Thirty years ago, the vision for IDADEE came to a young man in an orphanage.
Twelve years old and unable to afford the cost of continuing his education, Remy Fils-Aime approached the pastor at EBAC (a children’s home in Haiti) about what to do to in order to have access to education.
When Pastor Cebien Elexis read his handwritten letter and saw the determination on young Remy’s face, he made space for him at EBAC. (A common misnomer in Haiti is that all “orphanages” are for children who have lost both parents. While this can be the case, orphanages are also homes for children who have been severely abused, neglected, or cast out from their families. It is a rare case that someone who has a family and has not been neglected has been allowed in. Remy, as his life has shown, was the rare case.)
Over his first few years at EBAC, he began to have a vision: that the young outcasts he was surrounded by would be leaders in Cap-Haitien, and that they would have their own orphanage on top of a nearby hill. This orphanage would have a school and a medical clinic that would be staffed by the children who grew up at EBAC. He shared this vision with his peers, and as they grew up, they believed that it would happen.
After graduating, Remy moved a six-hour drive away to the capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince. He knew that in order for this dream to come to fruition, they would need doctors and business leaders, teachers and pastors, so he started an air conditioning business that would allow him to help fund and sustain the lives of children: specifically those who qualified to go to college.
One day, with Remy away, a group of teenagers pulled a visitor aside and shared the vision with him.
Pastor Brad Henderson–chaplain of the Pittsburgh Pirates–had been taking groups of 17-18 year-olds to Haiti for a decade. Most of the trips were centered around serving at EBAC, and he had known most of these children from the first year they arrived.
“I was inspired by their passion and focus,” Brad said. “I felt called to join them in their vision.”
Brad returned home motivated to do his part in helping these young visionaries reach their goal. It was a long journey with many conversations, but he was able to raise the initial capital to get the dream started.
It began with acquiring the land. Acreage set on a beautiful, lush hillside with views from the bay all the way to the Citadel in the distance.
With the property acquired, a pile of rocks was placed to symbolize where the orphanage would one day stand.
“When I would come into town, we’d visit the site and the pile of rocks,” Brad said. “We’d talk about the vision, and pray that God would send us one child and give us the opportunity to build one floor of an orphanage.”
In 2009, six months before the earthquake, Pastor Brad had secured enough funding to begin construction of that first floor of the orphanage.
On January 12th, 2010 a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti. The epicenter was 13 miles west of Port-au-Prince. The world watched as the devastation was played out on television and across the internet. Between 100,000-200,000 people perished–the numbers vary widely–and 250,000 residences and 30,000 office buildings were destroyed.
Everyone within Brad’s circle responded with support—most moral and many financial. Baseball players from the Pittsburgh Pirates–Paul Maholm and Zach Duke–had already helped fund the operation, and many more joined in to help.
What was planned to be a one-story building was now two stories, able to house 50, 60, or 70 children in need. A school for Pre-K and Kindergarten opened along with a school for students from 1st-8th grades, and a church. A tragedy helped fuel a dream that today also includes a hospital and emergency room (Funded by BLI President Adam Wainwright and his wife Jenny), has built 500 local latrines, and provides clean drinking water for the children and 5,000 people in the local region.
Currently, IDADEE is building a vocational school for those in the Cap-Haitien community who are mechanically inclined. The school will provide training for electricians, plumbers, and mechanics, and will take advantage of a new 30 acre sustainable agriculture and dairy farm donated by former Big Leaguer Lance Berkman and his wife Cara.
The dreams of these orphans are being realized by a community, and that community is transforming the hillside of Cap-Haitien.
“Everything we build is for the children here,” said Remy Fils-Aime. “They will one day be leaders in their communities.”
If you want to support IDADEE, you can support the hospital build right here at Big League Impact–in 2018 BLI raised enough funds for one month of operational costs of CHIDA—the Central Hospitalier IDADEE. You can contribute directly to the 2019 campaign for CHIDA here.