Pastor Actionnel Fleurisma is working to change conditions in Haiti.
Earlier this month, Fleurisma gave a sermon at South Mecklenburg Presbyterian Church, trying to raise sponsorships for Haitian children to attend the Organization of the Christian Force of Bayonnais School.
Judy Jones, a member of the South Mecklenburg Presbyterian mission team, said the team hopes to get at least 40 new sponsors for Bayonnais students. A commitment of $40 a month helps provide school uniforms, books, supplies, one hot meal a day and a portion of teachers’ salaries.
Fleurisma, a native of Haiti, said he started kindergarten at age 12 and graduated from high school at 26.
While he was a teenager living in poverty and attending a mission school, however, his life took a dramatic turn.
While on a mission trip to Haiti in the 1980s, Helen Hunter, now a member of South Meck Presbyterian, met Fleurisma. At the time, each member of her mission group was approached to sponsor a Haitian child; Hunter became Actionnel’s sponsor.
She and her husband, Ernest, provided for Fleurisma’s education in Haiti, including a year of accounting in Gonaives. Later, they brought him to Charlotte to live with them and attend Central Piedmont Community College.
After completing his studies at CPCC, Fleurisma returned to Haiti, where he and others founded the Bayonnais school. There were 105 students and three teachers at the start, Fleurisma said, and there was no building, so they met under a mango tree.
More than 2,200 students currently attend the school, Fleurisma said.
Now, 22 years later, many students have graduated. Many have become nurses, teachers, engineers, agronomists or doctors, Fleurisma said. Many put their skills to use locally.
Haitians “firmly believe education is the way out of poverty,” Jones said. “They do not want to always be dependent on other people to meet their needs. They want to work and provide for themselves… but they know they need help right now to get there.”
The Haitian Department of Education requires all students in grades six, nine, 12 and 13 pass standardized national exams to move to the next grade or to graduate.
“The OFCB students were in the upper echelon of results on passing these exams, as was reported on national radio stations in 2014. I think that is stunning,” said David Nichols.
Nichols and his wife, Judy, have made numerous mission trips to Bayonnais.
“Certainly in Bayonnais it is becoming obvious that hopelessness and lack of education can be overcome, but it is not easy,” David Nichols said.
Over the past four years, Fleurisma and the other school leaders have put together a multigenerational team for the long term.
“Actionnel and the other founders surely could not have envisioned in 1993 all that has happened with the school, church, clinic… they just went forward on faith,” Nichols said.
June Noe is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for June? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.