Ricardo Pierre-Louis is one of Haiti's biggest soccer stars, but for a while, Ricardo's parents wouldn't let him play, that was until the local team offered something incredibly scarce in his community.
"I actually started playing soccer because the local team was feeding the players. So, they were feeding kids after practice. You know, in Haiti they don't eat every day, so I went to soccer practice because the local teams were feeding kids after practice. I was hungry. I wanted to eat. I went because I just wanted to eat," said Pierre-Louis.
Ricardo has scored goals on the club, national, and Major league levels. University of Mary's defender Stanley Joseph is now a member of the U23 Haiti national team and he remembers watching Pierre-Louis as a child back in Haiti.
"Coach Cook was like do you know Ricardo Pierre-Louis? I said, 'Oh yeah, I watched him growing up.' And, he was like, 'Well, he is one of our coaches. And I was like, 'No way and then he was like, 'I will give you his phone number and you can contact him.' I'm like: 'Wow, I'm nervous. Big time player back home anyone would die to meet him, and I have his phone number in my hands. What am I going to be doing right now?' I was really nervous," said Joseph.
Pierre-Louis is now a French teacher at Century High School. His desire to teach stems from his hope that his students will not have the same hardships his parents endured.
"I knew that after my soccer career I would be a teacher, because growing up, like I said, education was key to my parents who can't read or write their name. Being a teacher is something I always wanted to be," said Pierre-Louis.
He never forgets where he came from. His foundation, Lespaw Lavi, runs a feeding program for soccer players who attend school through scholarships. The foundation is now planning to build a sports complex and school.
"Lespaw Lavi means 'hope for life.' A lot of kids in Haiti want to be kids. They'll have the biggest smile on their face, but they don't understand what the future would be like for them because they are just kids. I started this program just paying school tuition, kids to pay tuition for kids back in 2010. Back in Haiti 50 percent of the population can't read or write their name so that's a big problem," said Pierre-Louis.
For more information, you can visit Lespawlavi.org.