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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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!

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Sustainable agriculture in Haiti

July marks one year that Solisyon Kominote Yo partnered with the farmer’s cooperative Asosyasyon Fanmiy Agwoekolojik Kotlet (AFAEK) to begin a goat breeding project in the mountainous region of Saint Suzanne. Since the first distribution of goats in January 2016, AFAEK has distributed 55 of the 66 goats to members of AFAEK, with the batch being distributed this month. Already 7 baby goats have been born and 14 are pregnant, proving that the the project is off to a good start. The baby goats will wait 6 months until they begin to be distributed to other AFAEK members throughout the Cotelette region.

beneficiary haitiA beneficiary with his two baby goats.

salnaveSalnave, the Co-Founder of AFAEK with his goat in front of his house in Cotelette.

Before this project began, Solisyon Kominote Yo, with the support of the International Finance Corporation, were researching ways to support agricultural development outside of Ouanaminthe to address the stressing food scarcity in the northeast region of Haiti. The goat breeding project was introduced to support animal husbandry in the region and provide market access for the beneficiaries. AFAEK, the local farmer cooperative, has worked very hard to make the project a success and ensure that the beneficiaries receive extensive trainings on how to care for the goats, the proper infrastructure needed for the goats, and are also taught the best way to help a goat reproduce. The project has demonstrated the importance of innovation in the field, because when try something new it gives the possibility to create increased opportunity for the community and a new source of income for the goat owners.

goatsA beneficiary in front of the shelter that he constructed for his goat.

The project has also proved the results of a strong partnership, as Solisyon Kominote Yo is continuing to develop projects to support the community members in Cotelette, for example beginning SolkomYo’s financial services program to AFAEK members.

oliviaMembers of Solisyon Kominote Yo and AFAEK during a monthly meeting in Cotelette.

Jou Timoun Entènasyonal La

childrens-day

Solisyon kominote Yo and The Sisters of San Juan in Ouanaminthe invited 6 local schools to celebrate The International Day of Children in the courtyard of the Sisters Homeon June 1st. The day began with an introduction of the organizations present, which was Solisyon Kominote Yo, the Sisters of San Juanita, and Codevi, each explaining the importance of youth in Ouanaminthe.

SAM_0036Members from Las Hermanas, Codevi, College Belle Amour, and Solisyon Kominote Yo team up to help prepare for the event.

The event was a unique opportunity to provide a day of celebration for the 300 students that came, and to show that across all schools in Ouanaminthe, children have rights and access to freedoms, and represent the future of Haiti. Each school prepared a short activity to present in front of the class, filling the space with song, dance, poetry, and theater.

 

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Students from the schools prepared activities to perform in front of the group.

 

The event was also a way to build great partnerships between Solisyon Kominote Yo, the Sisters of San Juan, Codevi, and the schools in Ouanaminthe, creating a strong platform to continue working together in the future.

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Members from Las Hermanas and Solisyon Kominote worked together to coordinate the event.

Ouanaminthe’s fair for Locally Produced goods 2016

May 1st is a day on which two holidays are celebrated in Haiti: Labour Day and Agricultural day. As a result, a lot of NGOs operating in Ouanaminthe got together, under the impulsion of the Agency for economic development in the North East (ADANET) to be part of the annual fair for the promotion on the consumption of locally produced goods and the advocacy of local institutions playing a central role in strengthening human capital in and around  Ouanaminthe.

The event, which took place in Ouanaminthe Town Square featured several local vendors of unique, hand made, creative, or customized items.  The fair, was warmly welcomed on the local scene and gave locals and visitors to Ouanaminthe the opportunity to buy locally produced, high quality, fresh, affordable products directly  from carefully selected food producers, craftspeople and artists.

This Annual Event Organised by ADANET ,  which was financially and logistically supported by OXFAM Haiti, served as an excellent selling point for artists and craftspeople as it is for enterprising individuals who are creating delicious delicacies with local seasonal products and serves as an excellent showcase.The team of Solkomyo took advantage of this event to show solidarity to several members of its local partner network and to interact with the local community to further presents its goods and services. Indeed, the event brought  together a large crowd of people coming from every corner of the North-East department as well as several guests from other departments  , who had the opportunity to enjoy a special event held in a lovely setting in the heart of Ouanaminthe.

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.

 

 

Goats project update : first distributions

In September 2015, Solisyon Kominite Yo had the pleasure to announce on this website that agreement had been signed with a Peasant Association named  Asosiasyon Fanmiy Agwo Ekologik Kotlet (AFAEK) to implement a goat-breeding improvement project in the village of Cotelette,North-East department. This time, we are glad to announce that  the distribution of goats for the target groups is underway.   Initially, the first direct beneficiaries of the project underwent a series of training on fundamental skills such as “how to prepare Goat Housing?”, “how to set up  suitable  grazing places?”, “what are the key measures to take for disease prevention and gaining knowledge on the necessary vaccines and medicines in their farms?”,  between August  2015 and February 2016. Since the month of  February 2016, thirty three  goats have been distributed: thirty does (female goats)  and three bucks (male goats). The first areas in which the goats deliveries were carried out are Mokonbe,Torzin and Fouk. We plan to distribute thirty three additional goats by June 2016, to reach a total number of 66 goats (Sixty does and six bucks).  Furthermore, AFAEK will spend the next few weeks identifying a new group of men and women living Mokonbe,Torzin and Fouk to provide them with some fundamental knowledge on goat breeding  to ensure that when some kids (baby goats) are born and have developed some active immunity against the most common diseases, they can be immediately distributed to people who know how to take care of them.

This project, financed by the International Finance Corporation (IFC). aims  to provide at least 180 families with a goat to enable them to seek sustainable livelihood, additional income, and to help the whole community alleviate poverty.