items that give back to the artisans and their community. There was an eclectic mix of commercial imports from around the globe for sale in the Trade Zone. Vendors display a variety of souvenir goods and items from the global trade market. Imports from China, Ireland, Japan Indonesia and more will was present. Each year there a country or continent is honored and the Europe's Nordic Region is our Honored Countries. Countries represented were: Denmar, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden.

This event is visited by more than 8000 people and for me the best part is always at 2:00 PM when we have the Parade of Nations. How beautiful it is to see all these countries coming together for one cause only to celebrate our diversities rather than fight each other. None of us is better than the other, we all have our own cultures, our taboos, our differences, our own background and history but when you look at it in apositive way, this is what makes the world so fascinating! How boring would have it been if I go to the US and see the same scenery that I saw in Africa or Scotland or Haiti? We have to come together and celebrate our diversities 'cause I am pretty sure that what God had in mind when he created us. Let's love each other and respect each other. Next year, God willing, this is the place to be! Let's get back to the we had fun part and if you do not believe me, take a look at this video of a spontaneous celebration after the Parade of nations:

Here is a video montage of

Now, please enjoy these random pictures of the festival

Click here for more pictures of the Spartanburg International Festival.

How warm is it?

Warm temperature, ranging year-round from 70-93° F in the coastal regions, and 50-75 in the mountainous areas; rainy seasons are April-May and August-October.

Enjoy the music!

You might be going through some tough time and you feel like you can not take it anymore. Remember there is a friend who cares and his name is Jesus. He says cast all your care upon him for he caress for you. He will give you rest! The road might be treacherous, nevertheless, don't ever give up!

It is time...

Time does not stand still. So, Make the best use of it!