The National Catholic Review

It had once been a soccer field, can it become one again? Port-au-Prince already was bereft of areas where children might go to kick a soccer ball, play basketball or otherwise run around freely a little. After the earthquake pretty much any open space was quickly converted into emergency tent cities for the 1.5 million displaced. Most of these people have moved on their own away from Port-au-Prince or relocated into new rental arrangements or transitional shelters in town (though more than 360,000 remain in tents or other completely dubious shelter).

Now the city’s residents are turning to a new, but no less challenging task or restoring the previous open spaces or rebuilding them into something grander. That is Catholic Relief Services’s David Alexis’ goal with this badly reduced soccer field. Rubble and garbage are strewn all about, a line of abandoned latrines point to the “park” entrance, and the site itself is awash with broken stone, gravel and the dusty detritus left behind after CRS helped relocate the thousands--679 families--who had lived here. But in his mind’s eye this site will be a full-service recreational and community center with a soccer and baseball fields, basketball courts and other facilities for recreation plus a community center and grandstand for music performances or other cultural events that could bring some life and pleasure to this neighborhood of shanties and cinderblock homes. What is most remarkable about Alexis’ grand plan is where it is happening, Port-au-Prince Solino neighborhood. Solino is devoid of more than just recreational options. It is considered one of the toughest communities in the city and it is essentially cut off, like many other neighborhoods, from city services. Rare is the municipal official, even police officer, who will venture into it. Catholic Relief Services may be the only NGO that has found a way to operate here; its employees tread very carefully. The agency and the community are a long-term path of trust-building. This project could help that trust take a great leap forward.

Find out more about CRS's work in Haiti.

UPDATE: View a video report from the would-be soccer field at Solino