Going to Haiti with CHES – YES, Without a Doubt I Would Do It Again!

Going to Haiti with CHES - YES, Without a Doubt I Would Do It Again!

Authored by Myriam Paul

Myriam-Haiti-2015The question I have been asked since I got back from the CHES Haiti trip is: “Would you do it again?” My answer is: YES, without a doubt!

The purpose of this year was to help train, coach, and give ongoing support to women Entrepreneurs in rural parts of Haiti – Something that is urgently needed in Haiti.

If you know me personally, you know my personal mission is to inspire, motivate, support, connect, create value, and make a difference. What better way to fulfill this dream than to go back to my homeland- Haiti! When I was asked by CHES President to join her on this journey, I was overjoyed, excited, and counted the seconds from the moment I said yes to my departure on July 21, 2015.

Cap Mountain ViewPrepping for this journey was not an easy task. Although I am from Haiti, I had never been to its Northern parts. I was scared and anxious all at once. I didn’t know the communities or the people I would be meeting. I was unsure about what to prepare for other than the training preparation that we had in place. I had no idea what to expect. After all, it’s Haiti, you have to be open to whatever events that come your way and deal with them as they arise.

The first week of our mission involved meeting with PWOL (Pwodwi Lokal, a food warehouse selling 100% natural Haitian produce) in Limbe, Cap-Haitien. PWOL is a women-based business that CHES gave a seed loan in 2013. PWOL was at risk of losing their business due to many factors. Even though we have a CHES business liaison onsite checking in weekly, we felt PWOL would most benefit from a one on one visit.

PWOL-23

The first day was intense, having to hear the struggles that these women were going through while serving the community was heartbreaking. Through it all, I could feel and sense their perseverance. These women defined courage — something I hold dear to my heart. They were broken, however, they were not ready to give up. These women needed more support and push and that’s what CHES brought them. We coached and helped PWOL develop strategies on how to market themselves to increase their clientele and network. Through our mentoring, PWOL piloted a market survey which provided essential feedback to help them better address the community’s needs. We also promoted and connected them with potential clients and other entrepreneurs within their region. By the end of our training, these women felt empowered by the support received and the tools learned; they now feel ready to tackle their challenges.

Having completed the first week of the CHES trip without any challenges, we were excited to tackle week two in Gonaives. Week two started well, but then CHES dealt with its first setback. Upon reviewing the materials with Partners for Change (PfC- CHES partner organization for training), we were cautioned that the materials may not be as beneficial to these women, due to the varied literacy levels amongst the group. Oh boy, was I panicking! I actually was unable to sleep that night, worried that our efforts would go to waste. I am a worrier; I sometimes over-analyze things, thinking of many possible solutions before I react – one of my pet peeves.

Gonaives Women1

On the first day of the Gonaives training, I walked in to meet the 15+ women and from the eager looks on their faces when they saw us, all panicking was off. These women were ON TIME and ready to learn! These women were hungry for knowledge. We started the day by getting a feel of the women, and we ended up going through the training timelines without changing a thing. We were impressed with how attentive these women were; how smart they were; how much about business they already knew and how they really only needed our help to put terminology and theory into place.

I have never met a group of women who were so eager to learn more than these women I have seen in Gonaives. Their struggles or/and their difficulties didn’t stop them from pushing forward. They consider themselves as the head of their household and no matter what life brings to them, they will make it work to their advantage. In three days, these women learned about:

Gonaive Women Group exercises2

  1. How to manage their business consciously
  2. How to bring value to their stakeholders (the environment and their community included),
  3. Sales
  4. Customer service
  5. Inventory management
  6. Marketing
  7. Banking (courtesy of a presentation by a representative of FONKOZE)
  8. SWOT analysis and more…

Topics that may take a college student a whole semester to retain, it took these women just three days. Think about it! So, yes, I will do it again with my eyes closed, as long as the opportunity arises.

Gonaive Women Group exercisesFor those of you reading this, I urge you to make it a point to help and support someone in need. You may never know what your effort and time will mean and do for someone in need. Especially in rural parts of Haiti where many women and young girls have not once set foot in a school setting, they often don’t know how to read nor write because, more likely than not, these women were restaveks, modern day slaves. Let’s end that misery by teaching these women how worthy they are so they can pass on that knowledge to their kids and so forth.

Volunteer work is not for everyone, it’s costly, it can be dangerous, and it is not for the faint at heart. There are many ways to help support any organization that you feel align with your vision and values. You can donate your time, your money and you can spread the word. As they say in Haiti, “on sel dwet pa manje kalalou (it’s impossible to eat okra with one finger).” Let’s work together to support women in Haiti to become self-sustainable and slowly erase poverty in our country.

 

 

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