Our Programmes Manager, Ailish O’Reilly, takes a look at a busy few weeks for our livelihoods programme, with December’s graduation ceremony marking the successes so far and new participants looking forward to new, exciting opportunities!
There are a number of phases in our livelihoods programme before we get to what we all agree is the best phase – Graduation. To achieve graduation, not only must participants complete all other phases but they must also undertake a final interview. The last half of the month of November was a blur: an interview takes at least two hours to complete and that does not include the travel time to get to the participant’s homes, so we went up mountains and out over the hills to complete this task.
A lot of planning went in to giving participants a special event for their graduation. We had certificates to prepare; robes to hire; a hall to decorate; food to arrange; a choral arrangement to prepare; invites to send; and all of the usual work of the programme.
It was fantastic! 45 local women graduated from the programme on 16 December. We had a wonderful day, celebrating their achievements with their families and community. The graduation was all the more special for all the obstacles we had to overcome to get there.
As you all remember, in October 2016, Île à Vache was hit by Hurricane Matthew. Our livelihoods team came together with the other Haven project staff and worked on the emergency response and, then, recovery. All of the businesses set up in the programme survived the storm and were back in action through December 2016 and into 2017. This proved we could attain one of our core goals, not just livelihoods but sustainable livelihoods that are resilient in the face of adversity.
At the graduation in December, which was one of our best days ever here on Île à Vache, we presented our 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year award. The award was based on both business success and social transformation. The award went to Zile Anne for her wholesale beverage business and her personal growth over the course of the programme to embody the transformational impact of our social training modules.
2017 saw new bakeries being built; two chicken coop businesses opened in November in time for Christmas markets; two participants purchased goats for rearing; and one participant, Nadege, started a dual business, making peanut butter and developing an artisan embroidery product. Another woman took a small project role with Haven and used her salary to invest in her business, therefore launching it without any loan.
Our two chicken coops are selling the last of 400 chickens to local market. Nadege’s embroidery business filled an order of 400 small artisan pieces for early January: with such a large order to be completed in a month, she has been able to employ four local women to help.
And on 19 January, a group of fourteen women entered our livelihoods programme, the first of many new enterprises we hope to launch and grow on Île à Vache in 2018.