Jacksonville Concert To Support Haitian Microfinance Program

May 8, 2015

Fonkoze CLM graduates are equipped with the skills necessary to be self-sufficient.
Credit via Facebook / Fonkoze CLM

Chemen Lavi Miyò (CLM), which is Haitian Creole for “the pathway to a better life,” is a program that helps Haiti’s most disadvantaged citizens lift themselves out of poverty. CLM works with 2,500 families in the Central Plateau for 18 months at a time. The program helps Haitians learn skill sets that will empower them to pull their families out of poverty and be self-sufficient.

We spoke with Steven Werlin this morning on WJCT's First Coast Connect. Werlin is a regional director with Fonkoze’s Chemen Lavi Miyó program and gave us insight as to how the program originated.

“In about 2006, we started realizing that we weren’t reaching the poorest of the poor,” Werlin said. “We are a microfinance institution. We have very successful credit programs, but it turns out there are people who are much too poor for credit”

Werlin says after researching around the world looking at different programs CLM found a program in Bangladesh that could work for Haiti. He says they then adopted the program into the Haiti nation. Werlin compared the training program they offer with teaching someone how to fish.

“We say that if you can teach someone to fish for a day, they eat for a lifetime,” Werlin said. “That isn’t quite true because people don’t have access to the tools: the fishing pools, the nets.”

He said, “People that don’t have the health that allows them to go out and fish, they won’t succeed.”

“So our approach is that we train people to fish,” Welin said. “We train people to earn income that they need to live, but we also give them the tools that they will need to develop their income.”

According to its website, the CLM program is completed by 96 percent of participants.

Werlin says the program is comprehensive and effective. He says it shows that small amounts of money can make a huge impact on nations like Haiti.

Next Saturday there is a dinner and concert “Heidi Joy Sings for Haiti” featuring Heidi Joy, a local singer from the Jacksonville area. The event is to raise awareness about and celebrate the Fonkoze’s work. Steven Werlin and Michael Fisher, Jacksonville attorney and local activist, will both be attending the event

The dinner starts next Saturday, May 16, at 6 p.m. and the concert 7:30 p.m. at Riverside Presbyterian Church. You must RSVP by calling (904) 355-4585.

Listen to the entire interview with Steven Werlin and Michael Fisher on today's episode of the First Coast Connect podcast.

You can follow Melissa Ross @MelissainJax.