On January 12, 2010, the Republic of Haiti withstood one of the most devastating natural disasters in its history. An earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 at the epicenter hit 10 miles west of Porte-au-Prince, Haiti's capital and largest city with a population that is estimated in the millions.
The earthquake was the largest the Caribbean country had seen since 1770, leading to 33 aftershocks that ranged in magnitude from 4.2 to 5.9 on the Richter Scale.
Since the destructive quake, people from around the world have banded together to assist Haiti in a number of ways.
In early June, Columbia University rising senior women's soccer player Lindsay Mushett did her part to lift the spirits of the many Haitians in need.
Mushett, who was recently named one of three captains of the Columbia women's soccer team for the upcoming 2011 season, joined forces with BlazeSports to bring the game of soccer to many of the extremely poor children that have been displaced into tent communities due to the earthquake last year.
BlazeSports is a non-profit organization that provides sport and physical activity opportunities for youth and adults with physical disabilities. It was established in 1993 and is based in Atlanta.
In conjunction with the National Paralympic Committee of Haiti, BlazeSports visited a number of tent communities throughout the region.
On June 8, the organization was able to bring medical supplies, new clothes, crutches and games to the SoHaMo community, a community comprised of physically disabled, elderly, and formerly abused Haitians left homeless after the earthquake.
"I had the honor of giving them soccer balls that the Columbia women's soccer team had collected for them," Mushett said. "The kids were all thrilled!"
In addition to donations, Mushett has also been at the forefront of educating the natives on the importance of including women and girls with disabilities in sport in Haiti. The Snellville, Ga. native spoke to a group of about 50 Haitains, in the hopes of promoting sport, especially soccer, for girls.
"I'm trying to make myself as visible as I can and I'm playing as much as I can," Mushett said. "Everyone is so excited I play women's soccer for Columbia."
On June 9, Mushett and BlazeSports took a trip to the Haitian ministry of sport and met with the director general of the organization.
"With all of the tragedy and political changes, they are having a significant deal of financial trouble," said Mushett. "We gave the director general a donation on behalf of Columbia women's soccer to help them with the children's sports programs they provide."
Though a philanthropic trip at its core, Mushett also had time to have some fun playing the sport she loves.
"The ministry of sport has a school that children they identify as promising athletes across the country attend," Mushett said. "They have two boys soccer teams and I was invited to train with the U-13 boys team."
"They were very skilled, especially for their age, but I'm pretty sure I represented Columbia well," Mushett concluded. "It was positive for them to see how developed women's soccer is in the United States."
Following her training session, Mushett donated more of the soccer balls that the Lions had collected. And everyone in attendance wanted to keep the partnership alive in the future.
"The director general of the Haitian ministry of sport also expressed interest in getting some female Haitain players to New York to train or attend a camp at Columbia in the future," Mushett said.
For more information on BlazeSports, please visit its website at www.blazesports.org.