Over three years ago, a woman in Nan Mango stood up in a community meeting and asked to learn what the children were learning in school. She wanted to learn how to read and write. The other women in the meeting broke from their quiet reserve and clapped loudly.
And that set us down a path. We raised $15,000 through a generous grant and contracted with Fonkoze to train 12 of our community leaders as adult educators and to provide curriculum. Three years later, over 800 adults have participated in free literacy training in ten communities.
When we started the literacy program, a sewing co-op was being organized in Nan Mango. The women worked with Ties that Matter, a Georgia-based non-profit, and began to sew dolls, embroidered pillowcases and the like. All of the production was grouped and the school principal paid each woman an equal portion of the total wages.
As time went on, these women learned to write their name and learned more about sewing techniques and quality. Now, they sign for their personal production and are paid according to what they individually earn. The first step of literacy – signing your name.
Beginning this fall, we are going to add basic math skills to the literacy curriculum. This will help women in the sewing group track their production, their rejection rate, their inventory and their earnings. In other communities, math skills will help women when they go to market – they will begin to make family budgets or at least plan their market shopping and be able to count their change.
Among our long term goals – adding more business training, more community development curriculum, the beginnings of libraries in each community. We can provide basic literacy training for $900 per community for a year. That is an amazing return on an investment. Our wish list for the future is funding to publish a series of Haitian fables written in Creole so that our adult learners have material that has meaning to their lives, history and culture. Our perpetual wish list includes reading glasses, pens, workbooks, chalk, and now elementary math flash cards.