Wednesday, 15 June 2011
Rory McIlroy on his visit to Haiti (Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland)  (Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy on his visit to Haiti (Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland) (Getty Images)

While most players prepare for a Major Championship by hitting the practice range for hours on end, Rory McIlroy took time out of his US Open build up to visit earthquake-ravaged Haiti last week.

The 22 year old Northern Irishman met victims of the natural disaster that devastated Port-au-Prince 18 months ago as part of his work as a UNICEF sporting ambassador.

McIlroy travelling to Haiti with his manager and friend Stuart Cage last Monday to see how the rebuilding process is progressing and witness at first hand the spirit and fortitude of the children, who are being helped by UNICEF’s schools projects.

“I thought I had perspective before going to Haiti, and then actually seeing it, it just gives you a completely different view on the world and the game that you play,” said McIlroy.  “It just makes you feel so lucky that I'm able just to sit here and drink a bottle of water, and just do the normal things that everyone does that you take for granted.

“Haiti was a great experience for me and it was great to go down with UNICEF and see all the work that they're doing with funding and helping build schools and maternity clinics and providing food and water for people down there.  It's still a country in a very bad state, but it's definitely going in the right direction.  It's great to see.”

Visibly moved and humbled by his experience, McIlroy has posted several pictures from his eye-opening trip on his Twitter pages and is hoping to undertake a similar visit to Sri Lanka later in the year.

The Ulsterman, who stayed the night in the Haitian capital, was particularly inspired by the resolve of the children affected by the earthquake

“Children are so resilient,” he said. “It was almost as if they were oblivious to what was around them.  Once they went in the school, they were happy, they were singing songs, they were getting educated about simple hygiene, sanitation.  There was a huge outbreak of cholera a couple of months ago down there.  So it was important educating children.

“The thing about Haiti is that 60 per cent of the population in Haiti is under 18 years old.  So they have to make a huge push to educate the children.  And then it's almost as if the children go back home and educate the parents.  So they have to say to the parents, no, we have to wash our hands, because it's something that they've never had to deal with before.

“There is a lot of child specific work going on there, because that's the future of the country.  But their spirit is great.  Even the spirit of the whole country.  There was a new president just elected, and I think people are very happy with him. Speaking to the head UNICEF people down in Haiti, he has a lot of drive and he really wants to make education a huge thing down there.  So hopefully he does some good work.

“It's not just Haiti though, there are countries all over the world that are having the same problems.  It's just great to see so many people willing to help.”

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