What began as a 10-day trip to Haiti in 2011 for Taryn Silver turned into a new home and about 50 new friends.
Silver, a former Sharon resident, helps run the Association Sportives des Jeunes Filles de Fond des Blancs (The Sports Association of Young Women of Fond des Blancs), a girls soccer club in the rural town of Fond-des-Blancs, about 70 miles west of the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.
Silver moved to Haiti in 2012 to work for the St. Boniface Haiti Foundation in Fond-des-Blancs.
It was there where she met Andover native Molly Klarman who had started the club last year.
"On the streets and fields in Haiti you almost always see only boys playing soccer. This club offers the girls of Fond-des-Blancs a chance to play soccer, exercise, and have fun," Silver said in an email to Sharon Patch.
"We have 53 girls on our roster. The ages range from 13-22 with a few girls who are older (24, 26, 28). All of our girls are in school and live within a 35-minute walk to the practice field," she said.
The club offers an opportunity that Haitian women rarely get due to lack of funding, time and also due to the cultural roles Haitian men and women often play, Silver said.
"Most girls that go to school have tons of chores they are responsible for doing after school. Including getting water, cooking food for the family, doing laundry and taking care of younger siblings," she said.
"I think it has mainly been for boys because of the gender roles in Haitian culture. We hope this club will help to shift those in the community and offer the girls a chance to be in the spotlight," said Silver.
When it first began the club had 20 girls. This year the roster has more than doubled in size.
"Molly and I visited the schools in the community [in January] to invite new girls who might be interested. We thought we might have 25 girls interested, but now we have over 50 and girls keep showing interest," said Silver.
Silver said the club has been a success because it is fun for the women and it gives them confidence.
Some of the girls shared why they like soccer and what the club means to them.
The following are statements from some of the girls in the club that have been translated from Creole into English:
Marie Danise Azor – 16 years old
"I want to play soccer, because I love it so much. It is something important and that’s reason I want to play soccer. For me it mean the biggest thing as a young woman in Fond des Blancs and I would like to be a player, I would like if we find sponsors, and we can find a lot of support. Thank you!!!!"
Rachel Polica – 18 years old
"Hi! I want to say why I like soccer:
Soccer is my favorite sport and it the only one that I like. I play it and I watch it, but I don’t have enough opportunity for that. I give it my time anyways because I love it so much, and it open my mind and I learn better. It makes me not get sick very often, for all that I love soccer so so much."
Dialanne Guerlande – 17 years old
"I’m Dialanne I can tell you I started to play soccer when I was 7 years old and I love it so much. I feel proud, sometimes when I’m playing some people want to discourage me, but that never works especially my parents, but that never works. I want to say some things. I’m in the club and I don’t get anything, I’m proud of myself. I am smart, and for me what I want to do for the club and I want to thank Taryn and Molly because they make us popular, I want them to encourage me more. I don’t ask anything. I want the club to go far and I would like to visit some other towns in Haiti.
The important thing for me is I love soccer for life I love it, I love it, I love it, but please encourage me more that I can come for the club, and I want us to be more popular.
Thank you so much for your help."
Sarafina Joseph – 15 years old
"I love soccer because it is interesting for me to play. It is a good sport and I really like to play soccer. I would like to be a good player in soccer and I love it. I want the soccer team to be a reality and the other young women that is interesting I advise them to come play soccer with us. Thank you so much."
Nicole Pierre – 20 years old
"I like to play soccer because it a nice game. It helps me to be healthy and have resistance especially when I’m running, my health is normal I don’t get sick often.
I had some experiences in the women’s soccer last year is I played in some games in Port au Prince, Fond des Blancs, and I played in my school too. I play defense.
Now, I feel I have more encouragement and more strength to continue to play soccer because I found a club to play, and that’s why I ask God to always to give the soccer club’s leaders opportunity, and protect all the girls in the club. We can progress. I would like that we can play with clubs from other countries, and we will have more experience. I love soccer."
Rosena Bernadel – 15 years old
"I love to play soccer because I love it so much it really interesting me play and it a good sport, I want to be a good soccer player.
Thank you so much."
Judette Fils-Aime – 18 years old
"I love soccer because it really interesting for me to play, and it is a good sport. I really like to play it, and I would like to be a good soccer player. I want the club to be a reality and other young woman should come to play soccer. I am really thankful to the people who created the club. They left to come in Haiti and interest us to play soccer and become good players and please encourage us more that we can keep going. Ok thank you."
Currently, Silver and Klarman are asking for donations to the club to help provide the girls with things like snacks, water, uniforms, cleats, transportation, linesmen, referees and a small stipend for the three coaches.
So far, they have raised over $4,000 are are hoping to reach their goal of $6,000 soon.
"Donations have been coming from family and friends and their networks," Silver said.
"The money is being used to provide the girls with water for practice and a small snack," she said. "We think this is important as the girls are expending a lot of energy during practice and often do not have the opportunity to have more food in their households."
To make a donation, visit www.gofundme.com/1zy0ro.
"I think this club is a good thing for the girls as it allows them a safe, comfortable space for them to learn to play soccer, to exercise, and to have fun," Silver said.
"I think it is important for the girls to have an activity that is only for girls and where they are free to act carefree and have fun like girls their age should," she said.