Anyone who has spent time in rural, impoverished areas is no stranger to tragedy, and GOALS is no exception. We do everything we can to help our children grow up stronger, healthier, smarter and happier through our sport, health and education programs, but the barriers and injustices of poverty can sometimes overwhelm us.
Ansito Laguerre grew up with his grandmother and his brothers, also GOALS athletes, in the rural village of Destra, while his mother worked in Port au Prince. He was 11 years old when he first enrolled in GOALS literacy project, after our assessments revealed that he struggled with reading and writing. Ansito had attended school until third grade, but had been out of school for a while when he enrolled in GOALS' literacy program. He knew how to write some letters, and he was very good at copying, though he struggled to write his own name.
But Ansito, in many ways, was the perfect student. He didn't need anything to motivate him, other than his own desire to learn, and quickly excelled faster than other students. His literacy teacher says he was a bit of a trickster, poking fun just to get a laugh at your reaction, and he loved being the first one to finish his work, so that he could ask for more lessons to work on. GOALS has always been proud of all of our literacy students and we were pleasantly surprised to see just how quickly they progressed. Ansito finished the program with a test score in the "fully literate" range, having started as "semi-literate". Just when everything seemed to be looking up for Ansito, tragedy struck.
Ansito was tragically killed in a mass casualty traffic accident that struck during the height of "rara" celebrations near his village. Rara is a Haitian cultural event celebrated each year in the weeks before Easter, and, like much of Haitian culture, it is a rich blend of Catholic and traditional African and voudou roots. In late March, 18 people, including our Ansito, were killed when a large transport truck plowed through a crowd celebrating this traditional Haitian rara. In a rural area, without access or transport to clinics and hospitals, Ansito didn't stand a chance at surviving his injuries.
Ansito's death is more than a tragedy, it is extremely frustrating for us at GOALS, revealing the injustices of poverty and taking a life just when things should have been getting better. We have cried alongside his brothers and his family, and we have placed his photo on our office walls to keep his memory alive as we continue bringing soccer programs, literacy, school scholarships, micro-enterprise opportunities and sexual health training to Ansito's family, friends, neighbors and teammates.
In memory of Ansito Laguerre, January 1st, 2003 – March 17th, 2016
Nou p'ap jamn bliye'w.