Rome, Italy, Jan 9, 2015 / 04:29 am
Five years after the island of Haiti was devastated by a massive earthquake, three young amputees will have the opportunity to play soccer in Rome through the help of the Knights of Columbus.
Wilfrid Macena, Mackenson Pierre and Sandy J.L. Louiseme each lost a leg in the 2010 earthquake that tore through the island nation, and will be present in the Vatican for a Jan. 10 conference called by Pope Francis to observe the fifth anniversary of the disaster.
The young athletes were able to receive assistance through the "Healing Haiti's Children" project, which is a program sponsored by the Knights of Columbus in partnership with the University of Miami's affiliate project Medishare.
A massive 7.0-magnitude earthquake ripped through Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010, destroying much of the nation's capital city, Port-au-Prince. The quake killed an estimated 230,000 people, and left more than 1.5 million people without shelter.
After the earthquake, the Knights of Columbus donated $1.7 million in aid funding, while their partner organization Medishare offered medical assistance. The combined project offered free prosthetics and rehabilitation to children who lost a limb in the devastating event.
So far more than 1,000 children have received prosthetic limbs through the "Healing Haiti's Children" project, which has also served as a training program that teaches Haitians how to continue their work.
According to a Jan. 6 press release from the Knights of Columbus, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson will be present during the Vatican's Jan. 10 conference, along with representatives of the Medishare project.
As a sign of "hope and healing," the Haitian amputee-athletes will also have the opportunity to give conference participants a demonstration of amputee soccer at a Knights of Columbus soccer field in Rome.
A Jan. 5 statement from the Vatican revealed that Pope Francis called the conference in order to keep alive the world's attention on the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe, and to assure the Haitian people of the Church's closeness.
Organized by the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum," the conference will last all day, and will include a presentation by Anderson.
In addition to the three young men who will participate in the Vatican conference, a few of the other Haitian amputees have also gone on to play soccer, and have become members of Team Zaryen, which is a soccer team composed of amputee athletes from Port au Prince and its neighboring villages.
Macena, Pierre and Louiseme are also members of this team, which traveled to the U.S. in 2011 in order to introduce amputee soccer to soldiers who lost limbs in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Knights of Columbus have also produced a documentary on the project, entitled "Unbreakable: A Story of Hope and Healing in Haiti," which was given the "Most Inspirational Documentary Award" at the DocMiami International Film Festival's Florida Documentary Film Festival last September.
The film recounts the formation of the amputee soccer team Zaryen – meaning tarantula – which was named after a spider who became known for growing in its determination after losing a leg. The film will be aired by several PBS affiliates in various markets this month.