Building Unity

Last weekend, Solisyon Kominote Yo had a field excursion with its youth group and financial literacy group. We included pertinent discussions while having some time for laughter and exploration while visiting Fort Liberte. UJANE – Union de Jeunes Association de Nord Est – and AJF – Assosasyon de Jeunes Formateurs – linked together for a day filled with inspiration and practical lessons.

UJANE met to discuss the progress of their bracelet business as they were able to sell USD $120 worth of bracelets over the past few months. They identified the following points to focus on in order to improve their business:

  • Design: Bracelets of single color sell more
  • Impact: Important to collect data to measure their impact – i.e. how many bottles they have collected (1 plastic bottle makes 2 bracelets, and on that same day we collected over 20 plastic bottles!)
  • Marketing: Enhance story-telling component – create a tag to accompany the bracelet that tells their story.
  • Branding: Need to create a brand name

They also asked some important questions, on whether they could have access to a more regular market to sell their bracelets. Unfortunately, right now the only transport we have for the bracelets are those who travel to and from the States.

We also shared with them a handmade tool that allows them to cut the plastic more efficiently, which they will build in the coming weeks.

They are very excited about this entrepreneurial opportunity and recognize the opportunity it has to remove plastic from the environment through art! They are eager to make more bracelets so they can participate in more trainings to learn a variety of pieces they can make out of the plastic.

Please reach out to olivia@cesolutions.org if you are interested in purchasing a bracelet.

We also had a meeting with the Association of Young Trainers, who had their monthly community savings bank meeting and revisited the rules within their group. They have been together for over 2 years and have accumulatively saved over 30,000 gourdes (USD $500)! They are eager to continue advancing their professional development and asked about an opportunity for an information technology course and an additional financial literacy train the trainer program.

SolKomYo encouraged them to use some of their savings from their community savings bank to jointly invest in a course they can complete together, an example of how SolKomYo encourages community actors to be agents of change and helps to identify innovative financing solutions to achieve their goals.

After these meetings, the group came together and we had a lively discussion around themes around respect, responsibility, and culture. Examples of prompts included: What is our role as youth in the household? What is the role of money and how can we manage it? Or what do we love about our culture and what must we do to value it? We all sat around a tree as we discussed these topics – to have an opportunity for youth to share and reflect on these subjects is an invaluable opportunity for peer to peer learning that SolKomYo strives to cultivate.

All in all, it was a day of exploration leaving with added insight into the future leaders of tomorrow.

 

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Members of UJANE discuss pertinent questions about life, culture, and their roles and responsibilities as youth. 

 

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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.

 

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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.
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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.

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.

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A house flooded from the heavy rains.

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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.

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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 plans to set up, they will also be able to build resiliency in the event of another natural disaster.

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The recipient who had her house flooded during the Hurricane, pictured above.

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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!

Read the latest updates here:

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.

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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.

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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.

The Evolution of the Codevi Financial Literacy Trainers

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Ceremony to celebrate SolKomYo’s new specialists!

Felicitations!

Financial Literacy Graduation, April 2016 – Ceremony Report

With a cast of approximately 100 graduates , new coaches and guests, a member of CODEVI’s sustainability department, and a representative of CODEVI’s savings plan department, the graduation ceremony which was organized of the financial Literacy course held on April 16th 2016 was a truly momentous occasion for Solisyon Kominote Yo and CODEVI.

The day’s events, marked an extraordinary day for all concerned. Indeed, it was an absolute delight for the team of Solisyon Kominote Yo and CODEVI to see the successful results of several months of common efforts to manage to turn a team of 10 former graduates into excellent trainers. That group of men and women , who had been selected and trained in October 2015 made us feel very proud by demonstrating that they were able to share efficiently their previously gained knowledge with a group of CODEVI workers and some members of the neighboring community. Furthermore, we could feel that many of the trainers had developed a strong sense of team spirit and desire to make a valuable contribution to the emergence of a greater knowledge-based society in their country. In addition, we would like to congratulate all the CODEVI workers and members of the community who have showed a high level of commitment towards this course by attending each class with a spotless behavior and by doing their practical assignments which demonstrated their understanding of the new notions that they had gained.For many, the occasion was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that they will never forget.

The ceremony included a few artistic activities performed by some graduates and local artist, resulting in a vibrant celebratory atmosphere. For the first time, the organizing team included a projection of pictures taken during the classroom sessions, which were displayed on a white projection screen.

Finally, the whole team of Solisyion Kominote Yo would like to give a special thanks to the LEVI STRAUSS Foundation for all its financial and moral support towards our work. The contribution of the LEVI STRAUSS Foundation enabled us to put together a team a trainers who worked hard towards expanding financial management skills throughout several of their family members, peers, friends and neighbors. Together we are empowering a large number of Haitians by giving them the tools to help themselves.

 

 

Finalist in Ashoka’s Fabric of Change Competition

Ashoka supports entrepreneurs around the world that bring innovative solutions to the world’s most challenging problems. Last Fall, Ashoka sought out to find the world’s innovators in the global textile industry in their Fabric of Change: Innovating for a Sustainable Apparel Industry Contest. The textile industry is the world’s second largest employer, and if operated thoughtfully and sustainably, has great potential to bring positive change to global trade.

The finalists to the contest were announced in February, and CES’s initiative in Haiti was shortlisted in the top 10 out of 300 applications from around the world. While the topics spanned from recycling garment waste into renewable fiber to creating ethical compliance standards in artisan supply chains, CES’s Worker Well Being partnership with the Levi Strauss Foundation stood out among applications.

The Worker Well Being Initiative is a partnership with the Levi Strauss Foundation and Codevi Industrial Park to utilize the textile factory located in Ouanaminthe, Haiti as a center point to support community-based change in the community. By offering a financial literacy course to textile workers and community members, CES Haiti provides the knowledge and tools necessary to improve one’s financial situation and increase individual household incomes. In addition, CES Haiti provides essential life-changing technologies to address the light, vision, and water problems in the daily lives of the factory workers through a savings plan offered by the factory. This strong partnership between CES Haiti, the Levi Strauss Foundation, and Codevi demonstrates the influence of the textile industry and how a factory can be a powerful catalyst for positive change in the community.

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Graduates of the Financial Literacy Course in 2014

As a finalist, CES Haiti was invited to the Fabric of Change Summit in Copenhagen in May, where the top 3 winners will be announced. The winners will be given financial support to scale their projects. Here is a link the the contest.

https://www.changemakers.com/fabricofchange

Check out CES Haiti’s initiative here, and please cross your fingers for SolKomYo as the winners are announced!

https://www.changemakers.com/fabricofchange/entries/worker-well-being

Once Students, Now Trainers

Solisyon Kominote Yo is thrilled to announce that the third phase of the financial literacy program has begun!

After a rigorous, 3-session training over the course of 3 weekends, 15 workers within the AM3 factory of CODEVI who graduated from the financial literacy course in 2014 were selected and prepped to become trainers.

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The 15 new trainers for the Third Phase of the Financial Literacy Program, including supervisor, Maude and Field Consultant, Gaetan.

The first two classes were conducted with the new trainers on Sunday, November 8th. The third phase allows trainers to invite members of the community to participate in addition to Codevi workers, so each class had participants from Codevi and from the community. It is a great opportunity to improve access to finance and increase financial knowledge throughout the Ouanaminthe community.

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Participants of the financial literacy course in the school, College George Muller in Ouanaminthe.

Through the month of November, two classes will be held every Saturday and Sunday, until all 15 trainers have taught the course. The classes are held in a local school in Ouanaminthe in order to engage and interact with the community.

It is very exciting to see the once former students of the financial literacy course now empowered to lead the class themselves… creating the opportunity to generate large-scale social impact!

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The first two trainers of the Third Phase of the Financial Literacy Course.

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As always, this would not be possible without the hard work of the two supervisors, Bob and Maude, who do an outstanding job monitoring the classes and giving support to the trainers when needed. In addition, the generous support of the Levi Strauss Foundation for their commitment to improving Worker Well-Being in Ouanaminthe is invaluable.

This update highlights CES’s core value of the month, inclusivity. Within this third phase of the financial literacy program, SKY is empowering more workers from the community to become trainers, while also opening the door for community members outside of Codevi to participate in the class and improve their financial knowledge. Being as inclusive as possible is a priority in every CES project because it is essential to create long-lasting systemic change in the communities in need.

Spreading the word about our work in Haiti

DSC_0965On 10 and 11 of March our team member Madalina Bouros participated at HERproject Convening in Hong Kong. The meeting was focused on how to effectively develop and implement financial capability programs in the workplace and successfully bring them to scale.  The Convening was organized by Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) and at the meeting were invited representatives of BSR, NGO’s and companies dedicated to build financial inclusion in the supply chain.

We were invited to speak during a panel focused on Implementing Programs along Global Supply Chains together with representatives from Swasti, Luen Thai Philippines  and BSR. The panel was focused on what are the best practices on implementing work place programs and how to build a business case for employers.

During the panel discussions we presented the work of Community Enterprise Solutions with focused on the two programs we jointly implemented with CODEVI, a textile factory in Haiti, with the support of Levi Strauss Foundation: Technologies for Textile Workers and Family Wellness Financial Literacy, Matched Savings and Voucher Program. We emphasized that the key elements which led to our success were:  establishing guiding principles from the beginning, listening to stakeholders needs, wants and limitations as well as being flexible and having an entrepreneurial approach.   We received interesting questions from the audience as well as from the other members in the panel. It was an entire debate on how to engage employers into CSR programs and what works and what doesn’t when implementing this type of programs.

Overall it gave us a great exposure and learning opportunities from other organization doing similar work to ours around the world. We hope that in the future we will start replicate factories programs around the world.

BSR works with its global network of more than 250 member companies to build a just and sustainable world. From its offices in Asia, Europe, and North and South America, BSR develops sustainable business strategies and solutions through consultingresearch, and cross-sector collaboration

Luen Thai is a leading consumer goods supply chain group, a global industry consolidator and multi-product expert in apparel and accessories.

Swasti’s is an NGO who’s belief is that true advancement and development of communities can be achieved only through empowering them, especially women.

449 textile workers graduated from Financial Literacy program

DSCN4549On Saturday, November 1st we had the graduation ceremony for the CODEVI employees, who successfully participated in all the phases of the Family Wellness Financial Literacy Matching Fund and Voucher Program.

449 employees completed the program. This confirms the tremendous need for this kind of initiatives and the impact this collaboration is having in workers lives and the community at large. This motivates us to continue dedicating our efforts to changing obstacles into opportunities. With this occasion we want to thank all the parties involved for their continuous support and for believing in us!