Benji Michel leads charge as Pilots set sights towards NCAA Tournament
A nine-year-old Benji Michel took in the surrounding of his parents’ native Haiti. It was 2006 and for nearly a month, he stayed with relatives in Port-au-Prince, the nation’s capital. He loved how people cared for each other. Food was passed around to the poor even though there wasn’t much to go around in the first place. Everyone was treated like family.
But his trip also opened his eyes to a world of struggle. Michel knows a little something about pain: His own parents have been dirt poor in the past. There were times that they went full days without eating so that Michel and his siblings could be provided for.
But in Haiti, that was magnified. The locals didn’t have access to electricity or regular hospital care. Many kids lived on the streets because their parents couldn’t provide for them. The smell of burning trees and waste constantly permeated the air.
But soccer was a source of hope. A knock on the door early in the morning signaled that it was time to play. So barefooted children would gather in mass for games on a nearby rock and dirt field.
Shy and reserved, Michel never asked to play. He just watched from the sideline.
But as he got older, he thought back to this trip. He realized soccer was in his blood. And living in the U.S., he has the opportunity to live a dream that many in Haiti can’t pursue.