CATHOLIC Relief Services (CRS) and Celtic FC Foundation, have announced the opening of Celtic Park Haiti, a top-notch football facility on the grounds of what was once a makeshift camp for people displaced by the Haiti earthquake.
The new artificial turf pitch in Solino, one of Port-au-Prince’s notoriously poor areas will come to life at an unveiling this Friday that will include a game between two local youth teams.
This community recreational park includes a nearly regulation-size football field, basketball and handball courts, a stage for community events, seating, lighting and new Celtic Park signage.
Celtic Chief Executive, Peter Lawwell said: “We all witnessed the devastation caused in Haiti by the earthquake of 2010 and the impact it had on the lives of so many people.
“There have been huge efforts in the past five years to re-build Haiti and we are delighted to have been a part of this.
“Celtic was established as a football club to help people in need and this ethos remains a fundamental part of our club almost 130 years after our formation.
“We are so pleased to be involved in this particular project and it is fitting that the Solino soccer field, once the scene of such heartache will now act as a major positive focal point within the community.”
Tony Hamilton, Celtic FC Foundation CEO, who will attend the dedication added: “Celtic FC Foundation is delighted that we can support such an initiative in a part of the world that has seen more than its fair share of natural and devastating disasters.
“We know that Haiti has struggled to rebuild since the 2010 earthquake – as recently as 10 days ago it was battered again, this time with tropical storm Erika.
“But with help from organisations such as Spiritans and Catholic Relief Services, we hope the people of Solino in Port-au-Prince can continue to rebuild their lives and homes.
“The introduction of Celtic Park Haiti is a great venture and one which we are very proud to support.
“I’m humbled and honoured to be in Haiti to witness the opening.”
Much of Port-au-Prince was devastated by the 2010 earthquake. Open space throughout the city was quickly transformed into makeshift tent camps for an estimated 1.5million displaced people. The Solino soccer field was, at one point, home to nearly 700 families living in tarpaulin tents.
In the months after the earthquake, CRS helped the Solino community clear drainage canals backed up with debris and garbage from other parts of the city, rebuild its homes, and kick-start families’ livelihoods.
An American philanthropist (who wishes to remain anonymous) and Celtic FC fan saw firsthand the challenges faced by the people in Solino during a 2012 visit. He was moved to act.
When the earthquake victims were eventually relocated and provided with temporary housing, his foundation, along with Celtic FC Foundation and CRS jointly funded the project, transforming a garbage-strewn lot into a recreational and sports centre that will bring life and joy to the community.
Chris Bessey, CRS Country Representative in Haiti said: “Whether you call it soccer, futbol, or football, the sport has become a way for children and adults to connect with those who share the same love.
“This partnering highlights the importance of bringing that community back together in an area where resources were once destroyed. We are grateful to have the support of Celtic FC Foundation community in this task.”