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

If Your House Was On A Hill

Creating Productive Land for Marginalized Landowners

Those who live on a hillside farm outside of Ouanaminthe struggle to make use of their land and become increasingly marginalized from income-generating activities. To find a solution, Solisyon Kimonte Yo partnered with Meds and Foods for Kids (MFK) to provide extensive trainings to the landowners on these plots of land, teaching them how to grow peanuts on their hillside farms. This will not only help them generate income for the farmers by selling in markets in Ouanaminthe and neighboring towns, but will also strengthen the food security of the increasingly drought-stricken northeast region of Haiti.

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Landowners of hillside plots who are participating in the peanut plant training.

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Beneficiaries participate in a training in Gen de Nantes on how to plant the seeds.

In a 6-month training program, MFK agronomists train 30 beneficiaries in Gen de Nantes and 30 beneficiaries in Savane au Lait on how to plant peanut seeds on a hillside demonstration plot. From contours, to weeding practices, to diseases to look out for, MFK teaches everything to the farmers to ensure they are able to harvest peanuts themselves. The Solisyon Kominote Yo Agronomist, Evens Baptiste, follows up with each beneficiary through the process, confirming that they start the method on their own land and are properly integrating the training sessions.

This strong partnership reflects the importance of knowledge-sharing provided by MFK, as well as the monitoring and evaluation that Solisyon Kominote Yo supports, strengthening the endurability of the program.

Thanks to the generous support of the International Finance Corporation we are able to provide innovative solutions to help improve food security in the north east region of Haiti.

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.

Goat-Breeding Improvement Project

Solisyon Kominote Yo has started a remarkable project to bring a source of income for an isolated community in the Northeast region of Haiti, a community called Cotelette. The goat-breeding project aims to facilitate market linkages to Cotelette by providing them with a viable income-generating activity. After receiving the goats, households will realize the benefits of animal husbandry and be able to sell the goats in nearby markets.

Cotelette is an isolated mountain town, in which you have to take a motorcycle and walk by foot to get to. As a result, the population is very isolated and lacks access to markets.

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The town of Cotelette.

In July 2015, SKY partnered with Asosiasyon Fanmiy Agwo Ekologik Kotlet (AFAEK) to implement a goat-breeding improvement project in Cotelette. By working with AFAEK to provide 66 goats to 60 beneficiaries in the regions, the organization will ensure that the project beneficiaries are trained in goat rearing techniques and have 60 plots of high quality forage areas. Through the learning of innovative breeding techniques, AFAEK will extend the distribution of the 60 goats to 60 other recipients, and continue until at least 180 members of the local community own a goat.

This month, Regional Coordinator, Antioni Vixama, and Field Consultant, Olivia Zeydler, visited the town to meet with the AFAEK leaders. The meeting was held in the home of the AFAEK coordinator, where 4 members of the AFAEK team were present. The group is very organized and eager to begin the distribution of the goats. They have made a project sign and have selected their beneficiaries, 37 males and 23 females. The next steps are to attain the veterinary kits to ensure that the goats remain in good health, and to begin training the beneficiaries on goat rearing techniques.

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Meeting with AFAEK group members.

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Project sign that AFAEK made: “Pwojè Amelyorasyon Elvaj Kabrit.”

By providing individuals with a goat, it is an opportunity to transform the livelihood of the household and provide a way to generate continuous income for the family, creating a lasting impact on the community of Cotelette.

This project would not be possible without the generous support of the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

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.

Looking at challenges with new eyes

During this last month Solisyon Kominote Yo has been working in Ouanaminthe and the surrounding communities to provide people access to eye checks. Thanks to the SVOne a smartphone-based autorefractor developed by Smart Vision Labs we were able to test more than 200 people in 2 weeks. 

This revolutionary technology has also given us the opportunity to identify refractive errors like nearsightedness and to offer life changing solutions, such as eyeglasses in a dignified and economical way. Normally to access vision health services and basic products, people in Ouanaminthe have to either travel great distances or cross the border to the Dominican Republic.

Solisyon Kominote Yo has addressed farsighted vision problems since 2012, but the innovative SVOne has provided us a tool that allow us to reach the most remote communities and to diagnose individuals that struggle to see clearly while looking in the distance. On November 20th, our local leadership Madalina Bouros and Estela Aragon hopped on the back of motorcycles (due to poor roads there are no buses) with Elizabeth and Ponpon, two community entrepreneurs from SolKomYo. Arriving at Mont-Oganisé, a community 50 minutes away from Ouanaminthe, the team set up at the local school as a base to provide eye exams and sell low-cost glasses not only to the school’s students, but also to adults.

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Over a four-hour period the team conducted 100 visual exams for people from four to eighty years old. Based on the readings of the SVOne they were able to provide 21 people with glasses appropriate to their needs for the first time in their lives. Ten people purchased their glasses on the spot for between $2.50 and $5.00 and 11 pairs of glasses were left on “layaway” at the school. We are especially proud of how the community entrepreneurs, using the SVOne device, played a fundamental role in improving the lives of Joseph, Judith, Gabriel, Fivel, and Milkins.

Joseph (age 16) visited the team and when they met him he was blinking and struggling to reach the normal long distance visual acuity level of 20/20. After being tested with the SVOne, Joseph tried on a pair of glasses appropriate to his need resulting in 20/20 vision. His new pair of glasses is waiting for his mother to pick up and pay for at the school. The revenue from this purchase will go to SolKomYo to purchase another pair of glasses, cover operational costs, and incentivize the local women entrepreneurs who supported this first campaign.

Judith (age 12), Gabriel (age 14), and Fivel (age 13), arrived in their school uniforms. Their teacher had let them out of class when she heard about the vision exams taking place since she knew they struggled with their eyesight. All three students were having problems seeing the board. Each student tried on their glasses, got to 20/20 visual acuity, and smiled from ear to ear. They chose frames they liked and they’ll be getting their new glasses soon.

15247744054_caccc179eb_zOur favorite story is that of Milkins (age 8). His teacher told the team about his struggle to perform well in the classroom because of his inability to see well. After administering the SVOne exam, the team was fitting Milkins with glasses, and everyone in the school surrounded him to see what was happening, calling him “the miracle.” He could see well for the first time in his life and his life had been improved in a matter of minutes. His teacher had him run home to get his mother, who showed up within 30 minutes and bought Milkins his glasses. Both mother and son left with a new sense of hope for what Milkins could achieve not only in school, but also in life.

Working together with local entrepreneurs, communities, organizations and social oriented manufactures and innovators to solve long-standing challenges is what Solisyon Kominote Yo is all about. Thanks to these relationships, new and old, November 2014 marks a milestone month in social impact and innovation.

Smallholder farmers in Haiti: growing ideas to improve the access to better farming practices

A few weeks ago, I was invited to a meeting with a group of smallholder farmers from Perches, in the Nord-Est Department. After a long ride between rugged mountains and 30 minute walk, we arrived to the site. The farmers were assembled and were proudly exhibiting some of the fruits and vegetables the grow.  

10615376_689895277742408_3482431447134558707_nTime after time, at this meeting and others, women and men have shared their concerns about the difficulties to maintain their crops. One of the farmers explains:

“Our plants are dying of thirst. We always have water because we have rain and we can store the water in tanks. The problems is that we can’t take this water to the crops. We can’t use a pomp because we have no electricity. We try to do it ourselves with buckets but is exhausting and is never enough.”

Testimonies such as this describe one of the many pressing issues that these communities face on a daily basis as well as their frustration of knowing how to solve it but not having access to the resources they need to improve their farming systems.

In an attempt to get to a better understanding of the situation and recognizing that this is part of a bigger problem, SKY developed a small survey as part of a community diagnosis. The survey showed that beyond the evident lack of opportunities, these people are determined to make their voices heard and to work hard on creating sustainable changes.

To further discuss the results of the survey with the smallholder farmers, and to dig a little dipper in some of the main topics, we invited them to a meeting at SKY’s office, in Ouanaminthe. The meeting was a great identify common problems and look for solutions that can be replicated in the different communities.

All the information we collected from the diagnosis with the farmers is going to be considered for our next agriculture project, that we hope is going to reflect the messages these people have shared with us. 

We strongly believe that the only way to assure them that their demands are been heard is by starting to work on them side by side.

These people are strong, determined, and they are not alone, we are confident that in a joint effort, this project is going to improve the farmer’s access to technologies that will make their work easier and will helped them have a better control of its productive resources.