“As the pitcher, you set the tone,” begins the coach of Casa Llena.
“It doesn’t matter what the score is, what the crowd is yelling, or even who’s up to bat; the only thing you can control is yourself. Each time you’re on the mound, it’s a new opportunity to set the tone you want.”
Self-regulation is one of the many life lessons players learn on IOM’s youth baseball team.
Along with gameplay and technique, players learn life skills, including taking things one step at a time as they round the bases, and that helping each other is essential to meeting their collective goals.
The name ‘Casa Llena’ or ‘Full House’ carries its own significance- a baseball term for when the bases are full, and scoring is imminent, it’s a reminder of the value of opening our doors to new neighbors.
Baseball represents an unlikely connection between arriving Venezuelan migrants and Ecuadorian locals in a predominantly soccer-loving country. But the 20 migrant and local youth brought together through this program see it as an opportunity to form community.
Yolannys, a 25-year-old Venezuelan migrant, has become close to both her fellow players and their parents. She says that joining the team has made her feel at home in a new country.
When asked about the program’s impact on her, she describes how coming to practices has helped her keep focused on her goals and that the friends she’s made have given her the encouragement she needed to grow her new business.
Samuel, a local player age-10, has enjoyed making friends, having fun, and adds that he’s learned a lot about the game from his Venezuelan teammates.
But for Ximena, 15, the team’s star hitter, she doesn’t notice any difference between her and her Venezuelan teammates on the field.
Last week, Maria Moreno, Head of USA for IOM Operations, met virtually with IOM’s Chief of Mission in Haiti, Giuseppe Loprete, to discuss IOM’s ongoing emergency response for survivors displaced by the earthquake in Haiti.
Their conversation marks 1-month since a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit the southern region of the country. Haiti is one of the countries most prone to natural disasters in the world. As Chief of Mission, Loprete has worked to ensure that IOM, and our partners, are prepared to respond when disaster strikes and provide long-term recovery support for affected communities.
Day Zero Operations
Hurricane season in the Caribbean lasts from June to November, and IOM, along with its government and civil society partners, has developed extensive emergency response protocols for when disaster strikes.
This preparation allowed IOM to mobilize quickly. Within 24 hours, IOM had deployed its team to distribute shelter and hygiene kits, including tarps, blankets, and personal sanitation materials, to those displaced from their homes.
Lessons Learned from 2010
After the devasting 2010 earthquake, IOM and its implementing partners dedicated themselves to preparing for the next disaster.
Haiti developed a national Civil Protection Agency with an extensive network of field officers. This infrastructure allows Haiti to quickly coordinate with state and local bodies when an emergency occurs and has made the country a regional expert in disaster response.
Meanwhile, IOM has developed mechanisms to act as a first responder to potential displacement events. In Haiti, this includes regularly running emergency operation simulations and mapping shelters and other life-saving resources.
Another lesson learned from the 2010 earthquake was the importance of building and maintaining trust to humanitarian operations. For IOM, this begins with respecting local knowledge and systems already in place by the government, local associations, NGOs, and community leaders.
Without these partnerships, IOM would be unable to help those most vulnerable. Loprete explains the reach of IOM, saying, “we cannot stop where the paved road stops. We have to go beyond that. Once we reach those that we think are the most vulnerable, we usually get there and they say to us, ‘no, you have to go further, there are people over there who are worse off.”
Overlapping Crises Demand Urgent Action
Providing shelter is currently IOM’s top priority. Many still do not have a roof over their heads as their homes are being assessed for structural integrity.
IOM is working to avoid the prolonged displacement experienced in the wake of past disasters and is dedicated to supporting survivors throughout recovery efforts in the coming months and even years.
“Haiti is facing multiple crises,” reports Loprete, including a global pandemic, seasonal hurricanes, and institutional and political crises. He emphasized that this is a moment when we need everyone to come together to do more than recover but to build resilience to face the next crisis.
How to Make a Difference
IOM has already distributed 150,000 relief items to 61,000 families in Haiti. Currently, IOM is working to bring these materials the ‘last mile’ to those in the most remote regions who need them most. You can help by donating to organizations that are working with local partners to lead a sustainable recovery.
If you would like to support the work UN Migration, please donate here: https://usaforiom.org/fundraising-haiti/.
For more live updates on IOM’s work responding to global crises, tune in next month for more from USA for IOM’s new series, From the Field.