By Milo Milfort
Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Feb 16 (EFE).- Youngsters in Haiti have resorted to horseback riding to escape gang violence plaguing the slums of the capital Port-au-Prince.
Training takes place at the Athletic Club in the slum of Cite Militaire near the international airport, whose members have run for the hills when violence intensified.
But now the club offers classes every Saturday to introduce the young people residing in this area and surroundings to the sport.
“Practicing horseback riding allows the child to get out of an atmosphere surrounded by weapons,” the club’s chief instructor, Normandy Chery, tells Efe.
So far, only 23 students go to the club to learn the sport. However, those responsible for the project hope to increase the number of participants when they secure the necessary funds to buy more horses.
They currently train on the horses left behind by the previous club members, some of them were imported from the Czech Republic, Dominican Republic and the United States.
“We take part in their citizenship education. We help them learn leadership that will allow them, even if they are in a working-class neighborhood, to have a future, to become citizens,” Chery says.
This sport encourages youngsters to “grow love for their neighbors,” as well as occupy their leisure to avoid falling into gangs.
Chery explains that horseback riding, a sport he inherited from his father, was the reason that kept him away from the gangs.
“This sport is the one that has prevented me from becoming a bandit. This sport saved me from becoming a criminal,” says the instructor.
Now he tries to make other children living in the club’s surroundings follow in his footsteps.
Gang violence in Haiti has been fueled by the political instability there, exacerbated by the killing of president Jovenel Moise.
Gangs are behind 900 kidnappings and hundreds of murders in Haiti in 2021, according to estimates by human rights groups.
Horseback riding is barely known in Haiti, and in agrarian communities, horses are still a means of transport.
“Sports and education can help us get out of the situation we are in,” Chery concluded, referring to the crisis gripping the country. EFE