The Dark Clouds are Minnesota United FC’s oldest and largest independent supporters group. Our mission includes a commitment to volunteering and service work, which is carried out by our Silver Lining organization. The Silver Lining motto is ‘Every Dark Cloud Has A Silver Lining.’

A group photo of all six Dark Clouds Silver Lining volunteers who traveled to Haiti.
A group photo of all six Dark Clouds Silver Lining volunteers who traveled to Haiti.

In January, six Dark Clouds members traveled to Haiti for a week-long Silver Lining service trip to conduct on the ground service with The Sanneh Foundation’s Haitian Initiative. They departed January 15th and returned on January 22nd.

The Haitian Initiative is an effort of The Sanneh Foundation, which was founded by former US National Team soccer player and Minnesota native, Tony Sanneh. After traveling to Haiti in 2010, Sanneh founded the Haitian Initiative to “to empower children, improve lives and unite communities. And to develop sustainable programs and use soccer as a catalyst to combat the cycle of poverty.”

Volunteers Andy Wattenhofer and Rich Harrison pose with some of the gear that was handed out.
Volunteers Andy Wattenhofer and Rich Harrison pose with some of the gear that was handed out.

Our Silver Lining volunteers left MSP airport on January 15th with 766 lbs of soccer gear. Some items were gently-used gear donated through the Sannah Foundations Kick Back Program, and a significant portion were brand new Adidas gear donated by FIFA Football for Hope.

After arriving in Haiti, volunteers stayed at ‘Nicole’s Place,’ a guesthouse provided by the Nicole Megaloudis Foundation (operated by the Sanneh Foundation) and traveled each day to Cité Soleil to perform service. Cité Soleil is an area of Port-au-Prince which the Haitian Initiative says “is generally regarded as the poorest and most dangerous area in the Western Hemisphere.”

Dark Clouds Silver Lining coordinator Rich Harrison: “Nicole’s Place was a totally safe oasis and refuge from the city where we could recharge our mental and physical batteries. The food and staff were amazing!”

Tim Reppe coaching Soccer.
Tim Reppe coaching Soccer.

Monday through Friday, Dark Clouds volunteers spent the afternoon providing a meal fortified with vitamins and protein to children, giving soccer gear to the children, helping the local Haitian coaches teach the sport, and teaching English as a second language.

Dark Clouds Silver Lining coordinator Rich Harrison“The kids of Cité Soleil were so welcoming, affectionate and loving. My heart melted many, many times while in Haiti.”

“Giving away soccer shoes was amazing, measuring little feet, finding the right pair of shoes, having them put the shoes on for the first time and watching their excitement build!”

Rich Harrison teaching English.
Rich Harrison teaching English.

“Teaching English was the best part of the service for me. The kids in Cité Soleil are so interested in learning! I found this activity was a good fit for me as I was good at getting the kids to focus. Their teacher, Joshua, was happy for me to return after my first lesson. It was a very powerful experience because I was helping teach a skill that these children could use to pull themselves out of poverty and better their lives.”

Mornings were spent learning about Haiti during excursions, including one to the Haitian National Museum where volunteers learned the history of the island nation. A local guide took volunteers through the museum, answering questions and teaching on Christopher Columbus’s visit to the island, the French occupation and slavery, the revolution and independence, and more.

Tim Reppe with a Haitian Initiative Participant
Tim Reppe with a Haitian Initiative Participant

Minneapolis-based Brave New Media has chronicled the service trip in a group of videos that are now being released on the Dark Clouds Silver Lining YouTube channel. New videos will be posted in the weeks following the trip and can be accessed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lh41uqMf5ZY.

For more information about the Dark Clouds Silver Lining service trip to Haiti or to get in touch with the travelers, please contact Rich Harrison at ‘silverlining (at) dark-clouds.com.’