Chemen Lavi Miyò (CLM), “Pathway to a Better Life” Program
The “bottom billion” are people around the globe who live on less than $1.25 a day. They live in make-shift homes, are not guaranteed a daily meal, cannot send their children to school and lack an income to improve their lot in life. In Haiti, a country of 10 million people, 77 percent live at or below the poverty level, according to U.S. government estimates.
The international Vincentian Family hosted a highly successful match program in 2011 that raised nearly half a million dollars which were used to enroll 300 families in a new cohort of the Chemen Lavi Miyò (CLM) or “Pathway to a Better Life” program. Targeting families in Mirebalais and Las Cahobas, both rural areas north of the capital, this cohort will aid 1,500 to 2,100 people because the average Haitian family has five to seven members.
Gauthier Dieudonè directs this program for female-headed households who, he says, “carry the economy of Haiti on their backs.” The women have now entered a proven 18-month program that provides close support and training that enables them to upgrade their living conditions, become food secure, enroll their children in school and learn a vocation to create a sustainable income.
The families are doing well already. They have committed to the program, received a water filter to prevent cholera, free access to health care, a sturdy housing structure and a separate latrine that they had to build themselves as part of the sweat-equity required of participants. Some women have already received training in two income-generating activities, such as raising goats, pigs or chickens, or micro-businesses that sell items on the street.
Viergemène Pierre had been selling eight to 10 coffee cans filled with salt daily when she enrolled in the program, but it wasn’t enough to provide for three children, her nephew and her elderly mother, all of whom were living in a tent-like structure. Through her hard work and the guidance she has received, she saved $20 in the first couple of months that she put into her new savings account.
The Vincentians are funding this program in partnership with Fonkoze, an alternative bank for the poor in Haiti. Fonkoze staff members have guided hundreds of families through the program with great success and report an excellent start for this latest group.
Ms. Pierre has begun her journey on the path to a better life. She has a new-found sense of hope for the future, with good reason. She now has two goats and will be receiving a pig in the coming weeks. When it comes time for her to receive the proceeds from her savings group, she plans to start a small business. When she graduates from the program, she will be graduating into the new life she will have created for herself and her extended family.
School Consortium: Hot Lunch Program Launches in Haitian Schools
As schools opened in October across Haiti, 14 rural elementary, middle and high schools began feeding programs for about 3,500 students, improving their nutrition and readiness to learn, according to Yasmine Cajuste, education program coordinator for the VFHI Español (VFHI) who oversees the effort. The program was made possible by Mary’s Meals, an international movement to address world hunger, and Caritas Hinche, a social ministry of the Church.
Three additional Vincentian schools in Port-au-Prince will be added in January 2014. In all, the VFHI will support 32 Haitian schools by the end of 2014. In addition to the feeding program at 17 schools, all 32 will gain access to expertise and resources to create school improvement plans.
“The schools will create a common vision with their parents and communities,” said Cajuste, who holds a master’s degree in educational leadership from DePaul University. The plans will be tailored to each school and may include such items as institutional support, establishment or consolidation of a Parent Teacher Organization, instructional support and teacher training.
Beyond the improvement efforts, seven schools run by the Daughters of Charity, and seven run by the Congregation of the Mission will benefit from Vincentian formation education that will include discussions of Vincentian spirituality and values.
“This program with its different components – feeding, school improvement goals and Vincentian training – creates the necessary conditions for true learning to happen,” said Father Raphael Verlux, regional superior of the Congregation of the Mission and member of the VFHI board. “We are focusing on the youth, and these seeds will give a new face to this country in a few years.”