I am very pleased to announce that you can now make a tax-exempt donation to Team Guepard by using any of the “Donate” buttons you may encounter on The Vitruvian Man website. Your donation will be processed through The Nicole Megaloudis Foundation.
I first met Gail Megaloudis Rongen in March 2016 on my first ‘modern’ trip to Haiti (I visited the island in 1971). We were both there working with Tony Sanneh and his Haitian Initiative. We made two more trips to Haiti in 2016, and on the last trip in December, we met Jean-Bernard Belizaire (Coach Jaru) of Guepard Boxing Club Cité Soleil (GBCCS).
During that first trip, Gail explained the difficult circumstances surrounding The Nicole Megaloudis Foundation.
Late in 2003, Gail Rongen’s daughter Nicole Megaloudis’s name appeared on the list of potential women who would represent Greece in the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens. Her dreams went unrealized when she died in a car accident as she returned to the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) campus late one night for an early practice session with her college team. Life is rarely fair.
Complying with traditional Eastern Orthodox mourning practice, Gail grieved in the privacy of her own home for 40 days. On the 42nd day after the tragedy, she and her husband Thomas Rongen distributed her ashes into the wind, which wafted them softly into the blue Caribbean Sea.
Early in elementary school, Nicole befriended a young Haitian girl. Their friendship endured through high school, and Nicole frequently told her mother that she longed to visit Haiti. Four months after Nicole’s death, Gail established The Nicole Megaloudis Foundation in memory of her daughter with the intent to do something in Haiti, which would allow Nicole to fulfill her dream to be a part of the island nation.
Continuing Work in Haiti
Guepard Boxing Club trains over 100 young Haitians in boxing skills four times each week. Working directly with Jaru and four other coaches – Benoit Stevenson, Justin Ricot, Jackson Augustin and Jean Kert-Sando – we set up a kitchen in Cité Soleil so that GBCCS can feed their young athletes, many of whom are homeless and live on the streets.
Tables and Chairs for Team Guepard
Although I appreciate and admire the Native American custom of sitting on the ground in direct contact with Mother Earth, sitting and eating on concrete does not appeal to me. I was very pleased and gratified as pictures arrived of the Team Guepard kitchen we opened in Cité Soleil, Haiti the first week in June. A week or two later, Coaches Jaru and Justin contacted us with the idea of acquiring tables and benches for the children to eat from. As I stared at early pictures of the kids sitting on the rain-soaked concrete with their bowls of food, I sensed that we could improve self-worth and dignity if we could provide tables.
Supporting the Local Economy
The coaches arranged to build 10 tables and 20 benches with craftsmen in Cité Soleil, which enabled us to further support the local economy in an environment that offers too few opportunities for employment. The sturdy furniture was delivered early this week. The ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos speak for themselves.
I invite you to watch this short video of a typical meal. In America, we are always in a hurry, and few of us take proper time to express our gratitude before we eat. Watch how these young children wait patiently until each has his food. Then before anyone eats, they pray and thank God for the blessings he has bestowed upon them. Many of us in America take much for granted; few in Haiti do, and the Team Guepard coaches teach their students the art of gratefulness as well as the art of boxing.
Too Much Weight
After the first meal at the new tables, Coach Justin expressed concern with the weight of the occupied tables and benches. “I am worried about the children on the roof,” he wrote, “about 120 children, ten tables, 20 benches … the weight is too big for the roof.” We took Justin’s claim seriously and rented the bottom floor to give us a safer environment to feed the children
We are considering other potential projects with Guepard Boxing Club that go well beyond the sport of boxing and involve environmental awareness and social consciousness. We cannot escape the fact that every project has a price. Our initial cadre of supporters is eight-people strong: three from Arizona, one from Virginia, one from Texas, one from Chicago, Gail from Florida, and me in Wisconsin. We need more. The number of kids we feed and support is growing.
If you can help us, please consider a gift using the ‘donate’ button. If you would like more information, please use the contact form. As I so often repeat the Sioux wisdom on this website,
We Are All Family