The second of 11 children born to Lamareste Francois Fleurisma and Orelia Saint-Louis, in Bayonnais, Haiti, Actionnel Fleurisma has been driven to transform his landscape since attending Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) from 1990-1992.
The Early Years
He grew up in the valley of Bayonnais, a region of Haiti surrounded by mountains, stricken by poverty and renowned for the practice of voodoo – a religion that didn’t leave much time for education. As a result, Actionnel didn’t attend primary school until the age of 12 when he entered kindergarten. In school at Eben-Ezer des Gonaives, a mission and orphanage in Haiti, Actionnel flourished. It was there that he first met Helen Hunter, a Charlottean and missionary with Calvary Church (Charlotte, NC), who would make it possible for him to attend CPCC.
A Haitian Son and His Second (American) Family
With each return visit to Haiti for mission work, Helen and her husband, Ernest, watched with pride as their new Haitian friend progressed through each level of his education. To ensure he didn’t slip through the cracks, they decided to sponsor Actionnel and help finance his education from the 10th through 13th grade. Thanks to their help, Actionnel was able to graduate high school. He was 26 years old. While most Haitian’s educational journeys would end here, Actionnel’s continued on. The Hunters graciously offered to finance his education at CPCC in Charlotte, while also offering him room and board. For Actionnel, the offer was too good to be true. Says Actionnel, “The Hunters have done great things for my life. Their actions have taught me everyday what love is all about.”
The CPCC Experience
Actionnel arrived at CPCC in 1990. He found community in the college’s Baptist Campus Ministry, which hosted a monthly luncheon for international students where attendees share their experiences with others. He discovered the importance of timeliness and being respectful of others’ time. “My instructors were never late for class or meetings. That has been one of the many things I have taken with me in life,” explains Actionnel. But most importantly, he built a foundation at CPCC that he credits for not only being responsible for starting his life and family, but also the ministry he now oversees as an official Minister of the Gospel and a Legal Pastor for the Christian Church of Bayonnais in Bayonnais, Haiti.
A New Generation
While Actionnel never earned his degree from CPCC (the Hunters had to unfortunately withdraw their sponsorship of Actionnel’s education in 1992 due to financial hardships as a result of the Gulf War), he is quick to point out the importance of his CPCC education to the four children he shares with his wife, Yolande. This may be why his eldest daughter, Ruth, studied for five semesters at CPCC – she is now studying at Queens University of Charlotte – and his second born, Dina, is in her third semester at CPCC. Both daughters are aspiring entrepreneurs and plan to return to Haiti after earning their degrees to open their own business and create employment opportunities in a country where less than 30 percent of the population have a job.
This last point is a source of pride for Actionnel. “Haiti is a country where more than 80 percent of the populace would flee or leave if a Visa from the United States, France, Canada or another wealthy country were granted,” says Actionnel. “But my children are not choosing this path. They plan to return home, to create jobs for Haitians in order to boost the country’s economy and overall health. Their plans not only make me proud as a father, but also build pride for Haiti among our countrymen.”
A Bright Future
Upon reflection, Actionnel can find CPCC within the many personal threads of his life. True, he studied at CPCC; but if he had never lived in Charlotte, he would have never become a charter member of South Mecklenburg Presbyterian Church (SMPC) – the church he attended as a surrogate member of the Hunter Family. (The Hunters transitioned from Calvary to SMPC in the early 90s.) Today, members of the SMPC congregation can routinely be seen in Haiti, ministering to the Bayonnais people as missionaries.
It was also upon returning to Haiti, after leaving CPCC in June 1992, that Actionnel married Yolande. The two have built a beautiful life together that has grown to include four children: Ruth, 21; Dina, 20; Christina, 17; and Valery, 16.
But perhaps where CPCC can be found most in his life is in his daily communication with those he is surrounded by each day. The English as a Second Language (ESL) skills he gained while at CPCC gave him the opportunity to progress from serving as an English teacher, educating 7th through 13th graders, to Headmaster of the Institution Classique de Bayonnais (ICB). While he left this role in 2012 to pursue being a pastor full time, Bayonnais saw great progress under his leadership – the country’s infrastructure improved; a bridge, medical clinic and community bank were built; the school grew from 105 students in 1994, to more than 2,500 students housed at three campuses, and consistently achieved many of the highest scores on the National Exams for 13th grade.
“My going to community college has been a great blessing for thousands of people in the country,” adds Actionnel. “In addition to creating communities that include new roads and bridges, my work has helped send hundreds of students to college in the capital to become nurses, engineers, teachers, dentists and more, all committed to returning to Bayonnais to serve its people through their skills.”
So to say that Actionnel has led a life fulfilled is an understatement. He continues to minister, teach and guide, transforming his landscape and the lives of others in the process. Needless to say, CPCC is proud to have him as a member of its distinguished alumni.