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Methodist Church of Haiti and UMCOR Rebuild Historic School

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By James L. Gulley*

On September 5, 2016, representatives of the Methodist Church of Haiti (EMH) and of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) celebrated the dedication of a new secondary school building at historic New College Bird (NCB). The new building replaces one of three NCB school buildings that were destroyed by the devastating earthquake of 2010 in Haiti.

NCB, located in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, is today considered the premier Methodist school in Haiti. Enrollment for the 2016 – 2017 academic year, which began in September, is 950 students. When all of the reconstruction is completed, New College Bird will have capacity to serve 1,750 students.

EMH and UMCOR Partnership

Edzaire Paul, director of general education for EMH, recalled the words of former Global Ministries president, Bishop Bruce Ough, to the EMH president, Rev. Gesner Paul, in the early days after the earthquake: “UMCOR may not be the first to arrive in Haiti since the earthquake, but we will be the last to leave.”

Hailing EMH’s partnership with UMCOR, Edzaire Paul continued, “UMCOR engagement to rebuild New College Bird’s destroyed buildings was instrumental at a moment when the [Haitian] people were depressed in the face of so many needs. With UMCOR's help, NCB continues to be a school of reference for Haiti. A Haitian proverb says: “Nou mize nan wout, men nou pote bon nouvel” (“We were a little bit slow in the road, but we brought good news”).

UMCOR has funded the majority of rebuilding costs for New College Bird’s two secondary school buildings and will help fund the replacement of the primary school building with a library. EMH has provided the desks, chairs, and other educational equipment for the new facilities. And, at the dedication ceremony, a representative of the NCB alumni group said former students will help furnish the newly completed classrooms, which will serve grades seven through nine.

Methodism’s Education Legacy in Haiti

In 1816, when a ship's captain gained permission from Alexandre Pétion, the second president of Haiti, for the Wesleyan Mission Society in England to send the first Methodist missionaries to Haiti, no one could have predicted that education would become a central part of Methodism’s legacy in Haiti. That legacy began with the arrival the following year of the first two missionaries, John Brown and James Catts, who briefly ran a school in Port-au-Prince.

New College Bird is named for Methodist missionary Mark Baker Bird, who served in Haiti from 1839 – 1879. Bird consolidated the foundation for the present-day Methodist school system, which educates 18,000 students in 105 primary and 10 secondary schools across the country.

Your gift to UMCOR Sustainable Recovery and Development, Advance #3021951, supports UMCOR’s partnerships with local populations around the world who seek to rebuild their lives following a disaster or other crisis.

*James L. Gulley is the Global Ministries and UMCOR coordinator for Haiti.