Haitian amputees tour United States, compete at Capitol

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Emmanuel Ladouceur was on the bottom floor of a three-story building with his family when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti last January. A goalkeeper for a local soccer team, Ladouceur lost his parents when the building collapsed, and only he and his sister survived. After the loss of his left arm in the quake, he is determined to continue playing the sport. Of the 15-member Haitian soccer team, three players lost their limbs in the earthquake. The team played on the Texas Capitol grounds Tuesday afternoon as part of their national tour. The team faced representatives from various nonprofit groups, including Dennis Borel, the executive director of Coalition of Texans with Disabilities, and Jerry Davis, Goodwill of Central Texas CEO. “People with disabilities are typically the most disadvantaged group demographic in every society,” Borel said. “These folks are coming from the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. These folks have demonstrated that given the opportunity and the encouragement that they can do incredible things.” Ladouceur and his teammates played on forearm crutches on a field smaller than one used in professional soccer games. They could not use their crutches to detour the ball and can only use one leg. Fred Sorrells is the team’s translator and organized the U.S. tour. Most players do not have access to rehabilitation resources in their home country, said Sorrells, the president of the International Institute of SPORT, which provides therapeutic recreation and education to amputees in poor countries. “We’re basically using therapeutic recreation to help them develop self-esteem for themselves but more importantly in places in Haiti for other people to recognize their value,” he said. “In third world countries, there’s not enough resources to go around so people with disabilities are marginalized, pushed to the side.” Before the earthquake, Ladouceur was a goal keeper in an able-bodied soccer team. Despite losing his left arm, he has more opportunities on the amputee soccer team. “It’s been [an] extremely important thing to be involved in recreation therapy, particularly with amputee soccer,” Ladouceur said. “I never had a chance to be involved, just at a low level when I was playing able-bodied soccer as a goalkeeper.” Ladouceur said he was depressed when the nonprofit rehabilitation group was looking for new goal keepers to play in the 2010 Amputee Football World Cup in Argentina. He was skeptical but decided to attend the last day of tryouts. He eventually made the team, which lost to England at this year’s tournament. He is ready for the 2012 World Cup in Japan, where he will again be the goal keeper, he said. “It’s been the most magnificent thing that has happened to me,” Ladouceur said.