Haitian Amputee Athletes Meet Pope
Three young Haitian men who survived the Haitian earthquake of 2010
were received Saturday at the Vatican by Pope Francis along with attendees
of a day-long event to mark the passing of five years since the
devastating quake. They were in Rome courtesy of the Knights of
All three are amputees, and two lost their legs during the Jan. 12,
2010 earthquake. Undeterred by their disabilities they took up amputee
soccer, showing off their remarkable skills in a scrimmage with Roman
players at a K of C soccer field in Rome on Friday. The three are
members of Team Zaryen – a Haitian amputee team in Port-au-Prince.
Wilfrid Macena, Mackenson Pierre and Sandy J.L. Louiseme received
prosthetic and rehabilitation care through “Healing Haiti’s Children,” a
program sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and the University of
Miami-affiliated Project Medishare. The partnership made available free
prosthetics and rehabilitation to every child who lost a limb in the
With Medishare’s medical expertise and the Knights of Columbus’s
funding of nearly $1.7 million to date, a sustainable program was forged
by hiring local Haitians to do much of the fabrication and
rehabilitation work. To date, approximately 1,000 people have received
prosthetic limbs through the program, with more than 25,000 people
receiving additional rehabilitation services.
Some of the Haitian amputees, including Macena, Pierre and Louiseme,
signed on as members of a new soccer team composed of amputee athletes
from Port-au-Prince and the surrounding region.
In Rome on Saturday, they presented Pope Francis with a jersey with
the number 5 on it to indicate the number of years that have passed
since the event that changed their lives so dramatically. They also
presented the soccer-loving pope from Argentina with a ball signed by
The conference in Rome was called by Pope Francis to focus on the
humanitarian catastrophe and its ongoing impact, and he used the
occasion Saturday to affirm the Church’s closeness to the Haitian
people. The meeting, organized by the Pontifical Commission for Latin
America and the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum,” included a presentation
by Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Carl Anderson.
Carl Anderson and Dr. Robert Gailey, director of rehabilitation for
Project Medishare, also greeted the pope together with the team.
“We are profoundly grateful to the Holy Father for calling this
conference and for remembering the Haitian people, who are too often
forgotten,” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. “The members of team
Zaryen represent both the loss and the resilience of the Haitian people,
who have both endured and overcome so much since the Earthquake.”
The moving story of the prosthetic program and those it has served
has been captured in “Unbreakable: A Story of Hope and Healing in
Haiti,” a documentary that is being aired by several PBS affiliates in
U.S. markets this month.
Winner of the Most Inspirational Documentary Award at the DocMiami
International Film Festival’s Florida Documentary Film Festival in
September, the film also follows the story of the amputee soccer team,
named Zaryen (tarantula) after the spider known for its resilience —
even after losing a leg.
The team has inspired not only Haitians but also Americans, as it
traveled to the U.S. in 2011 to introduce amputee soccer to troops who
lost limbs in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Courtesy Knights of Columbus)