Quake amputees embody resilience in broken Haiti

Mon Jan 10, 2011 6:50pm EST
 
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By Tom Brown

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - Sprinting on their crutches at breakneck speed, the young soccer players who lost legs in Haiti's earthquake last year project a symbol of hope and resilience in a land where so much is broken.

Playing a weekend warm-up match days before the anniversary of the devastating January 12 quake, the players control the ball artfully with their good legs, avoiding "illegal" contact with their crutches.

The teams train on a dusty pitch near Cite Soleil, Haiti's largest slum on the outskirts of the wrecked capital Port-au-Prince. They faced off again on Monday in the National Stadium as part of a low-key yet poignant commemoration of the disaster that killed around a quarter of a million people.

"Everything can't get fixed after the earthquake but life goes on," said Mackendy Francois, whose friends used a hacksaw to cut off his left leg below the knee when they freed him from the rubble of a shirt factory a year ago.

Thousands of people lost limbs in the earthquake, which left more than 1 million Haitians homeless and living in misery in the already poor, calamity-prone Caribbean nation.

"Life didn't end when I lost a leg," Francois, 23, told Reuters.

He said he felt proud to represent his team against opposing side Zaryen, named after the Haitian Creole term for a tarantula because of the way the hardy spider keeps on going even after it loses a leg.

The players got treatment, athletic training and prosthetic limbs thanks to a joint effort by Miami's Project Medishare and the Knights of Columbus, which committed more than $1 million to the prosthetics and therapy program.   Continued...

 
<p>A member of an amputee soccer team hits the ball during a training session for an upcoming exhibition match in Port-au-Prince January 8, 2011. REUTERS/Kena Betancur</p>