Website Manager


Shenandoah FC Elite's Project Haiti

Someone asked me "Why did your club go to Haiti to run a soccer camp?"

Here's my answer:
"Eyes can tell you a lot about someone. They can tell you how much love someone has, they can tell you how pure someone's soul is, and they can tell you their passion. 

I saw a lot of eyes while I was down there this week and saw eyes that were hungry, I saw eyes that had pure passion, and I saw eyes that had potential. They had potential to grow if given a chance, grow as a person to better themselves, and if given that chance maybe to better their community. 

We do help locally but in order to better the world you need to go out and see what else is out there and this week I was proud of our girls, the parents, and our leaders for going out and looking into the eyes of those children. 

We brought food, arts and crafts, and soccer equipment to over 110 girls that live in or around that small Haitian town but we also brought them much more. We brought them the idea of empowerment and what it means to feel to have a friend with a shared passion. So that is why our club went to Haiti and we will go back in the my question to you is..what did your soccer club do today?"

Cosmo Balio
Shenandoah FC Elite
Executive Director

Press About out Trip:

Local students share love of soccer in Haiti



  • By JACKIE PUGLISI | The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — As Winchester teen Jessica Alamo was preparing to head home from a mission trip to Jacmel, Haiti, she sat in her room and wept.

“We were connecting with the kids, and I already felt like they were my friends,” said the 13-year-old. “I didn’t want to leave.”

Jessica was one of the several people who traveled to the third-world country from June 19 to 25 to hold a soccer camp for girls. Nine girls from Shenandoah FC Elite’s U14 soccer team traveled there with chaperones, along with four members and the coach of the Shenandoah University women’s soccer team.

Jessica and many of the others formed bonds with the girls they taught in the four-day soccer camp. She spent time with 11-year-old Francesca on the field.

“During drills, she would grab my hand,” she said.

Jessica also connected with a boy named Did, who was 11 years old. He was among a group of Haitian boys who watched the girls play soccer.

“He asked me if we could be best friends,” she said.

The two would playfully joke back and forth about which professional soccer players were the best. While Jessica is a fan of Argentinian player Leo Messi, Did likes Portuguese player Cristiano Ronaldo.

She also connected with a young boy named Watson while making bracelets during arts and crafts time.

Sidney Rathel, 13, who lives in Frederick County, made friends with an 8-year-old girl named Francois.

“During an art project I drew a heart, and she drew a heart and wrote ‘I love you’ in English,” she said. “She followed me around. Even after four days, you get so attached.”

Although many of the children didn’t speak English, Sidney said everyone seemed to communicate through soccer.

“Even though some of the kids didn’t always know what we were saying, they did what we taught them,” she said.

Mikayla Balio, 13, remembers bonding with a little girl who was about 5 or 6 years old.

“We were playing the game duck, duck goose,” the Winchester teen said. “I sat down next to her and she sat in my lap. I got tagged and had to be the goose. When I got up, she followed me the whole time.”

They drew pictures together, and the little girl also loved to be held.

“If I put her down, she would grab my arm,” Mikayla said.

During the first day of camp, 38 local girls showed up to play soccer. By the second day, 110 were storming the field.

Playing soccer is not a part of the Haitian girls’ normal routine. According to Cosmo Balio, Winchester executive director of Shenandoah FC Elite, they spend their days doing chores, going to school and then watching the boys play soccer. The opposite genders are not allowed to play on the field together.

“During the camp, the boys had to watch the girls play,” Balio said.

They practiced drills, played soccer and made arts and crafts. The children were also provided with clean water, snacks and a hot lunch. The team brought with them 150 soccer balls and about 100 T-shirts and cleats for the children.

Four SU soccer players made the trip to Haiti — Shannen De Leon, Sara Fuller, Jordan Riser and Emily Yergin. They started off as role models for the FC Elite girls, who eventually found their confidence in the foreign country.

“It was fun for me not only to watch the Haitian children, but also the U.S. kids come into their own,” Balio said.

Liz Pike, head women’s soccer coach at SU, said she was impressed with how her players and the FC Elite girls handled the week.

“It was a long week and hot,” she said. “But they were out there all day with 100 plus little girls.”

Also during the trip, the university and FC Elite players visited an orphanage and spent time with mentally challenged children at Wings of Hope, a Haitian-run facility. They also visited a school that was affected by an earthquake in 2010. The school is mostly concrete walls and a tin roof that houses classrooms with 60 children and one teacher.

The trip also included time for the girls to explore Haiti. They visited Bassin Bleu in Jacmel — a collection of crystal blue pools and a waterfall tucked near a mountainside.

When the teams arrived in Haiti, they had to travel from the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince, to Jacmel. Because there were not enough seats for all 22 travelers on the small planes, some girls took a three-hour van ride on bumpy dirt roads instead. Sidney remembers seeing people rushing over to wash the van windows in exchange for money.

Jessica said Jacmel was a lot different from the capital city.

“You would see millions of little houses [in Jacmel] made of tin that they picked up and put together,” she said. “It’s very different from the houses here.”

Along with leaving behind friends, Jessica was also sad to leave Haiti because of the impoverished conditions she saw there.

“I felt bad seeing people on the streets and begging for money to buy stuff,” she said. “I wished I could have stayed a longer time and helped the people there.”

She and Balio talked about helping those who are less fortunate in her hometown, and how she could possibly return to Haiti one day.

“It was a good opportunity for the girls to see what it was like in a third-world country and was also an eye-opener for me,” Balio said.

The idea for the trip came from Shenandoah University President Tracy Fitzsimmons, who is a member of the Community Coalition for Haiti that works to improve healthcare, education and community development in the country. She has traveled to the region for more than 20 years. Her husband, J. Knox Singleton, is also a founder of the organization. The group stayed at a facility run by the Community Coalition for Haiti.

Because of the excitement from the Haitian girls during the camp, Balio, Pike, and Fitzsimmons worked together to hire a coach who will provide soccer practice for the girls on a regular basis.

Pike said she was surprised there was not an outlet for girls to participate in sports on a regular basis.

“It was upsetting to see there wasn’t this opportunity for them there,” she said.

Balio and Pike hope to return to Haiti in January to see how the program is going.

News Coverage from Local

Project Haiti UPDATE....

We are extremely excited to announce that our partnership with the Community Coalition for Haiti has secured highly qualified soccer coaches for our girl's soccer training/empowerment program and will provide training on Saturday mornings at the Mont Fleuri school throughout the year. Here are some pictures from the training during the month of July.



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