Tag Archives: empowerment

Why Lending To Women is a Smart Investment

Pignon is neat and clean with a population of around 48,000.  The paved and walkable streets, along with the laid back vibe of the place were a nice reprieve from the noise and chaos of Port-au-Prince, where we live.

Pignon, Credit ACLAM__27

Isidor Jean-Pierre was giving us a walking tour of the city.  He is the World Concern Regional Coordinator in Pignon, central Haiti and earlier this week was our first visit to the office there.

We passed the city’s plaza, which has a small stage and sitting area, where Isidor explained they sometimes have concerts.  “Visiting church groups from other places in Haiti have played there before,” he said.

Soon we stopped at a brightly painted concrete building.  Here Isidor introduced us to Emilienne, a 35-year-old mother of four, who runs a business selling a variety of products like beverages, ketchup, and some food staples like beans.  “Rice and soap are the most popular,” she said, pointing to the boxes of soap sitting at the front of her shop to attract customers.

Pignon, Credit ACLAM__15

Since 1998 World Concern has been serving small business owners in Pignon by providing loans and training.  The loans, taken individually or as a group, give people access to much needed capital to purchase products or other inputs and grow their business.

Emilienne received her first individual loan from World Concern in 2011 and is now on her second.  Although she has had this business for some time, the loans have allowed her to purchase different products and expand her stock.

Pignon, Credit ACLAM__20“I buy the products in Hinche and Port-au-Prince mostly and a truck brings them here,” Emilienne explained.

Her shop is not the only one like it in Pignon.  There are many other shops or stands—some smaller, some bigger—selling similar products.  One of the challenges small business owners in Haiti like Emilienne face is how to stand out from the rest.  So I asked her how she competes.

“There is a shop over there,” she said, pointing.  “Some of my products are 10 gourdes cheaper.”  She answered quickly and confidently.  This was a woman who knew what she was doing.

Around midday we went back to the two room office where the four World Concern staff in Pignon work, and drank Cokes with Isidor.  I was thankful for a break from the heat.

Pignon, Credit ACLAM__33

Our Pignon colleagues–Isidor is the really tall gentleman in the middle

Martha asked Isidor why so many of the microcredit clients in Pignon are women.  “If you lend money to the women, you know she will invest it in her own household,” he said.

His answer was profound yet not foreign.  It is one we have heard from a number of our colleagues around the country.  Empowering women often impacts not only the woman but also her family and community.  

The World Bank published a series of studies, including “Engendering Development” and “Gender Equality as Smart Economics,” where they show that women and girls reinvest an average of 90 percent of their income in their families, compared to a 30 to 40 percent reinvestment rate for men.  With a simple loan and basic business training, women like Emilienne are given the resources needed to succeed.

I need you to step inside Emilienne’s cultural context for a moment.  When I say succeed, don’t picture her buying a large house or a new car.  By succeed, I mean that she has consistent income and thus is able to continually provide food, clothing, shelter, and education to her immediate family and maybe even others around her.   Definitely something to congratulate her for.

Emilienne and her youngest child

Emilienne with her youngest child

A Vet Clinic to Remember a Giant

A group shot at the end of the day of everyone who participated in the vet clinic.

A group shot at the end of the day of everyone who participated in the vet clinic.

There are some people who seem larger than life itself.  Somehow these special individuals are able to fit more into one lifetime than many of us could in several.  Sometimes it’s their zeal for life or pure genius or professional accomplishments.  For Dr. Keith Flanagan, who was known as “Dr. Keith” to many, it was the way he tirelessly spent himself for others over the course of his 26 years of service in Haiti.

I never had the opportunity to meet Dr. Keith.  He passed away suddenly a year ago when Martha and I were new to Haiti and still meeting people.  I wish I had.  However we have had the joy of getting to know his wife Jan who is still in Haiti and attends our church.

Dr. Keith served in Haiti with Christian Veterinary Mission (CVM) which is a sister organization to World Concern.  CVM sends out veterinary professionals to serve in the U.S. and beyond.  Dr. Keith was a vet and was involved in everything from helping the government do vaccination campaigns to training folks in rural areas to become vet agents.

Hold on!  Cows don't like shots either.

Hold on! Cows don’t like shots either.

This past week marked the one year anniversary since Dr. Keith’s death.  To celebrate his life, a vet clinic was organized by the other CVM missionaries in Haiti and Haitian friends who were impacted by him.  Martha and I had the opportunity to travel with the group and document what we saw through photo, video, and interviews so Dr. Keith’s family and the CVM family could remember this special day.

Our good friend and CVM missionary, Rhoda, also participated in the vet clinic.  Here, she and Martha stop for a photo.

Our good friend and CVM missionary, Rhoda, also participated in the vet clinic. Here, she and Martha stop for a photo.

People in the village of Cabaye, one of the three villages part of the vet clinic, gather with their animals.

People in the village of Cabaye, one of the three villages part of the vet clinic, gather with their animals.

The clinic was held in three villages surrounding the town of La Chapelle, a three hour drive from Port-au-Prince.  This was an area that Dr. Keith invested in heavily during his ministry in Haiti.  Around 40 people, many of them community vet agents who were trained by Dr. Keith, came and volunteered their time for the day.  Three groups were formed (one for each village) and a cooler with vaccines and other medicines was given to each group.

Vaccines and medicines iced and ready to go.

Vaccines and medicines iced and ready to go.

Driving from La Chapelle to Cabaye.

Driving from La Chapelle to Cabaye.

We went out with one of the three groups and met all kinds of people who knew Dr. Keith.  One elderly man we met named Julien is a vet agent and was trained by Dr. Keith in 1990.  He remembered three separate trainings, each nine days long, that Dr. Keith gave on taking care of pigs, cattle and horses.  Julien still earns an income from his work as a vet agent, giving vaccines and doing castrations.

julien with animals1

It was really surreal to run into this man named Julien in a tiny village in rural Haiti and hear him say that because of Dr. Keith’s investment in him over 20 years ago, he’s still able to care for his animals and provide for his family by taking care of others’.  After speaking to a number of people like Julien throughout the day, it was clear that Dr. Keith had a significant impact on many people’s lives.

Wiltherne, a godchild of Dr. Keith and vet agent, doing great work!

Wiltherne, a vet agent trained by Dr. Keith, doing great work!

Dr. Keith was obviously a skilled veterinarian and a true professional.  It’s also obvious that he took genuine interest in people and sincerely loved them like Jesus would, whatever their story or background.  Both his skill and heart for others made him an effective vessel for Christ in Haiti for many years.

A time of reflection and sharing after lunch.

A time of reflection and sharing after lunch.

Here’s a short overview video Martha made of our day in La Chapelle.

 

The value of supporting local efforts

Marseille (left) and Jean (right) discuss with the other members in the background.

Marseille (left) and Jean (right) chat.  The other members are in the background.

In Haiti I am learning how crucial it is to work through existing channels, whether government or non-government partners, when implementing a project.  The sad reality is that in Haiti some (not all) projects fail to achieve the long term impact envisioned at the beginning.  This happens for a variety of reasons however one is that organizations and ministries often do not put the effort into understanding what channels or systems or initiatives already exist within a given community and then working through and alongside them.

Since Haiti is impoverished it may be tempting to assume that functioning channels do not exist but this just isn’t true!

One example is a local organization in the village of Lavaneau in south east Haiti.

I first visited Lavaneau in June 2012 on our initial trip to Haiti with World Concern before moving here permanently.  The community’s irrigation canal had been destroyed during hurricanes in 2008 and they were left to rely on rainfall for all their water needs.  World Concern offered materials and technical support but the organization was responsible for the construction and management of the canal that brought water down from the source and for four newly built water fountains.

canal_lavaneau1

A couple weeks ago Martha and I had the opportunity to return to Lavaneau and were pleased to see the irrigation canal and four water fountains still serving the community.  But I was more pleased to see the quality of this local organization which World Concern worked with on the project and how they are still active, with no plans to slow down.

The organization is headed by a man named Jean Metelus.  He commands respect but is not intimidating.  When we arrived on this particular day he and other members of the organization, including the secretary, greeted us.

As we reached the canal and began chatting, Jean instructed the secretary to take notes of our meeting.

Organization members share about the project and their work.

Organization members share about the project and their work.

“The organization will celebrate its 23rd year of existence in 2014,” Jean shared.

Continuing he said, “Our organization has farmers, engineers, teachers, masons, pastors.  We work on projects in agriculture, small business, buildings.”

What tremendous human capital!  It was encouraging to hear the organization speak of the skills and resources that exist in the community and it was particularly impressive that these have been so clearly identified.  Although each community possesses certain strengths and resources, not all know exactly what those are and who has them within the community.

In addition to constructing a new irrigation canal that is 92 meters in length and four water points, the organization established a system for collecting fees which are used to help maintain this infrastructure and fund other projects in the community.

Farmers pay a small annual fee and in return can have access to two hours of water a week.  The water is disbursed by small gates that are built into the canal.  When a gate is lifted, water flows from the canal into the farmer’s field.  When we visited, some of the gates were not working properly but the organization says they plan to fix them.

The water collected at the four water points is free however a family can pay a fee of almost $2 a month if they want water piped directly to their home.

Girls collect water at one of the four water fountains

Girls collect water at one of the four water fountains

One thing that caught my eye was how clean the canal was.  I saw very little leaves or rubbish in the canal.  In Haiti canals are often used as dumping grounds.  I asked one community member about the cleanliness and he responded, “People are responsible for cleaning the section of canal in front of their house.”  This is an example of the far reaching impact this organization has had in the community.

When we were leaving Lavaneau I asked Marseille, World Concern’s project coordinator in south east Haiti, what it was about this organization that made it work.

“The strength of this organization is its history and that its members equally represent all 18 localites [small villages] within Lavaneau,” he said.  “Everyone in Lavaneau has a say.”

What do you think the outcome of this project would have been if World Concern came to Lavaneau and began work how they saw fit without consulting and working through this local organization?  At best the physical work would have been completed and may have lasted for a couple years before deteriorating.  At worst the project could have completely flopped early on leaving the community disempowered, disenchanted and still without consistent access to potable water.

I am not so naïve to believe that this local organization in Lavaneau is without flaw or that World Concern always does things well.  However I will say that World Concern in Haiti does understand the importance of community based action and the need for working through and supporting existing channels and Lavaneau is an example of this.

As we were preparing to leave Lavaneau one representative from the organization asked, “What do you think of our work?”

“It is good.  It is very good,” I said.

Driving through Lavaneau

Driving through Lavaneau

Finding community

One of the first things I noticed about the World Concern staff in Haiti is the sense of community that is felt in the office. Whether praying together, sharing a meal, or just joking around, the staff here are close. It has been a joy to witness this so far and we’ve felt welcomed into the ‘family’ here.
Assimilating (or attempting to) into a new culture always has its’ challenges. I remember even when Martha and I first moved to Seattle almost three years ago now, how different things were from other places I had lived in the States. As I eventually learned, people in Seattle do not prefer to honk while driving, use umbrellas, or drink ‘corporate’ coffee. Who would’ve known?! You don’t expect to have to go through a period of adjustment when moving to a new city in your own country but it happens. Anyway one good thing about figuring out a new place is that you get to observe and just take everything in. It has been during this ‘observation phase’ that I’ve noticed the closeness of the staff here, which is a great thing.

Martha and I got to see more of this last week when we took part in a special luncheon for about fifteen of our health staff.

Since 2009 World Concern, working with local and other NGO partners, has had the opportunity to serve people living with HIV/AIDS in the Port-au-Prince area. In Haiti, if you have HIV/AIDS you face significant stigmatization and discrimination. This population is marginalized. While area hospitals are able to provide medicines and other clinical services to people living with HIV/AIDS, there are often limited resources available to meet their non-clinical needs. This is the gap that this project filled. At seven different centers throughout the city, thousands of people including children who live with HIV/AIDS received psycho-social support through the project. This happened through support groups where people are able to discuss their challenges, vocational training, HIV/AIDS education, assistance with school fees, and creative programs for kids. These activities help give people self-confidence, provide them with tangible skills so they can earn an income, and help them see that they are valued and important.

This luncheon was a time for the staff to just be together and reflect on the project. An especially meaningful moment was when everyone took turns going around the table and saying a thank you or encouraging word to each person. I am still far from fluent in Creole but I felt like I didn’t have to know exactly what was being said. In the air was a sense of belonging and togetherness that was so refreshing. As I was taking everything in and trying to follow the conversation, I thought of the sense of community I have felt among the staff so far and how this luncheon was definitely a highlight in that regard.

CHAMP Lunch1

Once each person had shared and we had finished a delicious lunch, everyone gathered around to end in prayer. Myself and two others were asked to pray. I’ve found this to be a funny experience to be asked to pray in a group, mainly because of the language. It’s really an honor to be asked to pray I think, especially at a special event like this but I always get nervous. Do I struggle through a prayer in Creole and sound like a 8 year old or pray in English even though only three people in the room can understand me? This time I decided to give it a try in Creole. Thankfully out of the three I was the last to go which gave me plenty of time to search my brain for all the ‘Christianese’ words I know in Creole and craft my prayer. Eventually it was my turn and although I still felt a little intimated, I went for it. To my surprise, I made it all the way through without stuttering or having or a complete brain fart! Learning how to get out of your comfort zone and just try things even if you look or sound ridiculous is a good skill to have in Haiti I’m learning.

This past week I was reminded that there is great community here within World Concern and I’m thankful to be a part of it.

CHAMP Lunch12

CHAMP Lunch3

Exploring microcredit in Haiti

In Haiti, formal jobs are few and far between.  Formal jobs have set wages and normal working hours.  These are the types of jobs that many people outside of Haiti are blessed enough to have.

The UN Special Envoy for Haiti has estimated that no more than 10 percent of jobs are generated in the formal economy; meaning that the majority of Haitians earn their livelihood by operating some kind of small income generating activity.  Haitians are very entrepreneurial and industrious.  However being proactive can only take you so far.  Many people lack opportunity and the ability to access credit.  The financial system is not designed to benefit the poor.  This is why microcredit is an important development tool in Haiti.  Providing people at the bottom of the economic ladder with a small loan and quality training can give them opportunity and access to important resources.

Since 1990, World Concern has been using microcredit in Haiti to support small business owners.  Martha and I have witnessed the positive impact microcredit can have on the lives of people in Haiti.  I have really enjoyed becoming more familiar with our microcredit program in Haiti and speaking with both staff and clients that we serve.  I recently wrote a three part blog series about microcredit in Haiti for the World Concern blog.  Below you will find links to each of the three posts.  I encourage you to check it out!

Microcredit in Haiti Part 1 – How microcredit can create opportunity

Microcredit in Haiti Part 2 – How microcredit works (‘the nuts & bolts’)

Microcredit in Haiti Part 3 – How our program is unique

International Women’s Day – Celebrating Women in Haiti

Today is International Women’s Day 2013!  This global day is all about celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future.  This year’s theme is “Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum.”

Gender equality is crucial to the ability of families, communities, and societies to thrive.  Unfortunately many women globally, as well as in Haiti, face an uphill battle regarding equality.  At World Concern, we agree with Justine Greening, the U.K. Secretary of State for International Development when she said,

“Locking out women isn’t just bad for an economy, it’s bad for a society.  It seems common sense, but it’s still happening.”

Women and girls need to be protected, included, and empowered.  

We are excited to do our little part in celebrating this day by introducing you to some exceptional women World Concern has had the opportunity to meet and walk alongside in Haiti.  

 

Meet Lizette
35 years old
Mother of two
World Concern Microcredit Client & cook extraordinaire
“The loan allows me to buy more product and grow my business.”
Way to go Lizette!

Lizette10

Lizette11

Lizette12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet Emmanuela
20 years old
Comes from a family of farmers
Intern at World Concern’s agricultural training center & future community educator
“I will be able to teach the farmers so we can move forward as a country.”
Now that is a woman with a vision.

Emanuela14

Emanuela13

Emanuela11

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet Bellia
Mother of two
Small business owner since 1997 selling clothing and accessories
World Concern Microcredit Client & savvy entrepreneur
How does she remain competitive?   “With my wisdom.  I smile and offer a good price.”  With a smile like this, how can she go wrong?

Bellia10

Bellia11

 

Thanks for your partnership in supporting women in Haiti!  I encourage you to visit the International Women’s Day website to learn more.  One way you can get involved with World Concern in this area (if you are a lady!) is to become a part of our Women of Purpose program.  This is a great way to learn about issues women face globally and to join us as we serve them in the places we work.

 

International Day of the Girl – Inspiration from two Women in Haiti

Today is the International Day of the Girl!  As I browse through forums, articles, and videos from people around the world that are passionate about the situation of girls, I feel it is both sobering and exciting.

Sobering to think of the magnitude of the challenges these girls are facing—illiteracy, school dropout, forced marriage, HIV and gender-based violence continue to dramatically affect girls’ lives around the world.  By 2015, females will make up 64% of the world’s (adult) population who cannot read (Education for All Global Monitoring Report in 2011).  On the other hand, an extra year of primary school boosts girls’ eventual wages by 10 to 20 percent and an extra year of secondary school: 15 to 25 percent. (George Psacharopoulos and Harry Anthony Patrinos, “Returns to Investment in Education: A Further Update,” Policy Research Working Paper 2881[Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2002].)  There are solutions, but things are not going to change on their own.  We cannot be passive about this.  We have to invest in girls and women.

I read an article about The Girl Effect and they ask, “How do you start with a girl and end up with a better world?”  This is where the excitement comes in.  I am excited that people are asking these types of questions.  I am excited to see proof of the difference education can make in a girl’s life.  I am excited to have a part in empowering more girls like Kethia, who Austin shared about yesterday, to have access to life-changing education.  I am excited when I think of our time in Haiti and the women and girls we met there.

I met women like Rolande, who had received a micro-loan that enabled her to start and grow her small business.  She joyfully served us dinner from her little restaurant by the ocean.  But not only did she have a business, she had a means to send her little girl to school.

Rolande fixing dinner

I met women like Marie, who had overcome the loss of her husband, was raising 4 boys on her own, and was living a vibrant life despite being HIV positive.  Since receiving help and training from World Concern four years ago, she has joined World Cocnern to help train others who are HIV positive as well.

Marie telling us her story

These two women are an inspiring example of resilience and courage.  Through their stories, we see hope.  When given access to the resources they needed, they did not hesitate to make the most of it and they did not hesitate to invest back into those around them.  When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90 per- cent of it into their families, as compared to only 30 to 40 percent for a man. (Chris Fortson, “Women’s Rights Vital for Developing World,” Yale News Daily 2003.)

The sobering and exciting paradox is what can drive us to action.  I think about these women, that they were once girls, and how World Concern is working to provide opportunity and resources to girls and women.  We can look at young girls and see future Rolande’s and Marie’s—women who have overcome challenges and stepped beyond their current norms in the developing world.  I am eager we have the opportunity to serve in Haiti, invest in girls, and continue to share their stories of hope with you.

Day of the Girl – education & empowerment

October 11 2012 is an important day. It marks the first annual International Day of the Girl. Martha and I want to use this day as an opportunity to advocate for girls in Haiti and celebrate the successes that we are seeing in Haiti with our organization, World Concern.

It is becoming clear globally as well as in Haiti, that empowering girls and providing them with resources to succeed is vital in the long term development of communities and the country as a whole.

Nobel laureate Amartya Sen recently said, “Countries that have expanded opportunities for women and girls in education and work in recent decades have largely achieved greater prosperity and moderated population growth while limiting child mortality and achieving social progress for all…There is an overwhelming need to pay attention to the needs of girls and women.”

As Mr. Sen indicates, increasing opportunities to education for girls is an important way we can work to improve the rights of women and girls. In Haiti specifically, this is a big need. According to the United Nations Human Development Report for 2011, only 22.5% of women in Haiti have at least a secondary education.

This is exactly why World Concern is working towards educating girls in Haiti and providing them with opportunities to succeed. World Concern is an organization that believes children are the hope for the future. As with other program areas, our work in education is focused on meeting the needs of the most vulnerable. This makes me excited and is one reason (of many) that I am pleased to be a part of this organization!

Kethia showing off her big smile

In June I had the opportunity to meet Kethia.  This young girl had a calm demeanor but her smile radiated a lot of energy and joy.  She is a sixth grader and a part of World Concern’s Hope to Kids program in southern Haiti.  This program provides students in rural Haiti with a goat, which they take home and help raise.  For Kethia, the goat is much more than a pet; it is her future!

“When my goat had kids, I was able to sell the kids to pay for school,” Kethia explained.

Education is empowering Kethia and providing her with the knowledge she needs to have a bright future.

The Hope to Kids program is helping to educate many students like Kethia

If poverty is to be overcome, if communities are to be renewed, and if transformation is to occur, girls must be protected, equipped, and engaged. There is certainly no silver bullet in doing such things. However education is one area that can make a difference in the lives of girls.

 

 

This week, to celebrate the first annual International Day of the Girl, I want to ask you to remember in your prayers Kethia and other girls like her in Haiti.  These are precious young women that like young women everywhere, have dreams of a full and abundant life.  There remain many challenges for girls in Haiti, specifically in regards to opportunities for continued education, however I hope you are encouraged by the small successes we are seeing.

Who said learning couldn’t be fun?!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Martha and I see ourselves as advocates for Haiti.  We care about this place and its’ people deeply.  Our desire is to communicate stories of hope and transformation that give a just and accurate picture of life in Haiti.  There is so much more to this country than what you see on television.  Thank you for your partnership in telling Kethia’s story to people all over the world.  Martha and I are able and willing to serve but we realize nothing could happen without the support of people like you.  If you have not joined our support team and are interested in helping us serve the most vulnerable in Haiti, I would encourage you to consider becoming a monthly partner.  This is an investment that you will not regret!