Viva Rio was invited by the United Nations to participate in its peace mission in Haiti in 2004. The challenge was to find a way to dialogue with the people living in neighborhoods controlled by gangs, to open way so that the aid could go in those violent communities. The invitation was due to Viva Rio's expertise working in vulnerable communities at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
VIVA RIO IN HAITI
Viva Rio managed to reach out to people living in violent and poor neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital, by organizing music performances, supporting popular festivals and gathering the residents for events that went from traditional ceremonies to carnival parades. We opened a community center in the most troubled area of the city, where we keep offering sports and culture programs.
Viva Rio helped authorities to close peace deals between rival armed groups, and implemented education and qualification programs with the ultimate goal of reducing violence. Brazil and Haiti's shared passion for football led to the idea of bringing together young people to play in public tournments, wich was a way to boost the talent and self-esteem of young Haitians.
The popularity of the street football tournaments in the country and the talents we saw gave us the idea to develop a new project to create opportunities for the most prominent young Haitians to become high-performance athletes. Investing in their football careers meant to give many of them a chance to fight for their dreams and for a better future.
THE ACADEMY IN HAITI
The young athletes selected to the Black Pearls Academy receive professional football training as well as basic education and qualification courses. The facility provides them with accomodation and classrooms, and includes four football fields, locker rooms, a swimming pool, a fitness center and a physiotherapy center.
It worked. The Black Pearls Academy established a partnership with the Haitian Football Federation and became a referenced sporting institution in Haiti. The Black Pearls won titles in Haiti and abroad, and a 2015 survey showed that 94% of the alumni of the academy had found work in or out of the football market or at least continued their studies.
In Paty do Alferes, a calm city of 25k inhabitants, the athletes study and train in search of a chance on a major team. The goal of Viva Rio is for the Black Pearls to be a club that form good athletes and citizens.
The Pearls were invited to play the 2016 edition of the main U-20 championship in Brazil and they stole the spotlights, appearing on the cover of big local newspapers. The boys were living a dream. Meanwhile, on those same days of January, Viva Rio was opening Brazil's Black Pearls Academy, in Paty do Alferes, a mountainous town 120 kilometers from the city of Rio.
Football is changing the lives of young people who grew up surrounded by extreme difficulties. The athletes arrive in Brazil as Humanitarian Refugees and receive all the tools to fight for their dreams. Brazil and Haiti are connected by hope, and Viva Rio wants to extend this connection to the rest of the world.