FORT WAYNE – IPFW junior Max Touloute can play the game now, without fear; without worry.
He can walk onto the pitch at Hefner Field, site of this weekend’s ShindigZ National Soccer Festival, knowing that his parents are safe, and his brother is still alive, and his native Haiti – while still weeping – is rebuilding.
He’s gone back to being a student again; a 20-year-old soccer player with dreams for the future.
A little over seven months ago, when an earthquake devastated much of Haiti, killing thousands of his countrymen, including a distant cousin, Touloute wasn’t sure what his future would be.
It was tough, Touloute said of the awful week of non-communication before he was able to contact his family after the Jan. 12 earthquake near his home of Les Cayes.
I was thinking about my parents being dead. I’ve thought about it before. I don’t know what I’ll do. I know I’m going to cry when they die. It was too soon for me because I haven’t thought about it enough – what I’ll do. What if they’re dead right now? What will I do? It got me thinking a lot.
And even though a winter and spring and almost a summer have passed since the disaster, Touloute still thinks of home.
I miss it, he said.
It’s like two different worlds. I miss it every now and then when I think of my parents and all my friends and my youngest brother. I wish I could go back whenever I wanted to.
But sometimes you have to do things in life that are hard. ... I want to play soccer and get a good education and try and go pro.
With six goals last season, Touloute had twice as many as any other player on a Mastodons team that finished 6-11-2. He had more shots, more shots on goal, and was second in assists.
He was, IPFW coach Mike Harper said, a steal out of the Mastodons’ own backyard.
In spite of being the 2008 SAC Player of the Year at Concordia, Touloute was overlooked by some of the larger schools.
He was still considered an international student, and a lot of colleges passed on him, Harper said. We jumped on it, and it’s been a blessing to have him.
But there is considerably more to Touloute being a soccer blessing.
Shortly after being assured that his family was safe following the earthquake, Touloute wanted to help with his own relief effort. And when he went to Harper to ask what he could do, they decided to sell T-shirts for $10 each that read Help Haiti, with the telephone number of the Red Cross on the back.
The currency difference in Haiti is $8 per $1, so that means one American dollar is worth $8 in Haiti, Touloute said. Any kind of money I could get – even if it’s a quarter, it’s $2, and you can do something with that. So I was trying to raise as much money as possible.
Upon receiving more than $2,000, Paul Touloute, a minister in Les Cayes, called to thank his son and assured him that the money was being used to buy medicine and to help rebuild homes.
It made me feel good, but on the other hand, it was my duty as a Haitian to help my people out, Max Touloute said. Even though I’ve been here for a lot of my life, Haiti is still my home country. When anybody asks me, How’s home?’ that’s what I think of.
And of his future?
He would like to play soccer professionally. It’s my drug, he says, but in a good way.
But he is also studying civil engineering so I can go back home and help.