(PORT AU PRINCE, HAITI) – Andre Berto (Winter Haven, Fla.) made an important detour during his trip home to Florida for the Christmas holiday this past week. Berto traveled to his family's native Haiti in support of the ongoing relief efforts in the island nation, joining his partners at Project Medishare to raise funds for their Hospital Bernard Mevs in Port Au Prince.
The Hospital Bernard Mevs Project Medishare is the only trauma, critical care and rehabilitation hospital in Haiti. Responsible for providing lifesaving care to Haiti's sickest adults, children and premature infants, the hospital treats 300-350 patients daily, and still faces overwhelming demand to provide more medical help, which is given regardless of a patient's ability to pay.
Berto spent Friday afternoon with many of the hospital's youngest patients, handing out Christmas presents and visiting the kids as they undergo treatment at the facility. “Spending time with these kids and giving them something to smile about was the perfect way to start my holiday,” Berto said. “Making the people around me happy is better than any Christmas present I could get.”
The 2004 Haitian Olympian joined members of the Project Medishare team at a philanthropic fashion show on Friday night in Port Au Prince to assist the event organizers in raising funds for the hospital. Berto has worked with Project Medishare for several years, and he and his older brother, Cleveland, traveled to Haiti with organization co-founder Dr. Barth Green days after the 2010 earthquake.
Prior to a busy day on Friday, Berto had the opportunity to spend time with Haitian President Michael Martelly following his arrival on Thursday, and he enjoyed the chance to share his goals and future charitable plans in the island nation.
The International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) announced recently that it would be working with the IOC on their Haiti Sport for Hope project, which will include the creation of an Olympic Youth Development Centre (OYDC) to foster community development, promote elite sport in the country and region and spread the Olympic values.
As the first boxer to represent Haiti in the Olympic Games, Berto hopes to work closely with the two major sport organizations on their initiative. His Berto Dynasty Foundation has continued its work in Haiti over the past few years, partnering with Generosity Water to build several water wells and provide much needed clean drinking water for the people of Haiti.
In addition to the foundation's efforts, the Berto family is working with the Haitian Boxing Federation to ensure that young Haitian boxers can follow in Berto's footsteps at the Olympic Games.
The former two-time World Champion has undergone extensive rehabilitation on his injured right shoulder since his August surgery, and he looks forward to returning to the boxing gym in early 2014. For more information on Hospital Bernard Mevs Project Medishare, click here.
Andre visits with a young patient at Hospital Bernard Mevs Project Medishare
Andre with Haitian President Michael Martelly