Take Aways From Our 4th Financial Literacy Program

Last Sunday, we celebrated our 4th Financial Literacy Graduation. 58 participants graduated which brings our total amount to 700 since we began the program in 2014. This is very exciting! We would like to thank all of the participants for their hard work, the 10 financial literacy trainers that lead this work, and to the Levi Strauss Foundation for the support of this program.

 

IMG_1941

The graduates of the 4th Financial Literacy Program

 

There were 3 items that stood out during this phase that we would like to draw attention to.

  1. 74 participants started the course in January, 58 graduated. That is an 80% completion rate, the highest amount we’ve had since initiating the course. This merits a huge applause to our financial literacy trainers for supporting and continuing to engage the participants along the way.
IMG_1900

  As the graduates accepted their certificates, they took photos with the Financial Literacy Trainers and the Solkomyo team.

2. This year, we introduced a new aspect to the financial literacy program, the community savings bank (CAF). This provides a direct action for participants to take after finishing the program to continue putting into practice what they learn during the course and improve their financial security. Already 50% of the participants have signed up to join a savings group.

This is thanks to the financial literacy trainers whose success of their CAF has been a positive example for the participants. The trainers have cumulatively saved over $800 (equivalent to 8 months’ salary) in just 6 months and continuously take out loans amongst each other to support their other income-generating activities. As one trainer, Frideline put it, “Before I would have lacked money to advance or improve my livelihood, but now with the group, I am never in a position where I lack money because we all support each other.”

  1. We can say it time and time again, but none of this would be possible without the incredible dedication, professionalism, and hard work of the financial literacy trainers. From being participants themselves just 3 years ago, they have grown tremendously over the years and have stepped into huge leadership roles. Their responsibility in improving the financial situation of their communities, Ouanaminthe, and the entire country of Haiti is exemplary and they are fully committed to building the financial resilience of Haitians across the country. This year, we paid the trainers part-time salaries which were well-deserved and validated their hard work, making their involvement and hard work sustainable for the long-term.

Thank you again to the Levi Strauss Foundation for supporting this program. Solkomyo strives to continue providing financial literacy education to textile workers in CODEVI, the Ouanaminthe community, and the entire northeast department of Haiti.

The Leadership We Are Talking About

The time has arrived – our bi-annual meeting with our community entrepreneurs (ACs)! After reflections from recent exchanges with our ACs – from repairing water pumps and providing over 1000 community members access to safe drinking water, to searching for solutions to the outbreak of cholera in the northeast of Haiti, to creating “city of lights” in communities by providing solar energy to hundreds of households  – we realize that our community entrepreneurs are true leaders in their community. It is our duty to cultivate this potential and develop the capacity of our entrepreneurs to understand the priorities of the community and identify appropriate solutions to address them.

IMG_1193

SolKomYo Coordinator, Antonio Vixama, presents the strategy of our CAFs (Self-Financed Community Banks) and how it helps communities strengthen their financial security.

During the bi-annual meeting, we facilitated this process by presenting a tool that will better equip the ACs to learn about their communities, the organizations that exist, and the needs of the community members. As Solkomyo, we do not want to solely enter a community and introduce new initiatives that are already being acted upon by local counterparts. We recognize that it is a much more powerful, sustainable approach to work with the organizations that already exist to help them achieve their goals. We introduce tools and training that better equip these organizations to solve their obstacles – for example, through financial literacy training and access to self-financed community banks, to projects in agriculture, to empowering the youth of the organizations to design social ventures.

IMG_1194

The ACs listen intently as we describe the ways in which they are leaders in their communities.

For that, we created a survey in which the ACs can assess the organizations that work in the communities, recognize their strengths, as well as understand the challenges they face. This will include surveys with youth groups, agricultural groups, female merchants, and government offices. The ACs will also ask specific questions about the local needs of the community in energy, water, and cooking, for example. This will allow SolKomYo to map the community and understand where and what can be leveraged in order to empower the work of the communities and increase community organizations’ self-sufficiency, all whilst increasing the capacity of our entrepreneurs to provide these services and solutions.

This not only paints the picture of the communities in which Solkomyo works, but it demonstrates how Solkomyo works hand in hand with the community entrepreneurs to build their capacity and leadership within their communities. We do not just touch the surface of the communities in which we work, but really try to dig deep to identify committed long-term solutions to community needs.

This is how Solkomyo works, and why our community entrepreneurs and stakeholders value the work we do.  Thank you for all who share in this mission and have supported us along the way – none of it would have been possible without you.

Pump It Up

 

Nudging catalytic community impact

Solisyon Kominote Yo (Solkomyo) is a locally-owned and led Haitian social enterprise that works daily to identify priority community needs and design and implement social innovations to best serve those needs. Solkomyo was founded in 2013 by a team of inspired Haitian leaders with the strategic and financial support of CE Solutions. Since its founding, Solkomyo has focused on empowering aspiring community entrepreneurs to be profound agents of change and help them turn obstacles into opportunities in their community. The team tackles big challenges such as first-time access to energy, healthcare, and financial services. However, we should never overlook the fact that big change can often come in the form of relatively small packages.

A few months ago, Orest, a Solkomyo community entrepreneur, in Acul de Pins came to the Solkomyo leadership team to discuss a water pump that had been broken for over two years in a nearby community. Because of one broken pump, over 1,000 community members had very limited access to water. What they concluded together was that the problem wasn’t that it was impossible to repair the pump. There were technicians around and someone could theoretically buy what was needed to fix the pump right down the road. The problem was that the repair would cost $180 and no one person or family could afford to buy the parts to fix it and that no local strategy had been designed to help people pool their money. As well, even if they were to pool their money, it would take months to save up enough to pay for what was needed. In response to this, Orest and the rest of the Solkomyo team innovated a simple and elegant financing mechanism to repair the pump.

IMG_0195

The managing committee that is contributing to the repair of the water pump. Each month they will pay 25 gourdes to build a protection fund for the water pump. 

Solkomyo agreed that they would co-finance half of the cost to repair the pump if the community was able to raise the other half in two weeks, providing an incentive for the community to come together in a specific time period. Orest, because he is a locally trusted community member, successfully engaged 60 community members to contribute 100 gourdes (US$1.50) each, raising enough to cover the community’s investment. Solkomyo also advised that the community should be responsible if the pump needed to be repaired again. The group immediately volunteered to meet monthly and have each member pay 25 gourdes (US 20 cents) into a maintenance fund. The very next day, the pump was fixed.

SAM_1476

Orest, the Community Entrepreneur (far left), the keyholder of the pump (2nd from left), and Elizabeth, the Solkomyo team member (2nd from right), stand with community members after the water pump is repaired. 

This is an example of sustainable community development where the community is invested in their solutions and takes ownership. Solkomyo was able to play the catalytic role that was needed to help the community help themselves.

A few weeks ago the Solkomyo team stopped by to see how things were going. The pump was surrounded by people using it. It was a beautiful sight to see. A $90 investment, some brainwork, and teamwork is now providing over 1,000 people and 400 students at a local school access to water for the first time in two years.  And the community isn’t just using the pump, it now “owns” the pump, and with the protection fund that was created, they will ensure that the pump continues to serve the community.

Before and after the water pump was repaired in Acul de Pins. How many tanks do you see? They are all filled with drinking water for the community!

Solkomyo is inspired by community-driven solutions to development and when creative entrepreneurial approaches can be identified to solve development challenges. The key is that the community itself needs to be at the center of the solution. This is what social entrepreneurship is all about. And, although sometimes BIG solutions are needed, at other times a simple nudge can serve as a way to empower community members. We’ll keep looking for nudges and we hope you will continue to support our work.

Continuing to Provide Financial Services to CODEVI workers and the community

As the CODEVI Industrial Park is expanding, SolKomYo is committed to continuing supporting the workers. For the fourth consecutive year, SolKomYo has offered a program that provides financial education to textile workers and community members to provide them with the knowledge and strategies to become more financially secure.

 

Photos from the financial literacy course that SolKomYo offers to textile workers and community members. 

The 10 Financial Literacy Trainers from CODEVI who conducted the last phase of the financial literacy training are leading this program. The trainers have been involved in the Financial Literacy Program since 2014, and have since become experts on the subject, have formed their own savings groups, and have advocated financial literacy within the factories and their communities.

This year, each trainer mobilized groups of 10-20 participants, including current and former textile workers as well as community members. The financial literacy course is offered in two parts: the first introduces the participants to themes of household cash flow and the different categories of expenses, and the 2nd course teaches debt management and savings strategies. The participants receive the option to join a savings group as an immediate solution, which provides a safe place to save and take out loans.

Since 2014 when the course was started, over 750 textile workers and 150 community members have graduated from the course.  The SolKomYo goal is to continue spreading financial literacy and security to all the workers and community members so that access to financial services is a reality for everyone. Our successes to date are thanks to the commitment and support of the Levi Strauss Foundation.

Solutions in Disaster Relief

Welcome, 2017. We would like to introduce the New Year with an update we are very excited about, our new community group, the “Female Merchants”.

This originated from a gofundme project that we began back in October. You can click here to read the history and access the page. For a short overview, SolKomYo used the gofundme funds that were raised at the plight of a natural disaster in Haiti to reach the northern region that was seriously affected by floods.

img_1228

A house flooded from the heavy rains.

img_1234

The trash that accumulated from the flooding in neighborhoods around Ouanaminthe.

SolKomYo began a lending program with 15 females that were severely affected by the floods. They had lost all of their income-generating activities because the floods damaged their assets. We chose to invest in females because they are often the ones to manage their family’s finances.

We gave each family a lump sum to rebuild their small business, and they will repay 2% of that amount every month. With these payments, SolKomYo began a savings group for the recipients, so the money they pay back will enter their personal savings.

sam_1214

The recipients of the micro-loans that SolKomYo provided to help rebuild their small income-generating activities.

We met with them on the 15th of January, and each recipient paid back the first amount. They all invested the money in a small trade to make income again and support their livelihoods. That is why we call them, the “Female Merchants”. With the savings group that SolKomYo has set up, they will also be able to build resiliency in the event of another natural disaster.

sam_1204

The recipient who lives in the house pictured above.

sam_1211

The meeting with the beneficiaries when SolKomYo distributed the loans.

This project is an example of how a small investment into a family’s income-generating activity combined with a community financing program can be an effective way to support populations affected by natural disaster.

If you would like to continue supporting this project that is 100% sourced from crowdfunding, please feel free to contribute directly on the gofundme site or email olivia@cesolutions.org. Thank you!

Reflections from SolKomYo

As we close out the year with the bi-annual meeting with our 30 Community Entrepreneurs, we are reflecting on a truly eventful year for SolKomYo. It has been a momentous year where SolKomYo has built relationships, took risks and innovated, and brought new opportunities for the communities of Ouanaminthe. To name a few, we have entered new communities, trained entrepreneurs, developed the SolKomYo ak Jen (SolKomYo with Youth) portfolio, introduced new opportunities for agriculturalists, trained 10 textile workers to be financial literacy trainers, created new community savings groups, strengthened local community organizations, began a relief project, and the list continues. Meanwhile, we are developing immense capacity among the team to lead this community-led development work.

SAM_1217.JPG

SolKomYo team member, Elizabeth, presents the roles and responsibilities of SolKomYo during the Community Entrepreneur Meeting.

While the amount of work accomplished is important, we also strive to ensure the quality of all our work is upheld and that we are responding to community needs and creating positive impact among households. For this reason, we continuously conduct follow-up surveys and impact evaluations in the communities in which we work. We hope to strengthen individuals and organizations to become leaders in their community in the long-term and lead this change.

SAM_1233.JPG

Community Savings Group Leaders and SolKomYo Coordinator, Antonio Vixama, discuss the progress of the savings groups that SolKomYo has started.

In the bi-annual meeting with our Community Entrepreneurs (AC) we held last Saturday, SolKomYo discussed the program plans for next year, and also took the opportunity to receive feedback from the entrepreneurs. The ACs requested if new technologies could be introduced, if additional trainings could be offered, and if there was a possibility of beginning more agriculture projects in their communities. SolKomYo will continue to innovate to provide a variety of solutions in the communities in which we work.

The SolKomYo team and the Community Entrepreneurs meet twice a year to evaluate the work and present upcoming plans.

In the following year, we will grow our work to bring more opportunities for youth, women, textile workers, agriculturalists, and entrepreneurs. We will continue to provide individuals and organizations the means, ability, and inspiration to be empowered to lead positive change in their communities.

Thank you to everyone who has supported SolKomYo along the way, it would not be possible without your trust and collaboration. We wish you a very Happy New Year and please check back in 2017 to hear about our new initiatives!

Inspired by Youth in Ouanaminthe

In August of this year, SolKomYo started a project with 5 youth groups in Ouanaminthe. 15 youth participated in trainings in Leadership, Communication, Environment, and Natural Resource Management. After the modules, the students entered a competition in which each group designed a project that addressed an environmental problem that affected them, and then implemented this project for 3 months in their communities.

sam_1124

One of the youth groups, UJANE, conducts a session with its’ members explaining the importance of the environment and natural resource management.

Last Sunday, we held the final event of the competition and heard the work that the youth had completed. A judge of 4 professional agronomists, including a representative from the Haiti Ministry of the Environment, gave feedback after each presentation and selected the winners based on the groups’ performance and impact they created in their communities.

img_1501

The youth celebrate the completion of their Environmental and Natural Resource Management Competition.

It was quite impressive hearing about what the students did during these months. The students exhibited dedication and leadership during their projects by reaching out within their communities, local schools, and community organizations. One group conducted trainings on the environment to their youth group and then together planted a citrus garden in their community. Another created a broadcast on the radio to spread the importance of environmental protection and hosted a skit in different neighborhoods around Ouanaminthe. Others brainstormed ideas to create a categorized waste disposal system in Ouanaminthe.

sam_0628

sam_0627

The youth plan sample projects together during the SolKomYo training sessions.

During the event, the students had an opportunity to detail what they had learned from the experience, expressing how they never thought they could be leaders but after participating in the program they realized their capabilities. They saw talent within their teams and gained capacity to work with other youth. The potential and responsiveness they saw in the communities made them hopeful that with willpower, real change is possible.

During the final event, the youth groups present the work they have achieved in front of the panel of judges.

SolKomYo enjoys working with the students to share in their creativity and dedication and inspire them to be the leaders of tomorrow. This project enables the youth to become agents of change in their own community, gain leadership and teamwork abilities, and promote awareness and community action on how to protect the environment.

From the feedback SolKomYo received, the youth really enjoyed participating in the program. They had a lot of fun while also building leadership and communication skills along the way.

SolKomYo hopes to continue to engage the youth with further projects at the start of next year. Please stay tuned!

Providing Financial Literacy to Goat Owners

The goat project that we began with the farmer cooperative, AFAEK (Asosiyasion Fanmiy Agwo Ekologik Kotlèt) in 2015 is going strong. All 66 goats were distributed at the end of the summer, and as more are born, the first redistribution is set for the end of this year. The goat owners are grateful to own a goat because they express how it will contribute to their economic well-being and support their families. Their goal is to own more goats, as well as other livestock, to strengthen their community and support the local population.

Beneficiary Derval, on the left, and beneficiary Wilfride, on the right, take pictures with their newly owned goats in April 2016.

While the goat project is underway, SolKomYo has introduced its financial security innovation, FOCOPI (Community Fund for Prevention and Investment), to the farmer cooperative. SolKomYo worked with AFAEK to select the most active community leaders and trained them in the financial literacy education training. SolKomYo designed a training that is dynamic and conversational to adapt to the realities of the goat-owners. Of the 17 members that participated, 9 were selected to become trainers. These 9 trainers will continue to spread the financial literacy knowledge to its community members.

SolKomYo member, Felix Bertrand, conducts the financial literacy training to the selected goat owners that will become trainers.

Financial literacy is important for the goat owners because it includes themes about understanding one’s cash flow and expenses, making a family budget, and learning about strategies to save. With this knowledge, community members can make informed decisions about their expenses and understand investments that will support their families for the long-term.

The 9 trainers also began the intermediate phase of the FOCOPI program, which is opening their own savings group. SolKomYo introduces the FOCOPI savings groups to provide a community-based solution to increase one’s savings. While the region of Cotelette is isolated, the FOCOPI savings group methodology allows group members to save and take out loans amongst themselves, without relying on a formal bank or outside group. By first forming a group with the 9 trainers, they will be able to learn the methodology and open savings groups in their communities, allowing the members to put into practice the strategies they learn during the financial literacy course.

img_1387

The trainers that were selected meet to form their own savings group. By learning the methodology, they will eventually be able to form additional savings groups in their communities.

The work that has been achieved with AFAEK, the farmer cooperative, represents the strong relationship that SolKomYo and the AFAEK members have reached. It is thanks to this partnership that the two organizations can implement programs such as FOCOPI that provide valuable services to its members.

img_1388

The beneficiaries that became specialists in the FOCOPI Basic Program. Now that they are trained, they will begin teaching financial literacy to other goat owners in their community.

Solisyon Kominote Yo would like to give large thanks to the support of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) for funding SolKomYo’s agriculture projects.

Agriculture Update

Since the Meds and Foods for Kids trainings for peanut farmers has ended, SolKomYo Agronomist Evens has continued supporting the farmer groups. After understanding that insects were a large problem on many of the farmers’ lands, Evens has been conducting natural insecticide trainings with the farmers.

img_0989

Agronomist Evens conducting an Insecticide Training

In the approach that Evens uses, an insecticide is created with the use of local leaves and household materials. He explains in detail to the groups how to make it and apply it to their crops. Evens will follow-up with the participants to see how the application is received and if the farmers have faced any challenges.

img_0992

The Insecticide Training uses accessible material, making it a practical and affordable way farmers can combat their insect problems.

This is an example of how SolKomYo strives to respond to the priority needs of its beneficiaries. By providing a practical, “Do-It-Yourself” solution, farmers are given the tools to combat these obstacles themselves.

14884651_190369881409711_4071533448897313147_o

Farmer, Philogène St. Vil, shows the SolKomYo Team how he has used the insecticide on his rice crops. 

The farmer pictured above, Philogène St. Vil, has used the insecticide three times and has already seen results on his farm. He shared the process with his neighbor too, creating change at the community level.

The Evolution of the Codevi Financial Literacy Trainers

IMG_8132.JPG

The 10 financial literacy trainers, with their blue lanyards that say “Konseye Edikasyon Finansye” (Financial Literacy Counselor). This allows other workers to identify the trainers so they can reach out to them for questions regarding their family finances and savings strategies.

The 10 Codevi financial literacy trainers continue to inspire change in their community. These 10 workers completed the first financial literary course in 2014, in 2015 participated in a series of trainings to become financial literacy trainers, and in 2016, graduated their own students from the course. This month, SolKomYo engaged them one step further, and now they will be helping communities put the saving strategies that they learned into practice by creating self-financed community banks. These banks are a safe, accessible space for community members to increase their savings and take out loans.

Some of the trainers leading their classes in financial literacy. Both Codevi workers and members from the community were invited to participate in the course.

We selected the trainers to begin setting up savings groups in their community. Before completing the training, all 10 decided to form a savings group themselves, naming themselves the Association of Young Workers. They decided all of the rules for their group, including the meeting place, the meeting time, the interest rate, and the amount of loans each member is permitted to take out. By having the group set the rules of the bank for themselves, a truly bottom up process empowers the group to be fully autonomous, allowing the bank to continue operating for the longterm without reliance on external support.

img_0617

During the savings group training, the trainers set the rules for their self-financed community bank.

Once the trainers thoroughly learn this process, they will begin to set up groups in their community and among financial literacy graduates from the course.

When we think about when SolKomYo first encountered the “Association of Young Workers” two years ago, the point of our interventions have come a long way. From a student, to a trainer, to now a savings group leader, these individuals have been empowered on many levels to become community change leaders and spread the knowledge and leadership they have gained during these programs. They continue to be very driven by what they have learned and are enthusiastic about the impact that financial literacy training has had on their family finances, as well as the impact it has had on the participants of the course.

img_7593

The trainers during the Financial Literacy Graduation in April 2016. They received certificates for the work that they accomplished.

Stay tuned- because the “Association of Young Workers”  is already asking about the possibility of being trained as SolKomYo Community Entrepreneurs!

 

 

Creating Youth Leaders in Ouanaminthe

Introducing Solisyon Kominote Yo’s new innovation title, SolKomYo ak Jen! (Youth in Community Solutions). SolKomYo has been very involved with the youth in Ouanaminthe to be agents of change in their own community.

In 2014, SolKomYo launched an Urban Agriculture Competition addressing food security during which over 60 youth were engaged and 10 innovative methods to cultivate food within the city were designed. This project included new ideas to address lack of water, seeds, rising temperatures and other difficult environmental factors.

To continue this impact, this Fall, SolKomYo ak Jen began a Leadership and Environment Program in which they engage 15 youth to become advocates for change in their own community to address environmental issues. Five organizations, with three youth representatives from each organization, were invited this month to participate in a series of trainings on Leadership, Communication, the Environment, and Natural Resource Management. The students designed their own projects ideas to create community action around a cause they care about. Each group presented their 10-minute pitch to the group. Students were very creative, with ideas in beginning community awareness days, creating community action on waste management, and forming other youth groups to be leaders in their community.

IMG_0426.JPG

Trainers, Felix and Evens, give a dynamic lesson on Natural Resource Management to the youth participants.

For the next two months, the youth will implement their projects in the community and SolKomYo will mentor and support the groups.  In December, the students will present their projects results and the impact they reached in their community. SolKomYo will continue to engage the youth to help scale the initiatives they created.

IMG_0475.JPGimg_0478

The youth groups give their pitches on their community action projects.

This project enables the youth to become agents of change in their own community. They gain leadership and teamwork abilities, while also promoting awareness and community action on how to mitigate the effects of climate change and protect natural resources. By engaging the students to design their own projects that will be most impactful in their communities, the students are empowered to come up with the solutions that they think will speak to the needs of their communities most effectively.

img_0483

The 15 students that are participating in SolKomYo ak Jen Youth Empowerment Program.

 

Addressing environmental stresses requires a community based solution, because it is a shared responsibility that needs everyone’s contribution. The youth are the fit to lead that change, as they are leaders in their community and can promote a long-term shift in community behavior towards better environmental practices.

Specialists Trained in Solar and Financial Solutions

 

On Friday, August 26th, Solisyon Kominote Yo (SolKomYo) invited 11 Community Entrepreneurs to receive their certification in SolKomYo Innovations: 7 in solar certification and 6 in FOCOPI (Fund for Community Investment and Prevention) (two entrepreneurs received both of the certifications). Each Entrepreneur went through a series of trainings to become specialists in either solar energy or financial education. These entrepreneurs come from 8 different communities in the Northeast Department of Haiti.

SAM_0504.JPG

Specialists trained in Solar and Focopi Innovations

The Solison Kominote Yo Solar Energy Products give families light solutions in an affordable and environmentally-friendly manner. They reduce dependence on candles for light and also are safer to use for security and fire hazard reasons. The specialists are trained to raise awareness around the importance of using solar energy and make the technology accessible for remote communities to purchase the product. They also conduct individual conversations in their communities to understand the priorities that the clients have for their families.

SAM_0127.JPG

A campaign for solar products hosted in Ouanaminthe, Haiti.

FOCOPI is the financial services program that Solisyon Kimonote Yo offers, which includes financial education courses, savings groups formations, and specialized trainings for small business owners. This group of entrepreneurs were trained on how to make financial education accessible in their communities. They will introduce the financial literacy course to the savings groups that already exist in their communities, providing families with the knowledge to understand their family’s cash flow, how to categorize their expenses, and strategies of how to increase their savings.

SAM_0363.JPG

One of the Entrepreneurs gives a presentation during a FOCOPI training.

Solisyon Kominote Yo is proud to certify these 11 individuals to provide solutions to their communities. With these opportunities in place, families become more empowered to make positive changes in their lives.

SAM_0479.JPG

Ceremony to celebrate SolKomYo’s new specialists!

Felicitations!