Perrysburg teacher travels to Haiti to help set up computer equipment


PERRYSBURG – Fort Meigs second-grade teacher Joe Sarnes never planned to go to Haiti, but a dinner to
thank Perrysburg residents who have helped get the Brad Reddick School started in the remote village of
Savanette convinced him he had the skills that were needed.
Missions International of America (MIA), a non-profit started by Perrysburg residents Dr. Jay Nielson and
his wife Dr. Jan Meier-Nielson, has already accomplished such projects as digging a well, building the
nine-room school, and obtaining a bakery oven so the children and staff can be fed each day. Most
recently they received a donation of solar panels, which a group of students from Clemson University
have offered to hook up. These panels will replace diesel generators that are now being used for
MIA has also received the donation of some computers and that is where Sarnes’ special skills come in.
The non-profit needs someone to help set up the equipment and train the teachers at the school how to
use it.
Why did he volunteer for a trip that he ruefully describes as "a bit of a stretch for me"?
"Part of the reason I volunteered is that my faith is very important to me," Sarnes explained,
"but I also thought teaching Sunday school was as much of a mission as I needed. Sitting at the
dinner that night I had not planned to go. However, the more I talked to Dr. Nielson and saw how excited
he was to have someone with computer knowledge and who could do the training, I thought, I can do
Sarnes left will for Haiti on Thursday, and will return Nov. 20. He said he will help in any way he can.

"We want to open up their world a little more," noted the teacher. "We want to get the
computers up and working. We are also hoping to get the government to give them a satellite dish so they
can be hooked up to the Internet and have long distance learning. We could eventually have links from
our schools to theirs. That’s exciting."
He has been told "flexibility" is what will be asked of him the most. Dr. Nielson has explained
that each time they make a trip to Haiti they go expecting to accomplish certain things and inevitably
it turns out different than what was envisioned.
Fort Meigs Elementary got involved with the Brad Reddick School, named for the late husband of Health Aid
Debbie Reddick, two years ago when teachers were looking for a service project. Since that time other
buildings, such as the high school and Woodland Elementary School, have helped with supplies, sports
equipment, books and more.
Perrysburg teachers, however, were looking to forge a more direct link with the teachers in Haiti. The
Perrysburg Board of Education approved the project; Sarnes, because of his knowledge of computers, how
he has put them to use in his classroom and his experience training others, was chosen to be the first
teacher to go.
In the spring another teacher will be selected to travel to Haiti.
Sarnes called it "humbling and quite an honor to be the first teacher to go."
He hopes to use his trip as an opportunity to teach his students about other cultures. Already he is
working it into his lesson plans, teaching map skills and making comparisons between Perrysburg and
"I don’t really know what knowledge I will bring back for them, but I’m sure it will be
interesting," he predicted.
Sarnes said he hopes Perrysburg will continue to support the Brad Reddick School and the children who
attend in a variety of ways.
"What we do as a community has a huge effect down there. I would like to foster more of that,"
he stated.

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