On the afternoon of January 12, 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake devastated Haiti, a Caribbean nation with a population of around 10 million. The earthquake was catastrophic — wide spread destruction and lose of human life rarely seen. It is estimated that over 100,000 people perished and nearly 1.5 million were left homeless. The severity of the quake was matched, though, by the rapidity of the response. International aid organizations big and small rushed to help, the Knights of Columbus among them.
The Knights of Columbus wisely chose to hone-in on a specific way to help, rather than just giving financial aid to bigger organizations. The initial response was sending thousands of wheel chairs to ease the suffering of the hundreds of thousands injured. The following year, through a partnership with Project Medishare, the K of C started a program called Healing Haiti’s Children. The aim of the program was to provide prosthetics for the hundreds of Haitian children whom lost limbs in the disaster.
The program has been very successful. Through the generosity of the Knights and the tireless efforts of volunteers and aid workers, Healing Haiti’s Children has been able to dramatically improve the lives of hundreds of young people. By provided prosthetic limbs, the K of C has given many young people a new lease on life.
The resiliency of the Haitian youth is perhaps best embodied by a group of young men who started a soccer team. Team Zaryen is a soccer club made up exclusively amputees, each using prosthetics provided by Healing Haiti’s Children. In 2011, the team traveled to the United States to train a team of US military para-athletes.
Recently, the team traveled to the Vatican to compete against a Roman team, and three of members met with Pope Francis on the 5 anniversary of the disaster, to present him with a jersey. Supreme Knight Carl Anderson was in attendance as well.
The amazing work of the Knights of Columbus and the strength of the young people of Haiti is the subject matter of a new documentary airing on PBS stations. “Unbreakable: A Story of Hope and Healing in Haiti” tracks the immediate response to the quake, how the extreme poverty in Haiti effected the aid effort and how the Knights of Columbus and Medishare were able to help. Cameras follow Team Zaryen as they travel to the US, sharing their story of tragedy, strength and triumph. Check your local listings to see the film.