OFCB Ministries, Bayonnais, Haiti – A Brief History
In the summer of 1984, Helen Hunter of Charlotte, NC, traveled to Haiti to visit her daughter, Heather, who was volunteering at EbenEzer Mission near Gonaïves, Haiti. When Helen arrived in Haiti she had no inkling of what lay in store for her during the following years. After she returned to Charlotte, EbenEzer’s founding minister came to visit the Hunters and Helen introduced him to her church's mission chairman. From that meeting a work group of 43 members went to EbenEzer in the summer of 1985 for a week of work on the mission. While they were there, an American missionary working at EbenEzer went to each member of the work group and asked if they would sponsor a child's education. Standing with the missionary was a young man and Helen asked if he had a sponsor. When told he did not, she said she would sponsor him. So from that time on, the Hunters sponsored Actionnel Fleurisma through his schooling, a year of accounting in Gonaïves, and 2 years of attending CPCC while living with them. It was during these two years (1990-1992) that Actionnel became a charter member of the newly-formed South Mecklenburg Presbyterian Church (SMPC), along with the Hunters.
One of the most treasured aspirations of the Haitian people is to obtain an education. Helen Hunter, who was a teacher, tells of her first time walking into a classroom there. Spontaneously every student rose!
After completing his studies, Actionnel returned to Haiti, married his sweetheart, and began a family. He also felt called to start a school and in late 1993, he together with Dimilsaint Mondelus, Firmin Saint-Louis, Lucner Saint-Louis and Saint-Victor Sejour in co-founded OFCB Ministries (Organization of the Christian Force of Bayonnais) and started a school in their childhood neighborhood in the mountain region of Bayonnais. At first they had 105 students and 3 teachers. There was no building, so they used a vacant Roman Catholic building the first year. The second year found them in a makeshift school of banana leaf mats. Other classes were held under the beautiful mango trees. Each year the number of students grew by leaps and bounds. Searching for a way to build a school building, they found a Canadian organization in Port-au-Prince willing to fund a building. The organization gave half the money promised and the building was begun. After ascertaining that the money was being spent correctly they gave the other half and a five-classroom school building was born.
During the early days, Actionnel attended seminary in Limbé and was ordained as a minister. From left over school building materials, they built a small cinder block church. Many souls have been saved. One of those souls was Actionnel's own father. A new and much larger church building was erected and completed in 2001-2003. Major support was provided by First Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, SMPC and First Baptist Church of Huntersville. It is also used for some education classes during the week and for community meetings.
They still are using the small school building, but the mission continues to grow. The student body was 1,911 for the 2010-2011 school year (end of May), with 1,202 in three kindergarten sections plus grades 1-6. High school enrollment was 709. In addition, the Professional Women’s School has some adults enrolled and there is an Adult School with a number of people enrolled (for those who were unable to go to school before). The K-13 school has over 50 teachers and 10 other school staff. During the 1st 10 years SMPC started and maintained a sponsorship program and funded a multipurpose building with 4 bedrooms, two bathrooms, kitchen, dining area and a large classroom. The building is used for retreats, visiting mission groups, and a computer lab. The sponsoring program spread to two other churches. World of God, a Charlotte 501(c)(3), is now the centralized sponsoring program for OFCB.
Two churches in Gastonia and Boone provided a large electrical generator in 2002 since there was no power within miles of the Bayonnais Christian School and mission. Then funding allowed Engineers Without Borders to add a solar power system to keep electricity costs low. EWB also assisted OFCB and the community with building a river bridge nearby. In August, 2003, the new church was completed thanks to First Presbyterian – Charlotte. With financial help from a friend of OFCB. Internet via satellite was added in mid-2006. First Presbyterian - Charlotte helped renovate the old church into a 24 station language laboratory in late 2007. Seven new double-sized classrooms were finished in 2007 through support from several churches, and the 2nd floor was finished in 2009 with help from many churches.
Long range plan for a medical clinic
In 1999, OFCB dared to plan to bring medical treatment to Bayonnais. They sent a promising young man to medical school and bought a piece of land. That long range plan will come to fruition in a year at the end of his medical education. Various planning meetings in Haiti and the U.S. and market research in Haiti for ideas have been completed. Designs and cost estimates for buildings and systems proceeded with cooperation between two chapters of Engineers Without Borders, OFCB and the Friends of OFCB in the U.S. In May, construction of Phase 1 of the clinic started. On Septermber 3 the roof was completed, which will later hold solar power panels. Funds are being raised to complete the electrical/power & waste water systems and upfit the medical offices & pharmacy. With the 1st doctor’s arrival May, 2012. the clinic will give medical help which is now only available some 17 miles away across mountain terrain.
The quality of the school can be judged from the substantially above average performance of students in the mandatory national exams at the end of 6th, 9th, 12th and 13th grades. In 2003, all nine of the first graduating class were sent off to Haitian colleges. One of them will be the second doctor. Others will be agronomists, high school teachers, etc. In 2004, a local bank was started, and a micro-credit loan facility began to help capital-poor individual businesses grow. The bank and loan program have helped people start or improve small business and stimulate the economy.
Ten students from the 2005 high school graduating class joined those in college. A few others have started college since then, as support has been available. Career intentions of these people include teaching kindergarten, high school science subjects, language, dentistry, nursing, lab technician and minister. The college students began to graduate and return to OFCB in 2008. The first was Amilor Fils-Aime, the 2nd pastor. Then Edith Saint-Louis and Venette Merilus arrived, ready to revolutionize the preschool/kindergarten, the foundation of the whole school. Two agronomists, the first nurse and others also finished their studies. The reinforcement of teaching, preaching and management, plus the return of two doctors, a dentist and four more nurses over the next few years will bring great strength to OFCB’s organization, church, school and the planned medical clinic.
And so, the Lord's work continues at Bayonnais, giving children and their families hope through education, food for the nourishment of their physical bodies (one meal per school day when available), and preaching /teaching of God's Word.
The Future The future can be a greatly enlarged version of the past, bringing hope in an area of 80,000 neglected people, This future would include reaching more children with education, expanding college enrollment, trade school courses, a clinic for real medical treatment for the people, a growing economy (up from a subsistence agrarian economy now) and a growing presence of the church in the valleys and mountains of Bayonnais.
To have this happen will require substantial support beyond what can be raised just by those who have helped so far. There are many opportunities: prayer support, financial support for the school and the college students, technical help (computer/Internet education, farming improvements), visitors to cheer them on and help with short term projects, founding of businesses that can use the increasing pool of educated young people and many other possibilities. Perhaps you can be involved and help! The clinic alone is a big undertaking for construction, equipping and payroll.
Earthquake January 12, 2010 The terrible events in the parts of Haiti most severely damaged have been well publicized. Two OFCB college students died in the earthquake. The fears of more of the same in the capital or other parts of Haiti made everyone fearful. The afflictions spread all over Haiti since the government encouraged anyone who would return to their original home areas to do so in free government transport. Well over 600,000 people departed the capital area, arriving elsewhere with few possessions to move in with already poor and crowded friends and relatives. This happened in cities like Gonaives and in mountains areas like Bayonnais. It was the poor & fragile accepting the even worse off PAP folks – many, many strains on housing, food, schools, etc. This brought BIG additional challenges to OFCB, which responded with aid and food for work programs with support from the U.S. and received 59 new students into the school.
Cholera November 2010-present Another terrible event forced OFCB to open a cholera clinic in November with borrowed tents, a makeshift building, its first nurse and a doctor and 4 nurses in training and funds from the U.S, They started a mass education program about how to avoid contracting cholera. The clinic operated night and day through January, then closed. The doctor and other 4 nurses went back to continue their education. Then another (smaller) wave occurred. Medical and nursing students came back as they could. When that ended, the clinic wound down. By July 29, they had treated 1,333 cholera patients and only 14 had died. The first nurse continued on with a small clinic, primarily for the school children. Unfortunately, since then cholera cases have been up and down but decreasing over time.
Haiti: Actionnel Fleurisma, OFCB Ministries firstname.lastname@example.org from US 011 509 3857-2262
U.S. Contacts: Doug Wilson (Charlotte, NC) 704 364-5059 email@example.com
David Nichols (Matthews, NC) 704 847-3059 firstname.lastname@example.org updated: 11/06/11
OFCB Latitude/Longitude: 19 24’ 43.21”N 72 31’ 00.68”W Haiti, independent from France in 1804, now has 10 million people living in an area the size of Maryland, but with many mountains. Economy: Per capita GDP is $1,800, average annual income is $400 and in Bayonnais perhaps $100-200, very, very poor!
BLOG & VIDEOS FROM BAYONNAIS (Peter B. Daniel) http://peterbdaniel.wordpress.com/
Click here to see the inside the inside of the new church building (40' X 90').
Click here to see a PDF presentation of the new two story classroom building that was completed in 2008. Be sure to click the arrow in your PDF viewer for more pictures of the new school including some with the students entering. This is a rather large file so please be aware of that as you both download and view it.
If your time is short, click here for just one picture. Whereas, the above link shows several pictures.