Cathiana Sylne is working as an intern at the U.S. Fund for UNICEF throughout the spring. This is her second post for Fieldnotes.
Imagine my surprise when”while reading news from the field on the UNICEF website”I discover my connection to the famous basketball player, Samuel Dalembert, of the Philadelphia 76ers. Not only had the NBA star and I both been born in Haiti, we both share deep concern for the great challenges our country faces”including poverty, armed violence and lack of access to education.
Dalembert has made a three-year commitment to support UNICEF programs and hurricane relief efforts in Haiti. He probably doesn’t know it, but his gift impacts me in a very personal way. I preserve two very distinct memories of growing up in a small province on the eastern coast of Haiti: that of my hometown’s tree-studded beachside, grazed by fizz and suds from the sea, and the green mountaintops freckled with bright-colored, hut-like homes. But last year, four back-to-back storms uprooted large portions of the countryside and displaced or killed many of its inhabitants”people with whom I had shared my childhood.
|© UNICEF Haiti/2007/Parisot|
|Samuel Dalembert shows children at the Lakou Center how to shoot a basketball from afar. Lakou is a day center with activities geared towards the reintegration of street children.|
In response to the disaster, UNICEF immediately shipped tons of emergency aid supplies”blankets, hygiene kits, water purification tablets”to devastated areas. They figured out how to get around washed away roads and bridges (literally doing whatever it takes) to get help to people who needed it. Today, UNICEF maintains a vital presence in Haiti, helping the country continue to overcome the effects of last year’s storms and to prepare for the upcoming hurricane season. Now (I am very happy to say) UNICEF’s work in the country has the full support of a famous NBA star.
It’s hard for me to forget last year’s events because they (literally) hit close to home. But so has Samuel Dalembert’s generous donation to relief efforts in Haiti. I can’t even begin to describe the breadth of my toothy smile. I’ve got connections.