It may come as a surprise that in Haiti tennis is a very popular sport. Unfortunately, as a result of the earthquake, hurricanes, and lack of economic development, many of the tournaments, courts, and youth programs that once existed are no longer functioning. However, in a run-down suburb of Port-au-Prince only accessible by a decrepit road, there is something amazing happening. It is the St. Louis Foundation for Tennis.
|St. Louis Tennis Foundation!|
Founded by Francky St. Louis, the St. Louis Tennis Foundation operates a 100% free tennis program for the underprivileged youth of Haiti. On any given day you can witness more than 50 children between the ages of 4 and 18, practicing their tennis skills. Haiti’s history with tennis is most evident at the St. Louis Foundation program, because it represents the reality of Haiti: the disparity between what is and what could be. The program operates on a single court, smaller than regulation size that is visibly worn. The balls used for practice are coming apart at the seams due to their repeated daily use. The rackets often have no grips and the strings can definitely use changing. Despite these obstacles, however, you will see some of the most talented tennis players in Haiti.
The children at H.E.R.O. began playing tennis during the past summer, and enjoyed it so much that we have continued our training during the school year as well. This past Wednesday Francky and his foundation invited us to a morning practice session, which included drills, some practice matches, and most important, FUN! Along with our tennis coach, Coach Frantz, I took six of our kids to the practice session. It was a blast! It was a great opportunity for our children to engage with other kids and to see what is possible in the tennis world when hard work and lots of effort is exerted. After the morning session we returned to the H.E.R.O. House, only to get back on to the tennis court in our neighborhood for an afternoon tennis session!
In addition to the tennis program, Francky also holds at least one tennis tournament per month for kids 10 and under. On the 27th of October, Dayanna and Luckneau will have the opportunity to participate! Tennis has been a wonderful tool for rehabilitating the kids at H.E.R.O., as it is a sport that improves health, requires mental and physical fortitude, and builds self-esteem. If you would like to help the H.E.R.O. tennis program or the St. Louis Foundation by donating tennis rackets, string, bags, grips, etc. please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We want to give the children in these programs the best possible opportunity to take part in these quality tennis programs. And if you ever come down to visit, make sure you bring your tennis racket and a pair of tennis shoes! It will be a lot of fun!
Steven M. Kirby, Ed.D