Beginning the long journey out of poverty:
This past Friday, I had the privilege to see what the first step out of poverty looks like for women beginning Fonkoze’s Chemen Lavi Miyò program. Traveling northeast from Port au Prince to the central city of Mibale, I had an hour to imagine what this Lansman (“launching” in Kreyol) ceremony would look like. Actually attending the event over the course of the day changed my preconceived notions entirely.
The people of Mibale standing together in support of women starting out on the long path out of extreme poverty through the CLM program (women starting the program on the left, community supporters on the right).
As the church where the Lansman would be held slowly filled with women and their fellow community members, I saw many different emotions on their faces. I saw pride, excitement, humor, and more than a few looks of apprehension. After all, these women were putting their faith in the Fonkoze family, and specifically their caseworkers, that if they could continue with the program for 18 months, they would finish with better lives for them and their families than when they started. Throughout the event, I saw many of those emotions shift from apprehension to confidence and genuine excitement.
In addition to encouraging speeches by Gauthier Dieudonne, Chemen Lavi Miyò Director, prayer led by the local pastor, and a demonstration on the water filtration units they received towards the end of the ceremony, these women received their new ID cards, granting them access to health services through Zanmi Lasante (Partners In Health sister organization in Haiti). For me, this was an outstanding example of Fonkoze’s holistic commitment to helping these women get past the potential obstacles they may face. It wasn’t just about the potential access to capacity building financial services through the Ti Kredi program when they graduate CLM, but a promise of medical resources right now so that they may continue to work for their brighter futures free from health worries.
Perhaps the best example of this burgeoning partnership was the final act of the event where the members signed their contracts, adamantly signaling their commitment to do all they could to improve their lives shoulder to shoulder with Fonkoze. Whether by signing their names, or by using their thumbprints, these women were actively taking their first step on what would be a challenging journey.
New CLM member signing her contract.
At the end of the ceremony, these women of Mibale had indeed launched, and with the promise of continued support from the Fonkoze family and dedicated case-workers throughout their journey, along with a past graduation rate of 96%, these women now have a good chance at a brighter future.
Chemen Lavi MiyÃ² (CLM), “the pathway to a better life,” enables 96% of the ultra-poor women who participate to lift their families out of extreme poverty.
Today I traveled to the town of Mibale in central Haiti to document and assist with a CLM lansman celebration. This is the launching ceremony, and the time that women sign their contracts, committing themselves to the long, uncertain, and arduous journey out of poverty with the help of Fonkoze. It was interesting seeing a whole community come together to support the most vulnerable amongst them even while they have so little. I wondered as I watched if I would have the strength and courage to get up after being knocked down so thoroughly by circumstance and the world… and I don’t know.
Yesterday I met with the CEO of our Financial branch of the Fonkoze family for an hour to discuss strategy, and some of the challenges of operating a sustainable bank for the poor in the “poorest country in the western hemisphere”. It was an hour no academic program or masters program could duplicate, and as we were going back and forth, I kept thinking, this is so bad-ass. The perks of going all in with life, even when plan A’s don’t quite turn out.
And right now as I’m righting this, I’m being eaten alive by mosquitos. Honestly, there’s no place else I’d rather be.
Obviously, Go Seahawks.
It’s been almost a week since I’ve landed in Port-au-Prince, Haiti working with the micro finance organization Fonkoze ( http://www.fonkoze.org ), and I am in love…
…In love with my job, in love with this country, my amazing co-workers, and the people of this strong nation Although it’s only a 3 month contract, this experience has only reinforced my desire to work with real people doing what they can to make a better world.
Development work is not easy, simple, or instantly gratifying, but it is incredibly rewarding knowing that you’re part of an intelligent effort to build the capacity of a people who have faced nothing but trials and pain since their heroic claim to independence over 200 years ago. Fonkoze has it all, Haitian leadership, a nimble and honest team, and a set of ideals that make the whole thing really move.
On the other side of the coin, I could write for days on the absolute systemic hypocrisy and idiocy of people and policies with “good intentions” who are not helping in the development sector, but I’ll wait for another time when I’m feeling less optimistic…
So… I’m renting a room in a house with 2 other people (my boss (or direkte), and one of my coworkers from Cincy who has worked in the Dominican Republic (DR) and Haiti for the past few years) owned by our landlord who lives above us (Yoland). Yoland is an extraordinary women of 80ish who will not take “no” for an answer on anything. Which is just fine, because you wouldn’t want to let her down. Security’s an issue, but with just a little common sense, there’s no reason for fear at all. A kind word and “hello” (or bonjou) carries the same weight in currency no matter where you are.
Although I’ve spent most of my time in our home office in PAP, I did get to make a trip out to the field in Aken after being in country for 2 days, which was incredible. I was sent to document a meeting between our Education Manager Laurence Camille, her assistant Corrine, our driver Rodrig, and a group of Haitian women community leaders. As our well worn SUV bumped and rattled over dirt roads and “smooth” highways, I kept thinking to myself, “THIS IS THE BEST JOB/LIFE EVER.” The meeting went well, photos were taken, interviews were had, and Things Got Done and issues were resolved. This was real work with outcomes that caused stronger communities in the poorest country in the Americas. Even though I spent a sleepless night getting eaten by mosquitos, I still got out of bed with a huge smile on my face.
There’s a lot I need to work on (like my Creole), but otherwise, this is such a great fit, and I am so grateful for this opportunity.
Perhaps it’s fitting that I’m writing this on the 4th anniversary of the earthquake that ruined so many lives, but gave mine wings. If you end up reading this today, please take a moment to recognize all those lives that were stopped right in their tracks, and maybe appreciate yours a little better and treat those in your life with a little more care.
Abiento from Port au Prince…
In five hours I’ll be boarding a plane for Dallas, and then Fort Lauderdale, and finally Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
I am thrilled, and excited, and nervous, and terrified I won’t be good enough to do all that is needed.
And then I think of all that I have done to prepare for this moment, and I feel a certain calm. The two deployments and six years in the US Navy, the previous four trips to Haiti, and the personal demons I’ve overcome along the way have all contributed to the foundation and passion of who I am now.
UW Bothell has contributed to that foundation, and I am as ready as I can be. I’ll write more later in the week, and all the best to you and yours.
I hope you’re doing what you love and being the best you can be.
In his recent piece in the McKinsey Voices on Society, Olivier Barrau (@obarrau), CEO of the Alternative Insurance Company in Haiti, makes a strong case for changing the fatalistic mindset in Haiti, which he considers to be one of the reasons why the insurance market in Haiti remains highly underdeveloped. […]
This is what I’m working for.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Birthdays, good work, moving on, and letting go of dead weight.
This past week I turned one year older with some great friends and the UW Bothell family. As a huge bonus, we were able to celebrate a Dawgs win over BYU and help those in our community who are not so fortunate. It was times like that that I realized how fortunate I am to be a member of the UWB family. Working with Sean Marsh, Mary, Melissa Watkinson, and two new members of the family, Darwin and Larry (in photo). The warmth and sense of purpose was amazing as always. Partnering with Hopelink we raised hundreds of pounds of food for local people in need, and thousands of dollars for UWB scholarships. Best birthday I’ve had in a long time.
Throughout all of this, I’ve been working with Steve Cox, an honorable local developer who takes a vision and makes it real. He’s developing a massive mixed use project just east of the UWB campus, and I’ve been able to assist him and my good friend Kevin King with some of the due diligence and some very interesting partnership programs with UW Bothell. I’ll be watching from afar as I leave for 3 months in Haiti (hell yes:) next Monday. It’s funny how being a part of an undertaking like the Veterans’ Archway can have such lasting ripples. Through the Vets’ Archway, I was able to work with Steve, and provide some value to his organization. I suppose that the more you put your best self out there, the greater the dividends will be in the future.
Not all is positive, as life will have it. I’ve learned (haha, or maybe relearned) a really important lesson about relationships and the need to let go of toxic friends. It takes so much effort to consistently build others up, in addition to striving for some large ambitions, and there will naturally be hard times when those efforts are not rewarded. That’s just the nature of real ambition. Aiming big will leave you devastated from time to time. What I’ve found though, is that your friends should be your refuge. They should be the port in the storm of life, and when they’re apathetic, you just have to cut them loose. With ~6 billion people in this world, who has time to worry about people that are so careless with friendships that they’ll see insanity in fair expectations? It’s taken me too long to learn this, but the lesson’s stuck. Haha, in conclusion: don’t waste your time on people not worth your time. Life’s hard enough without that distraction and pain.
Moving on and ending on a positive note: I leave in 6 days for Haiti, and I am ready for my future. I feel free, powerful, and good. This world is ours, and I’m ready to stake my claim and contribute to history. I’ve just finished Jeff Sachs’ The End of Poverty, and there is a way to make this world work for more of our fellow global citizens. It will require some massive policy shifts towards more proactive foreign and diplomatic actions, but it is possible with the will and proper leadership. It will take massive effort, and a need to make the younger generation broaden their perspective of our globalized and interconnected world… but it is possible.
Happy New Year to you all, and I hope you’re being the best person you can be.
Fonkoze is Haiti’s leading microfinance institution. We provide the financial & non-financial tools Haitians need to lift their families from poverty.
So what do you do when your plans coming crashing around your head?
Why, make new plans of course.
And that’s why I’m so excited about this opportunity to work in Haiti again and expand my experiences and “Real World” knowledge. In theory, people attend university and graduate schools in order to gain knowledge about things they’re passionate about (and to improve their marketability in a system that values human beings in odd ways, but we won’t speak about that here).
This extraordinary experience working in Port au Prince with the communications department of Fonkoze gives me that demanding, professional, and high stakes personal development that makes my heart soar. I want to be the best and most effective in my field of development, and this gives me that in ways no graduate program could. Not even Cambridge.
I’m developing a packing list for the three months I’ll be in country, but the beauty of Haiti is the heat! After all, it’s much easier packing for a warm climate than a frigid one. I’m also working on my French and Creole, and learning as much as I can about Fonkoze before I leave on January 6th.
I’m excited as all hell, but I’m also terrified I won’t be good enough for the scale of work that needs to be done. That fear can be debilitating or can provide fuel to drive you through the hard times.
In other news, great hire in Peterson for the Dawgs coaching position!
Happy Holidays to you and yours, and obviously, Go Dawgs.
The results of the fundraiser are in… together we raised over $7,500, and the thought I kept coming back to throughout this experience was -leadership-. What will it take to make this world something better?
Through collaborations with many UW Bothell colleagues including Sarah Syvertsen, Martin Diko (above right), and Rosa Lundborg, a picture started coming into focus.
I think that this event showed that people are good and do care, and what’s needed to shift the paradigm to something more equitable and positive is leadership willing to make the opportunities to contribute more accessible. The easier a leader can make it for people to engage in causes, the more people will join. It also means letting your idea go, so that others can really run with it, and make it their own. As long you can keep those people focused, and build them up, the sky’s the limit.
What we saw together last Friday was something special and I’m hungry for more.
Next week: Preparing for Haiti!
Putting our education to good use.
So, how does one put their liberal arts degree to productive use? By working with the UW Bothell family to plan, develop, and execute a major fundraiser in just over one week. Ambitious and naive? Probably. Affecting change? Heck yes. Every drop raises the level of water.
Friday, November 22nd, we’re going to raise some money and come together for the people of the Philippines. Show starts at 6:30, Silent Auction will run from 6:30-9:30, and the doors will stay open until 1:30 or so.
ALL AGES ALL NIGHT!
First off, huge thank you to Kells Irish Restaurant and Pub. Their generosity, and that of the manager Karen has been really amazing.http://www.kellsirish.com/seattle/index.php
There will be a suggested donation of $10 at the door and 100% of that will go towards All Hands Volunteers
These organizations have been on the ground since the terrible storm ravaged the island, and they are incredibly efficient with their funds. All we have to do is show up, open our hearts and give what we can, and people in need will benefit. It should be a good time, as well.
Thanks to Candice and Sarah, our silent auction so far includes:
photography (landscapes of PNW),2 night cabin stay / Private Pilates sessions / Massage Therapy at a Spa / jewelry. and potentially John Curly may donate some of his time for the auction. Please give Candice a round of applause… *applause* So… if you have a hidden talent, or service, let’s hear it. This is going to be epic, i think.
Also, thanks to Brian Johnson, there’s going to be a motorcycle trip thrown in the mix. It’s going to be a good time, I believe.
AND! There will be an open mic that will start towards 7 and will run until…. later:)
ASUWB (Associated Students of UW-Bothell)
UW Bothell Alumni
"TEAM TRACY" Walking 60 Miles to End Breast Cancer
*More sponsors are welcome! And please keep reposting and inviting friends to this event. It’s a great chance to come together for a great cause.
Thanks to all of you for being leaders.