In many parts of the country, Haiti faces serious challenges regarding access to education. As an organization that is working holistically towards the goal of a better life for the very poorest Haitians, Fonkoze’s Education Program is an innovative means for achieving that goal.
On January 9th, Education Director Laurence Camille made the long drive to the ocean-side city of Aken to meet with the Solidarity women to discuss program development, and to personally observe the Alfa monatris (teacher) working with her adult students to build literacy skills. During the initial meeting, Laurence and the clients discussed ways in which the women can receive a small profit for their services as educators.
This is the crux of what Fonkoze means to the communities they work in. Not content to just empower women to manage their own finances, the Education Program leverages clients’ learning to better the lives of their fellow community members. By teaching their neighbors life skills and basic literacy development, Fonkoze clients are creating an environment where more of their neighbors can take advantage of the financial services offered by Fonkoze. These services can help women begin the long journey out of poverty through improved access to capital.
As client Fortune Betha said, the program “improves our relationships and standing in the community. Ties [have been] much better since the training.”
The next stop on the itinerary showed exactly how the program strengthens those relationships with their neighbors.
Following the meeting between Laurence and the Solidarity clients, they walked a mile to one of the poorest areas of Aken to see how building the capacity of a few can make the whole community stronger. In an unused school building, the women of the Alfa (“literacy”) program used their training and education materials provided by Fonkoze to teach basic literacy skills to their fellow community members, women and men alike. Because Fonkoze is always seeking to make these programs as financially sustainable as possible in addition to helping the Solidarity clients provide for their families, there is a small charge to the beneficiaries. For a rate of roughly $1.20 for the course and materials, vulnerable members of the community have access to an education they’ve been denied throughout their lives.
Laurence’s trip to Aken was capacity-building in action. The courage of these women leaders, and their commitment to apply what they’ve learned through the education program to better the lives of their fellow neighbors is what will give Haiti a solid foundation for the future. Shoulder-to-shoulder with the Fonkoze family, they are working to create lasting solutions in Haiti.
Educational accompaniment is a major pillar of the first two Steps of Fonkoze’s Staircase Out of Poverty, Chemen Lavi Miyò and Ti Kredi. In addition, Fonkoze offers two complementary education initiatives to our Solidarity clients (over 40% of whom are illiterate when they join Fonkoze): Ti Koze, a monthly life skills-oriented class that engages participants in discussion and interaction, and more specialized Alfa (“learning”) classes led by Solidarity clients trained to teach literacy and business skills, among others, to their peers.