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).

3 years and counting

3 years ago we did our first steps in Haiti and today is a moment in which we need to take a step back and think of what we accomplished, the lessons we learned, the friends we made and at the same time find our motivation to continue innovating and building programs for the people of Haiti.

We started as OSIIC – Ouanaminthe Social Impact and Innovation Consortium with the support of Ashoka and IFC and soon we became Solisyon Kominote Yo, a social enterprise owned and run by Haitians. We worked and learned hand in hand with the people of Haiti and many times we came together with solutions to everyday challenges with a good joke and a smile on our faces.

We spent nights at the light of gas lamps and candles and we felt proud each time we sow one of our solar lamps in use, we did eye exams and we helped elders and youth see better, we built programs and organized community meetings all over North East Haiti for agriculture and saving groups, we talked to women about their daily challenges, to youth about their dreams and to textile workers about building a better future.  But we also danced to kompa, drank coffee, ate mango, had incursions in Haiti’s history on the back of donkeys, and took baths in Haiti’s blue waters while eating pwa ak diri.

All this helped us arrive where we are today. In three years of activity we created an economic impact of over US$1 million and impacted over 35,000 people.  We are optimistic about the future because we have an empowered local team happy to do more for their people and provide small solutions to everyday problems.

All this was possible through the support of our local and international partners such as Levi Strauss Foundation, International Finance Corporation, Warby Parker, Ashoka, CODEVI and many others.

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Northward expansion of the Community Entrepreneurship Project

At the end the month of August 2015, the leadership of Solkomyo signed a partnership agreement with the Haitian branch of Medical Ambassadors International (also known as AMDH) , which defined how both institutions would to start implementing together our technology access program in new areas. Thanks to AMDH’s expertise in supporting different communities across the Northern Department of Haiti, particularly the area in and around the city of Cap Haitian, Solkomyo would like to give access to vital technologies and products to a new section of the Haitian population that lacks access to electricity and is highly reliant on light sources such as kerosene.

With the emergence of a new group of community entrepreneurs, we want to equip one group of men and women to break the cycle of poverty for their own families and the beneficiaries of their sales. Initially, we will be adding the following places to our list of operating areas: the city of Cap-Haitien, Acul-du Nord, Laplany, Plaine-Du–Nord, Bayeux, Limbe, Port-Magot (Novion), Minière , Limbe (Camp Cop) and La Victoire.  On Saturday, September 5th 2015, the new community entrepreneurs, who had been recommended by AMDH, had the opportunity to see and learn how to use many technologies and product that Solkomyo sells in the community. This means that the guests learnt, among other things, how the solar lamps could save money for the user, and reduce fire and pollution hazards. During that meeting, which was organized in the office of Solkomyo in Ouanaminthe, the new team was also trained on how to put into practice the Micro Consignment Model.

Finally, we especially thank the all participants for their enthusiastic participation and generous sharing of their time and ideas.

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Antonio Vixama (General Coordinator) , contributing to the training of the new community entrepreneurs.

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Elizabeth Atilus (Regional Coordinator) giving her input during the training of the new community entrepreneurs.

 

New water filter project

This year, the team of Sol Kom Yo has decided to make great efforts to install water filters in schools so that hundreds of pupils can have access to safe drinking water. Therefore, a new project, focusing on water Filter delivery, is about to be launched in and around Ouanaminthe. SolKomYo will team up with ChaNOK hollow fiber membrane technologyrles and Alexandra Adams from the international Rotary Club, for the production and the delivery of the water filters in areas where the community is very vulnerable to waterborne disease infections such as schools and hospitals. Those filters are built with the NOK hollow fiber membrane technology , whose the 0.1 micron polysulfone HF membranes can consistently reduce the bacterial loadin contaminated water by greater than 6.0 log10 [>99.9999%] while achieving greater than 4.0 log10 [>99.99%] reduction in Cryptosporidium parvum oocysts.

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These figures ,based on the experiments carried out by the Microbiological Laboratory of the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg (Florida) , demonstrate that the removal efficiencies level of these water filters exceed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Guide Standard and Protocol (USEPA GS&P) performance criteria for removal of bacteria and protozoa.

This ground-breaking technology can make a significant impact in several schools of Ouanaminthe. Indeed, several studies have demonstrated that the consumption of clean water can reduce the incidence of diarrheal diseases by more than 50%. Furthermore, we need to bear in mind that there is a tight link between a students’ learning capabilities and the access of free drinking water on schools premises, since the lack of clean water has serious effects on student’s academic performance and attendance rates. So, we are convinced that the presence of good water filters will ensure an access to reliable drinking water points, which will provide proper hydration to the kids and improve their physical development and academic performances.

In the schools involved with the project, the teachers and students will be asked to ensure the proper preservation of the equipment and will be trained on basic maintenance techniques to reduce the risks of failure and decline of the water filter.

Before starting the deliveries of water filters , SolKomYo will conduct a research surveys on water and sanitation in several areas of Ouanaminthe in order  to discover the identify the exact needs and expectations required to meet the needs of the targeted schools and communities.

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.

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!

Growing food in your backyard

posterOn Saturday October 25th we will launch an urban agriculture competition for youth. The competition is focused on identifying and awarding the most innovative youth-led projects in food security and nutrition. Haiti has one of the youngest populations in the world – 60% is under 24 years old.  The country imports more than 50% of its food and more than 1.52 million Haitians representing 15% of the population – are classified as severely food insecure

 At this competition we are expecting over 60 youth from 10 local schools and youth groups. The youth will form intervention teams and during one month they need to put in practice and innovative project to grow vegetables in the city. Each team will replicate the project in their school yards or in their homes. The winning projects will be selected on November 29th based on Innovation, Creativity, Effort and Replicability.

The youth are accompanied during the project by Solisyon Kominote Yo and Jeunes en Action. Jeunes en Action is a youth group which was formed during Ashoka Youth Venture activities in Ouanaminthe in 2013. We will keep you updated as the activities take of.

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.

Financial literacy taken to the next level!

DSCN4166On August 29th we started the Second training session as part of the Financial Literacy Program. This training session is designed to primarily strengthen the knowledge accumulated during the first session, and secondly to introduce the participants to practical strategies to manage their debt and learn how to save money. The class  is very dynamic and it includes various group activities, games and reflection exercises. The idea is to give the participants the chance to connect and identify together life changing solutions to every day problems. For example one of the exercises includes choosing a personal goal and thinking of all the activities and milestones needed to be completed in order for the goal to be achieved. During this exercise one of the participants wanted to share and said “my goal is to have a house, but for me to get there, I need to  set as an intermediate goal, which is to buy a motorcycle..” everybody looked a bit surprised, than the continued  “..I will ask somebody to use it as motorcycle-taxi and with the revenue I will  save enough money to buy 2 cement bags every week, by doing this in a matter of months I will have enough to build the house.” Everybody clapped and the next person start sharing.

DSCN4168After participating at the class the workers need to complete 3 practical activities, whiting a month, which are supportive for their goal achievement. By doing so they can reflect upon what they want to accomplish, think of the ways they can achieve it and in the end take actions to reach milestones towards their goal.