As part of this year’s service learning trip to Cap-Haitien, Haiti, the Laurier ENACTUS team (an organization based on applying business skills to address social needs) has been spending time at a partnering nutrition centre. The nutrition centre is a hub for many services and programs, with an aim to develop the capacity and skills of young mothers in the long term, while addressing nutritional deficiencies in their babies in the short term.
Over the past year, our small team (three Laurier Business students and one faculty member) has spent time researching improvements to an existing microfinance program at the centre.
In just a few days of being here in Cap, we are really appreciating the critical importance of presence on the ground to really LISTEN to the concerns and needs of people we are working with, and to understand broader context. Skype calls don’t always do this justice!! So we decided to take a step back, and put our research on microfinance aside.. just for now!
At our first full day at the centre, we spent the morning learning about the centre's history, driving philosophy, and overall challenges. We then spent the afternoon mapping out a “gap analysis” on sticky notes (who doesn’t love sticky note mapping?!). This helped us to hear what the Field Director (Andre) and the Office Manager (Denise) identified as needs that women, funders and the centre have, and the gaps that may exist within current programs. Finally, with Andre and Denise, we were able to identify possible opportunities for improvement, including the microfinance program.
Although this may not seem directly linked to education (or to our microfinance redesign!), our engagement with the centre has helped us see that education really does happen in many forms. A few of the life skills classes offered to mothers of children in the nutrition centre, as well as to others have really struck us in their value; the Alpha Literacy program for example, helps adults become literate and numerate, some of whom have never been to school before. Seeing two GRANDparents(!) learning to read and write in Creole was a powerful moment for us; a realization that developing capacity can happen in small and big ways, at various ages, driven by local leadership and relevant training. We are also appreciating that these programs do not necessarily happen in formal institutions.
As for the rest of our trip, we plan to come back to how microfinance fits in the grand scheme of the centre’s work and what structure makes most sense for that program. For now, we are happy to learn how all the pieces of the puzzle can fit together!
- Roopa Reddy (on behalf of Laura Douglas, Jerry Liu and Enactus Laurier)
A passionate educator.. on a quest for a schooling model to love!