The Ecole Philadelphia de Mirebalais was opened in January 2010 soon after the devastating earthquake that hit Port-au-Prince. Under the direction of Pastor Emmanier Joseph, the school provides primary education to the poorest children of the Bayas area east of Mirebalais, which is on the central plateau of Haiti. The school is fully donor-supported, as the parents of our children do not have the resources to send their children to school. Education is currently provided to 250 students ranging from pre-school through ninth grade.
The school originally opened using large surplus army tents. For the first 15 months of operation, classes were taught by volunteer teachers, with students ranging in age from 3 to 10 years old. Thanks to the generosity of many donors, the teachers now receive a regular salary. A permanent three-room school building was constructed in 2012 with one administrative office, sleeping quarters for the teachers who commute from Port-au-Prince, and one large classroom. In 2013, weather destroyed the last of the tents, and a wooden structure known as the "hangar" was constructed to house grades 1 through 6. We have since added 7th - 9th grades, but the lack of space has been problematic. In addition, the hangar is suffering from wear and tear due to the difficult climate.
In January 2017, construction was undertaken on the Douglas Day Computer Lab. Bethel Ministries in Warrenton, Virginia donated 10 laptops and a server on which a variety of educational tools reside. These tools are accessed by browser from the laptops, making the tools available to multiple students at once. The lab is solar-powered thanks to a grant from the Rotary Club of Montgomery County, the Rotary Club of Blacksburg, and the Rotary Club of Christiansburg-Blacksburg. In January of 2019, the lab was expanded to fourteen computers.
In 2018, the school purchased a fish farm a few kilometers away. The objective of the farm purchase is to provide an ongoing source of funds so that we can reduce and eventually eliminate the need for donor support. Due to a lack of funds, the farm was idle for almost a year, with the first fish being released into the basins in early 2020. The farm is now in production mode, and as the fish reproduce, fry - known as "alvins" in Haitian Creole - are moved to other basins where they can be fed appropriate food and protected from potential cannibalization by larger fish. The first harvest for sale will take place in April of 2021. Initial cash flow will be reinvested in populating and feeding additional basins, of which there are seven on the farm. Fish food is expensive and in short supply, and special donations for this purpose are welcome.
Through student sponsorships, teachers have been paid a salary consistent with the local area starting with the 2011-12 school year. Interested parties can donate in two ways: by sponsoring a student (or any number of students) or by donating to the building fund. Donations are passed through Blacksburg United Methodist Church in Virginia and are sent directly to the school administrators, making them fully tax deductible.