Sherman assistant soccer and volleyball coach Andrea Price decided not long ago that she wanted to help make a difference in the world.
She was drawn to the plight in Haiti, one of the world’s most impoverished countries, and last year began traveling there periodically with myLIFEspeaks, a non-profit organization which provides aid for Haitian orphans and helps raise awareness here in the United States of the situation there.
“We all have opportunities to serve others, but I’ve never really noticed it before,” Price said. “I didn’t have anybody outside of my family that gave me the opportunity to do something like that.”
Price’s first trip to Haiti was last May, and she said she’s been back five times since.
This summer, for the first time, Price organized a week-long trip for several local students to volunteer at a soccer camp in a Haitian village.
“It was like God was telling me, you’re going to take these girls to Haiti,” Price said, “and you’re gonna run a soccer camp and teach them what life really is about.”
Accompanying Price were Sherman students Madison Craig, Kelsey Jarvis and Mary Kate Motley; two students from Bells, Samantha Waggoner and Cadie Gafford; and a few of Price’s friends from college.
Additionally, Sherman senior Taylor McKenzie and her family went with this same organization during spring break in March.
“It was such a great experience for these girls to go see that, and I really think it’s helped open up their eyes,” Price said. “I think it’s helped them on the court or field as well as in their lives. They’re all already leaders. When we were leaving they didn’t want to leave, they wanted to stay.”
With a population of more than 9 million, Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Recent estimates have indicated more than 50 percent of the population is under the age of 15; 80 percent of the country is unemployed; and almost 50 percent are illiterate.
Haiti currently has almost 500,000 orphans, and the mission of myLIFEspeaks is to transform the lives of these orphans, one by one.
Price’s group arrived at the Haitian village of Neply, west of the capital city of Port-au-Prince, on June 29 and stayed until July 6.
The soccer camp was the main event, but Price said other ministries were involved, including a feeding program for infants of malnourished mothers. Price said there was also a mentoring program for enslaved children, who are known as “restavecs,” from the French phrase reste avec, “one who stays with.”
“Haiti is the only country we know of where child slavery is legal,” Price said. “By the grace of God, their masters have allowed them to come twice a week for education, to get fed. It’s a time for them to just be kids. The youngest is seven and the oldest is 19.
“It’s a time for them to be loved on and for people to show them they actually care. We’re not trying to Americanize them; we’re just trying to teach them family and love.”
During their trip, they were able to distribute 76 brand-new pair of cleats to the children who are on one of the three official soccer teams in the village.
“These children usually play barefoot or in very worn-out shoes,” Price said. “The majority of these children have never even had a brand-new pair of shoes so to see them receive a brand new pair of cleats showed us what true joy really looks like.”
To make that happen, Price said, her group relied heavily upon donated cleats from people in the Texoma community, including a large donation of new equipment from the Texoma Soccer Association.
While helping the children of Haiti is important, Price believes teaching those here in the U.S. to help others is just as crucial.
“I think it’s good, especially in this day and age, to teach anybody at this level and start them early,” Price said. “It took me all these years to figure out it’s not about yourself, it’s about others. Always put others first.”