View a detailed history and current status of the Athletics Project.
Why is there a tennis court in Deschapelles? Good question. It is very unusual to have a tennis court in such an impoverished rural area of Haiti. Deschapelles is the site of an old Standard Fruit Banana Plantation. In the early 1900’s, the managers of the plantation lived in plantation-style stone houses. They had a clubhouse, swimming pool and a tennis court. Around 1950 they abandoned the site due to a banana blight and the Government of Haiti made the land available for the use of Hospital Albert Schweitzer. The previous clubhouse is now the Community Health and Community Development office. The Hospital has made the tennis court available to the community and SCEH’s tennis program.
In 2011, residents of Deschapelles said they were interested in a tennis program to provide the children of the area, many of whom do not go to school, the opportunity to learn the many skills and life-lessons that can be acquired through competitive sport. SCEH has been able to bring donated racquets, new grips and strings, tennis balls, and QuickStart Tennis equipment (a type of mini tennis) for the children.
John DeLong, a U.S.-based tennis pro/coach, initiated the program with several young men in Deschapelles who knew how to play tennis but did not have steady jobs, like many young men in Haiti. These men became the coaches in Deschapelles. A “club de tennis” was formed for young children and teenagers.
Today, there are over 50 children in the tennis program. They accept invitations from the Federation Tennis Haitienne to go to Port au Prince for country-wide competitions. And the Deschapelles players frequently return as winners or finalists. Coaches also organize local adult and youth tournaments.
Because some of the children in the tennis program cannot afford to attend school, the tennis coaches initiated an informal reading and math program which is now being conducted at the library. Deep River Elementary School created beautifully decorated Pringles can full of writing and art materials to support the program. To see the children opening the Pringles cans, please click here.