Chanje La Vi Program
FEJ’s Chache La vi program is designed for women and youth, who are currently in our care that have been the victims of impoverished living conditions both prior to and following the earthquake. We have incorporated these individuals into our existing reinsertion program that was initially established in the village of Larmardelle in 2007. This program consists of four steps that together constitute the core programs through which each woman or youth will be participating in. They will work with our staff and volunteers to pull themselves out of poverty and into a financially secure future for themselves and/or their families. After the earthquake, Disable women were admitted to the program. After all training sessions they receive, before leaving the rehabilitation camp with a financial support.
All along the way, the participants are not only engaged in the loan programs, but are being accompanied with education, training, and psychosocial assistance that they will need in order to recover from the earthquake and to find innovative ways so that they can become united back within their communities.
1) FEJ Micro-Finance Program
Foundation Enfant Jesus (FEJ) provides life skills seminars, business training, seed capital grants and support to help women launch micro enterprises. We offer grants, not loans, to women ages 18 – 55. We are committed to working with the extreme poor – particularly women who are living on less than $1 a day who are unable to obtain a micro loan. We focus our support on women. Once they have launched their businesses, the majority of the women in the rural villages of Haiti are able to provide better nutrition, health care and education for their families. Many are then eligible to obtain credit in existing microcredit institutions in Haiti. Therefore, to become eligible for this program, FEJ helps each woman to successfully complete a seminar, which promotes the following:
- Strong family and community values
- Gender equity and women empowerment
- Development of the region and facilitating community participation
- Environmental sustainability
- Women’s rights
- Family planning
- Family hygiene
- Family balanced nutrition with local products
- Provide awareness
How We Do It
FEJ identifies potential entrepreneurs with help from local organizations that are active in the regions in which we work.
Once we have identified an entrepreneur, we work with our local partners to provide them with business training and seed capital of about $150 USD to start a business. We also help entrepreneurs connect with savings and loan groups. This three-part approach ensures that our seed capital grants are judiciously implemented. It also helps entrepreneurs best realize their potential as independent and capable small-business owners, which leads to self-empowerment.
We work with the poor to create a business plan, provide training, as well as seed capital. The training helps entrepreneurs devise feasible business plans. The FEJ business plan addresses the same concepts that any business plan would address:
- What is the product or service?
- Is there a demand?
- What are the costs and projected profits?
Our partners then work with the entrepreneurs to complete these plans while training them to perform business related functions.
The majority of people with whom we work cannot read or write, so we tailor this process to meet their needs. Some plans, for instance, use pictures to convey marketing and business concepts.
After business planning and training, we release the first half of the grant. This money covers launch costs such as buying the necessary products to sale in the local village market place, or an ice cooler to set up a soft drink stand in the local village market place.
We also teach entrepreneurs how to balance accounts and reinvest profits in their businesses. Thus, they learn how to run a successful enterprise.
Assessing the business to ensure success
After three months we assess the business. Is it growing? Is it going to succeed? Is the entrepreneur managing it properly? To find out, our trained local mentors make frequent site visits and organize a monthly support group meeting. Doing so gives them a chance to speak directly with entrepreneurs and exchange experiences. We are also in frequent contact with our partner organizations and receive progress reports on each participant. In these ways, we can see if businesses are flourishing. If so, FEJ releases the second installment of the grant.
This second influx of capital allows entrepreneurs to further grow their business. For instance, one entrepreneur bought a second sewing machine so her grandmother could help with her sewing business. Knowledge gained from three months in operation gives entrepreneurs a good sense of what purchases might be best.
A vital piece of our program is savings and loan groups. We set up group savings organizations to encourage entrepreneurs to sack away money for the future. Some entrepreneurs turn to savings in the case of a medical emergency. Others may draw on these funds to expand their business, pay for a wedding, or buy safer, more suitable homes.
No matter what, having savings means that families — who previously lived hand-to-mouth — are better prepared for whatever life hands them. Food, homes, confidence; this is microfinance in action.
We also continue to work with our participants to provide entrepreneurship with additional business support services. This includes links to ongoing sources of capital like micro credit. In this way, FEJ functions as the first step out of extreme poverty – and the first stop on the microfinance continuum.
2) FEJ Sewing and Craft Program
Foundation Enfant Jesus has also opened a vocational training program for both women and youth where they can learn the trade of sewing and craft. There are four, two-hour classes a day for two groups, that run six days a week. Women and youth are currently being trained in this program. Women and youth are taught sewing techniques, how to embroider and make patterns as well as other crafts.
The short-term goal of this project is to have these participants learn a trade, find clients, and be able to support their families with the income that comes from their work. The long-term goal of this project is to create products that can be sold both locally and internationally.
A few of the women that will graduate from this program will be selected and used as mentors for new women that will start this program the following year. A small amount will be paid to these women to cover the time that they put in toward training other women. There is the possibility of recruiting additional mentors from this program that will then be used to also teach children this trade as part of their school curriculum.
There are many children that come from the rural area who start school very late in their lives. These youth will not be able to go to a university to continue their studies and this program will allow them to learn a vocation.