JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jaguars' defensive tackle Marcel Dareus and his Dareus Foundation are helping to rebuild Haiti.
Dareus partnered with U.S.-based charity Hope for Haiti and made a $125,000 donation to fund a three-classroom building for over 190 primary school children in the "Marcell Dareus School Wing" at Christ-Roi Primary School of Cammy in the southern part of Haiti.
"I don't think I have never experienced a day like Wednesday when I took part in the groundbreaking of the new school which will have my name on it," said Dareus. "It is one thing to give money to something and hope for the best; it is quite something else to witness your efforts and see the gratitude and thankfulness of not just the children, but the whole community, for doing what you're doing."
After arriving to Haiti on Monday, Dareus presented his donation at a welcome reception and press conference among Hope for Haiti board members, government officials and the media.
This year's trip included a day spent touring the capital of Port-au-Prince, with stops at the National Museum, the National Palace and the Statues of the Heroes of Independence to learn more about the ancestry of his Haitian roots and culture of his Haitian-born father.
"It was interesting to hear about the history of Haiti and learn more about the harsh reality of the years of slave trade in the country," he said. "It all helps me understand more about my father's background and early life. I will continue to explore ways to know more about him and my family heritage."
Dareus then traveled 124 miles to Les Cayes, the area of Haiti where Hope for Haiti concentrates their efforts, and concluded the trip with the school's groundbreaking on Wednesday. The colorful school in Cammy is set on a hill overlooking picturesque slopes of sugarcane, vetiver, corn and other crops. The school expanded to include the sixth grade and become a complete primary school in 2010, and now thanks to the donation from Dareus, more students will have a safe and child-friendly place to learn.
He was welcomed by Haitian Rara and Fanfare bands before members of the community spoke, including a sermon from Father Jean Clausel Lima and words from third-grade student Christ-Menora Augustin, who thanked Dareus for the direct impact his donation would have on her education.
"To receive their blessings and hear their words of appreciation directly was something I could have never imagined several years ago," continued Dareus. "Their gratitude and happiness was overwhelming and showed me that what I am doing is going to have a tremendous impact on their lives."
With speeches and blessings completed, Dareus, surrounded by the school children wearing his signature captain's hats and gifts given by the Jacksonville Jaguars, including Jaguars bead necklaces and pencils, cut a red ribbon and laid the first cinder block for the new school wing, symbolizing the future growth of the small community.
"I promised my mom that I would support Haiti in any way I could," Dareus said. "Now I am using my platform to keep my promise. It's a beautiful country with incredible people and children who need help. I want to make sure I do everything I can to lift them up. This is just the beginning of what we're looking to accomplish here. I plan to come back after next season to see the new school and decide what else I can do to continue to build a legacy of hope for Haiti."