I was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. My family immigrated to the United States when I was three years old, and I was raised in the New York City area. We visited our friends and family in Haiti over summer vacations in the years that followed, but I had not returned in more than 30 years until just a few weeks ago, when the company I love brought me back to the country of my heart. It was an experience I’ll never forget.
Speaking at a press conference.
I was invited to join the FIFA
World Cup Trophy Tour by
My kids were, of course, totally in awe of the
FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour plane. They now think
I met our local bottler, the Haitian Minister of Sports and other stakeholders, many of whom had heard my story. I was invited at the last minute to give brief remarks at an airport press conference, where I spoke from the heart about how great it was to be back in Haiti after such a long absence.
I did my best to take in the experience over the next few days. I loved hearing locals speak the native Haitian Creole language, and, of course, enjoying the wonderful Haitian food and music. During the drive from the airport to our hotel, we got a first-hand look at the state of the country and how people live and interact. Clearly, a lot of work has been done to rebuild Haiti following the earthquake – we saw several new hotels and buildings – but the poverty we witnessed was overwhelming.
On the football pitch with his three kids.
The personal highlight of my trip came the next day when we brought the FIFA World Cup trophy to a group of 150 young Haitian football players. It was a truly special moment for me to look at the players – who were between 12 and 16 years old – and think, “I could have been any one of them.” I feel incredibly privileged to have had the opportunity to grow up, to receive my education and to build a family and career in the United States. I’ve gotten to travel all over the world and live in few different countries.
I encouraged them to dream big and to work hard. The
applause I received made me incredibly proud.
For these children, who see very little hope and future, hearing from someone
who was born in Haiti and went on to work for one of the world’s greatest
companies excited and inspired them.
And their excitement inspired me. In fact, I’m certain I gained as much as they did that day. I scored several “cool” points with my wife and kids, as well. :)
The word surreal came to mind throughout the weekend,
especially during the football match that concluded our time in Port-au-Prince.
I’m not sure when I’ll return to Haiti, but I’m certain it will not take me another 30 years.
Stevens Sainte-Rose is senior vice president of human resources for Coca-Cola International. He is based in Brussels, Belgium.
More on Journey
World's Largest FIFA World Cup™ Trophy Tour by
Coca-Colaand FIFA Kicks Off in Rio de Janeiro
- Slideshow: On the Runway With the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour Plane
Special Olympics Athletes Stir Optimism in
- Opinion: Why Women Are Key to Haiti’s Recovery
- Pura Vida: A Hero's Welcome for the FIFA World Cup Trophy in Costa Rica