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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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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The recipient who lives in the house 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!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!