SAKALA stands for “Sant Kominote Altènatif Ak Lapè,” which translates from Haitian Creole into English as “The Community Center for Peaceful Alternatives.” As a word, Sakala translates roughly to “approved by the community.” There are over 250 children and youths currently benefitting from SAKALA’s programs in athletics, agronomy, and education. We offer these programs in a safe environment to empower youth in the underserved communities of Cite Soleil, and we are very proud that since 2004 we have never had a violent incident on the grounds.
The idea of SAKALA came from the situation of growing violence in Cite Soleil after the overthrow of President Jean-Bertrande Aristide in 2004. Many rival armed groups from Cite Soleil’s 34 neighborhoods fought in continual violence, giving rise to the characterization of Cite Soleil as an outlaw zone. This stigma created fear and mistrust, resulting in difficulty for even Non-Governmental Organization (NGOs) reaching the community and meeting people’s basic needs.
Over time, Cite Soleil became increasingly neglected by the Haitian government, resulting in a situation where parents could no longer care for their children. These children often went on to lead criminal lives in order to survive.
SAKALA was founded to encourage the rival neighborhood groups of Cite Soleil to find a peaceful path to live together. It sought to stop the ever-increase insecurity of the environment, and the killings due to police or UN operations attacking armed groups in the area.
SAKALA used the soccer culture of Haiti to promote peacebuilding, and created a Cite Soleil soccer team to unify the neighborhoods. The team played with Haitian National Police, UN soldiers, and raised awareness for the hidden beauty of this neighborhood, which had gone long untold by the media.
The success of the soccer experience lead SAKALA to extend its programs and activities to further peaceful alternatives for youth, toward better education and livelihoods. Thousands of youths and young adults have now been empowered by the capacity to make a difference in the lives of others, with respect and conflict resolution.
Our success is so powerful because we are showing people that good can be done in an area where no one believes it can. We are working together with those who were marginalized and underestimated, particularly at-risk youth, and they now go everywhere and feel empowered to change the neighborhood, the country, and the world. As was the dream, we are slowing changing the stigma of Cite Soleil.
2002 Nine young Haitians form the SAKALA group to promote peace in Cite Soleil
2004 SAKALA soccer team formed
2006 SAKALA youth program officially created
2010 SAKALA expands to provide post-earthquake relief services
2012 Jaden Tap Tap inaugurated as Haiti’s largest urban garden
2015 Today, SAKALA has seven soccer teams, the largest urban garden in Haiti, and sponsors 100 children in education