This week, Mercy Corps welcomes 14 youth soccer coaches from Haiti to our offices and our community.
These six women and eight men are leaders in an effort to leverage the power of soccer to teach Haiti's young people about the importance of staying healthy, which includes preventing transmission of HIV/AIDS. The program, called Soccer for Life, is also supported by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs SportsUnited Division and Partners In Health.
The six-day visit is designed to be a knowledge exchange between the coaches and various civic groups in Portland, including coaches from our own Major League Soccer team.
For many of the coaches, their arrival yesterday marked their first visit to the U.S. Before they'd even left the airport, they were greeted by staff from the Columbia Sportswear airport store and presented with rain jackets. They showed their appreciation with a clapping-and-singing routine in Creole that turned a lot of heads!
From the airport, the coaches piled into vans and went straight to the Cascade AIDS Project, which has a voluntary free testing night for youth. In Haiti, these coaches work to provide a safe space for HIV voluntary counseling and testing. The HIV/AIDS rate in Haiti is as high as 4 percent — among the highest in the Americas.
The coaches are spending today with players and coaches from our hometown Major League Soccer team, the Portland Timbers. And they have an action-packed week ahead, culminating in a visit to Nike and on-field recognition at the Timbers' game this weekend.
We're happy to welcome them to our city!
Check out a video from the Timbers of the visit with our Soccer for Life coaches: