The Pwoje Fanm (“Women’s Projects”) Vocational Program
Pwoje Fanm (pronounced pwo-shay fom) began through the initiative of a Haitian Episcopal priest’s wife in 1990. She saw the need to teach marketable skills to young women who were unable to complete their formal education, and she began the program with 12 women who could not read.
Since those early days, the program has steadily grown. It offers several subjects, including cooking, sewing and embroidery, and at times it has had as many as 120 women enrolled. Tuition is approximately $50 USD per year. Students graduate in 2-4 years, depending on how many subjects they choose to study. Formal graduations began in 2002, and since then nearly 90 young women have graduated. The program is directed by Mme. Michelin Marès, who is assisted by 3 other teachers as well. Mme. Marès received her education at L’Université Mixte Nazarene in Port-au-Prince. Although the program remains a part of the large Episcopal ministry on La Gonâve, it has always been open to young women from outside the church as well.
Several years ago, a group of creative women from a church in Little Rock began to go on mission trips that were focused on working with Pwoje Fanm, and an enduring friendship was born. Beatitudes was eventually established to partner with the program www.beatitudesinc.org.
In April 2008, Beatitudes formalized its relationship with Pwoje Fanm. Previously, we had worked with them informally, through training missions and providing craft supplies as well as financial support. After spending this time getting to know each other, building our friendship and establishing trust, we traveled to La Gonâve in April to formalize the relationship.
We did this by drawing up a contract to hire the women to provide manufacturing labor for Beatitudes products, paying them fair wages in the local economy for their work. The women operate as independent contractors rather than as Beatitudes employees, and their participation is completely voluntary. In cooperation with the Pwoje Fanmdirector, we designed a system of quality control and shipping procedures, and we carefully worked out a piece-by-piece payment system. With this agreement in place, we are now establishing a steady rhythm of receiving good-quality product and sending wages back to the women. Beatitudes will continue to use 100% of the profits from sales of these products to benefit the program, as we continue the construction of their new classroom and start to raise funds for the professional trade school, of which Pwoje Fanm will be an integral part. We are just embarking on this new adventure with these remarkable women, and we are excited about the future!