Dubai Duty Free Sports Complex. Image Credit: Organiser

Dubai: Dubai Duty Free’s commitment to Hand in Hand for Haiti, the travel retail industry-funded educational initiative, has led to the launch of the Dubai Duty Free Sports Complex at the Lycee Jean-Baptiste Pointe du Sable of St Marc in Haiti.

Built through donations raised by Hand in Hand for Haiti following the devastating earthquake that hit the Caribbean country in January 2010, the sports facility features an international regulation soccer pitch with artificial turf, a basketball court, two volleyball courts and a 400-metre six-lane athletic track.

The outstanding sports and leisure facility, which was constructed at a cost $1.5 million (Dh5.5 million), was officially inaugurated last Saturday by the President of Haiti, Michel Martelly in the presence of Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, several members of his government, the French Ambassador to Haiti, Patrick Nicoloso and representatives from the Hand in Hand for Haiti Foundation.

They were joined by Colm McLoughlin, executive vice-chairman, Dubai Duty Free, officials from the Dubai Duty Free Foundation, the Estee Lauder Companies, DFASS, Starboard, Onboard Media and the Moodie Report.

The Lycee Jean-Baptiste Pointe du Sable of St Marc opened on October 3, 2011, with some 153 pupils aged three to five and will ultimately offer education for over 700 pupils.

In February 2012, Dubai Duty Free announced a major donation of $500,000 from its Foundation towards the construction of the sports complex whose aim was to offer pupils, as well as young people of the wider community of Saint Marc, an outstanding sports facility.

Commenting on the official opening McLoughlin said: “Our thanks to the President of Haiti, Michel Martelly for officially inaugurating this fantastic sports complex. Hand in Hand for Haiti has done a tremendous job in driving forward the phased opening of the Lycee and the completion of the Dubai Duty Free Sports Complex in a short space of time in a challenging environment.

“We are very proud to have been part of this project, which will enrich the lives of young people living here and will encourage their interest in sport. My congratulations to all of those involved in the Hand in Hand for Haiti initiative, especially Olivier Bottrie, Ed Brennan, Benny Klepach and Martin Moodie, who have worked tirelessly in recent years to see these projects come to fruition.”

Today, Lycee Jean-Baptiste Pointe du Sable educates 250 children aged three to eight and a further 50 children will join in September when the total of teaching staff will reach 22. The hurricane-proof, anti-seismic, sustainable school will eventually offer entirely free education to over 700 students from pre-school to the baccalaureate. Trilingual education (Creole-French-English) with best-in-class academic standards in alignment with the Haitian academic curriculum is provided.

Students receive two nutritious meals a day and attend daily after-school programmes and day camps during the Easter and Summer breaks.

The Hand in Hand for Haiti project, which has raised several million dollars since the January 2010 earthquake, is the biggest charity fund-raiser in travel retail industry history.

Uniquely, the school and sports complex is not only being funded by the industry, but operated by it on an ongoing basis through a foundation. The Hand in Hand for Haiti was initiated by Olivier Bottrie, president of Travel Retail Worldwide with the Estee Lauder Companies, Ed Brennan former Chairman and CEO of DFS Group Limited and Martin Moodie, founder and chairman of The Moodie Report.

Through the Dubai Duty Free Foundation, the UAE retailer has been a constant supporter of industry-led Corporate Social Responsibility projects, notably the building of The Travel Retail Village in Palliyawatta, Sri Lanka (post tsunami), The Smile Train project in the Philippines, and the Sightsavers projects in Odisha, India among many others.