By Robert Dilday
Almost exactly two years after a devastating earthquake killed thousands in Haiti, Baptists on the island nation and their international partners dedicated a building housing a school and orphanage for children impacted by the disaster.
The Source of Light complex in the Delmas 19 neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, the capital, was dedicated Jan. 7 with representatives of the Haiti Baptist Convention and three funding partners – the Baptist General Association of Virginia, the Baptist World Alliance and Hungarian Baptist Aid.
“This is a major step for the Haiti Baptist Convention to fulfill one of its dreams and for us to be a part of that has been very meaningful,” said Dean Miller, disaster relief and Virginia missions coordinator for the Virginia Baptist Mission Board. “This reflects the commitment of Virginia Baptist churches to be there, not only after a disaster but also in the long-term.”
The school for about 200 preschool, kindergarten and primary students has begun classes, said Miller, who attended the dedication ceremony. The orphanage, which will house about 50 children, will begin operations in early February.
Ground was broken on the complex, which cost about $1.5 million to construct, in the summer of 2010. The Baptist World Alliance provided the majority of the funds through BWAid, its relief and development arm. The Virginia Baptist Mission Board contributed about $200,000. Construction was supervised by Hungarian Baptist Aid in association with the Haiti Baptist Convention.
“This was the fulfillment of a dream that brought about many years of prayer and planning,” said Paul Montacute, BWAid director. “It took an earthquake to bring all the ideas together.”
About 90 percent of schools in and around Port-au-Prince were severely damaged or destroyed by the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake. Source of Light was constructed on land owned by the Haiti convention in Delmas 19, an economically depressed section of the capital.
During the dedication ceremony, Montacute presented the keys to the building to Eugene Gideon, president of the Haiti convention. Also participating in the event were Bela Szilagyi, director general of Hungarian Baptist Aid, and Jean Gael, deputy mayor of the Delmas City Council.