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Mercy Corps launches Moving Forward youth sports program in Haiti to help young people recover from the quake

Haiti, July 12, 2010

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Aid agency will partner with Haitian soccer star Boby Duval and Haitian Ministry of Youth, Sport and Civic Action to highlight the "unifying, energizing force of soccer."

Portland, OR – As the month-long World Cup culminated this past weekend, Mercy Corps launched Moving Forward, a youth program that uses soccer and other sports to help young people recover physically, socially, mentally, and emotionally from the January earthquake. Moving Forward will reach over 1,500 young people throughout Haiti, and train 50 coaches and educators at 25 community organizations and schools.

Mercy Corps joined with the Haitian Ministry of Youth and Sport, Haitian soccer player Boby Duval’s Le Centre L’Athletique d’Haiti, as well as other local organizations to launch Moving Forward at Port-au-Prince’s main soccer stadium Stade Sylvio Cator on Sunday. The program will target earthquake-affected communities in and around Port-au-Prince, including Léogâne, the earthquake’s epicenter.

“The World Cup brought an enormous wave of positive energy to people across Haiti,” said Mercy Corps’ Haiti Youth Program Manager Kyle Dietrich. “With Moving Forward, we’re using that same unifying, energizing force of soccer and other sports to help kids fully recover from the earthquake, and gain the resiliency to lead healthy, successful lives.”

Participants in Moving Forward will range in age from elementary to high school students, coming primarily from low-income earthquake-affected communities. The program will increase the capacity of coaches and educators in these communities to mentor young people and facilitate sports activities that strengthen personal and social development skills. In addition, Moving Forward will provide informal training to overcrowded and under-resourced schools struggling to cope with students’ emotional needs.

“On the playing field, Moving Forward gives young people a chance to regain normalcy, self-reliance and trust. It provides kids with mentors who know how to help them cope with their earthquake experiences, and a community of peers with a common experience,” explains Dietrich. “Sports gives young people the confidence to take action and teaches them to work as a team – these are the attributes needed in the generation that will rebuild Haiti.”

The Moving Forward program in Haiti is made possible through a generous grant from Nike. The program was initially developed by Nike, Mercy Corps and CARE in 2007, and all training materials have been made freely available for other organizations to implement around the world. Mercy Corps has successfully used Moving Forward following earthquakes in Peru (2007) and China (2008), as well as this year’s earthquake in Chile. The program can also be applied in post-conflict situations, and has been used in Kenya to help build peace between rival tribes following political violence in early 2008.

In Haiti, Moving Forward will be integrated into Mercy Corps’ Comfort for Kids program, which gives teachers, parents and other caregivers practical information and tools to help children emotionally recover from the earthquake.

Moving Forward is part of Mercy Corps’ multi-faceted response to the earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12th. The organization has delivered emergency food supplies, enabled nearly 6,400 Haitians to earn much-needed income, developed educational and emotional-recovery activities for young people, and created drainage ditches, clean water systems and latrines. Mercy Corps is also providing income opportunities for people in Haiti’s Central Plateau, where hundreds of thousands fled after the earthquake.