“Haiti is Open for Business”: a post by Jen Pettie

Although much of the world has forgotten, Haiti continues its struggle to rebound after a devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck the region five years ago. The 2010 earthquake killed upwards of 200,000 people, and displaced 1.5 million others.

For a country already struggling with extreme poverty, it was a crippling blow. Haiti’s President Michel Martelly was, and is to this day, determined to rebuild the country. “Haiti is open for business” was the slogan and the election platform of President Martelly. This phrase serves as a slogan for his administration and a reminder that it is imperative to continue to work toward rebuilding and business growth in the country.

Many relief efforts are focusing on building new business strategies for Haitians. Partners Worldwide and Creating Jobs, Inc., are two organizations which are actively working to train local entrepreneurs with the business skills they desperately need to succeed on them own. Providing these skills to promote self-sufficiency is fundamental to ending perpetual poverty that was a problem in Haiti long before the earthquake. These business-focused training groups have incredible potential to truly benefit the people of this still nation which is still in distress.

This was my tenth trip to Haiti with the non-profit agencies Partners Worldwide and Creating Jobs, Inc. As a Certified Public Accountant, I mentor ten businesses in the areas of finance, sales, marketing and operations. Partners Worldwide and Creating Jobs.org bring United States and Canadian business men and women to walk alongside, coach, and mentor entrepreneurs in developing countries. Over the years I’ve made dedicated efforts to get to know these business owners, their families and their businesses deeply. This helps build the trust that is so vital to a mutual collaboration, and helps them to understand that I am committed to the long-term success of their businesses.

On each of my trips, I have focused on the best way to serve them individually. My approach is to understand what each entrepreneur needs. Only then do I determine the best way that I can help them. For example, Marabou Furniture Shop, which is run by Eliseme Jeanlouis, is one of the businesses I mentor. In the past Eliseme sustained Marabou Shop by contracting with NGOs (Non Government Organizations) to manufacture specially designed wood products, such as crutches, chairs, and other items. Since many NGOs have left Haiti, his sales have almost disappeared. When we met this July, we discussed key principles of ‘lead generation’ to develop an effective sales strategy. Our conversation covered the following topics:

  • Defining the market.
  • Formulating a plan to make direct contact with as many clients as possible.
  • Figuring out how to get face-to-face meetings with them.
  • Listing his top 50 potential business clients, and aggressively pursuing each one. In addition to family and friends, I suggested that he list contacts from school, church, business, sports and other activities he is involved in.

I also provided ‘refer-a-friend’ cards for him to distribute to customers. The cards will offer a discount to customers that refer new customers to him. My advice was to keep a database of the referring customers to build a sustainable customer base. I also brought him a photo album so he can display a broad example of his inventory to potential customers.

On this trip, an exciting new business was added to the group: ‘Holmy Center Auto Parts’ run by Cadet Jean Olmy. The business sells replacement and repair machine parts for motorcycles.   Cadet has a sharp business mind, aided by the training sessions offered by Partners Worldwide. One strategic move he has made was convincing the landowner across from his business to open a motorcycle rest stop. On my visit there were six motorcycle riders conveniently repairing their cycles across the street! We also reviewed his financial records and discussed his inventory strategy. On my next trip I will bring a form that will allow him to review his sales and expenses month by month. This will help him understand trends and unusual activity going on so that he can make better decisions for his future.

On my last mission trip to Haiti I felt there was a developing trust between myself and the Haitian business owners as they now have begun to understand that I am committed to developing the long-term success of their businesses.

Although tourism is no longer a major industry in Haiti, it was once known as ‘La Perle des Antilles’ (The Pearl of the Antilles) and is, after all, surrounded by the heavenly turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. Wahoo Bay Beach is a popular get-away for expats living in Port-au-Prince, and we spent a relaxing day enjoying the sun and delicious local seafood. After long hours working with the entrepreneurs, this was a needed moment of peaceful reflection for me.

This week was for me, once again, was a journey of encouraging, supporting, listening and indeed learning from business owners that share the same passions for business excellence as I do. My plan is to return in December to follow up on the various strategies I discussed with the business owners I mentor. They have become a very important part of my life, and it is my hope that I will see successes, and also, new ideas that they have developed.   Although to some, Haiti’s issues may seem too large to overcome, I see them as opportunities to empower the people of this wonderful country and help them to develop sound businesses that will also help the country as a whole.

Encouraging, Supporting, Listening and Learning: a post by Jen Pettie

International support has flowed into Haiti since the devastating 2010 earthquake that killed thousands and caused billions in damages. Organizations large and small have been working to not only support short-term relief efforts, but also to begin a new chapter for a country long-mired in poverty. More and more, the long-term goal of organizations is to build the business capacity of Haitians. Creating Jobs Inc and Partners Worldwide (a partner organization of The Global Volunteer Partnership) are two organizations training local entrepreneurs with business skills to help them help themselves. Providing the skills to promote self-sufficiency is fundamental to ending perpetual poverty.

As a CPA, I’ve traveled to Haiti nine times with Partners Worldwide and Creating Jobs Inc to mentor ten businesses on finance, marketing and operations. Partners Worldwide and Creating Jobs.org bring US and Canadian business men and women to walk alongside to coach and mentor entrepreneurs in developing countries.

On my last mission trip to Haiti I felt there was a developing trust as the Haitian business owners began to understand I am committed to develop the long-term success of their business. Over the years I’ve made dedicated efforts to get to know them, their families and their businesses deeply.

Volunteer Jen Pettie (center) reviews financial statements with business owner Marc-Nes Desir (left) and translator Louis Brunel (right)

Volunteer Jen Pettie (center) reviews financial statements with business owner Marc-Nes Desir (left) and translator Louis Brunel (right)

As a number cruncher I value the information found in financial statements. During mentor visits over the years I’ve shared the value of using financial records to understand the story and value hidden in the books. Some have struggled to develop the habit of recording transactions or compiling the information into useful material. Other businesses owners quickly grasped the importance of bookkeeping. One business owner even installed accounting software after completing the business training offered by Partners Worldwide.

In the past I’ve enjoyed sharing classes on overcoming personal and cultural barriers that limit business success in Haiti. US mentors from Creating Jobs Inc have led a multitude of training sessions that have covered everything from innovative thinking to employee engagement to cash flow management to operational leadership to price negotiation.

Haitian entrepreneur  Andre Louissant received a loan to purchase a new oven for his bakery after completing a 12-week business training course.

Haitian entrepreneur Andre Louissant received a loan to purchase a new oven for his bakery after completing a 12-week business training course.

This month marked yet another journey of encouraging, supporting, listening and indeed learning from business owners that share my passion for business excellence.

Haitian entrepreneur Andre Louissant wears a cap promoting his business, "Top Bakery."

Haitian entrepreneur Andre Louissant wears a cap promoting his business, “Top Bakery.”

Ms. Jen Pettie, CPA, MBA, has participated in numerous volunteer assignments to help Haitian small businesses grow and thrive.  Partners Worldwide of Grand Rapids, Michigan, a partner organization of The Global Volunteer Partnership, has been a sponsor of her assignments.

Partner Organization Recognizes Work of Volunteers

Health Volunteers Overseas (HVO) has announced the recipients of the 10th Annual HVO Golden Apple Award in connection with World Health Day and World Health Worker Week.

An Overview of The Global Volunteer Partnership

The following highlights The Global Volunteer Partnership’s rationale and contributions in support of skills-based international volunteering.

News from Partner Organizations

Health Volunteers Overseas has announced a new training project, while VEGA has issued its latest newsletter.

Health Volunteers Overseas Shares Latest News and Information

Partner organization Health Volunteers Overseas has released its February 2015 newsletter highlighting new initiatives and projects as well as volunteer opportunities.

On Leaving and Looking Ahead: a post from the field by Dr. Emily Moody

Back at Mulago today, I presented my environmental health survey to the residents at morning meeting, and it was received very well. They were interested to hear more about what sorts of research I have done in environmental health and many of them, especially first years but even some more senior residents, expressed interest in collaborating with me. Some of the things they mentioned that they see on a regular basis were similar to what we worry about at home, including exposures to air pollution, but many were different.  Many mentioned organophosphate poisoning (there was one child who died of likely organophosphate poisoning just two weeks ago), sanitation, and water pollution as common problems.  Many responded that they rarely or never see heavy metal exposure, and in fact it is difficult or expensive to find testing facilities in Kampala. One resident mentioned that she is worried about mothers giving black tea and soda pop to babies (she wasn’t sure if this is an environmental exposure, but something she has noticed and been worried about).  I still only have about half of them back, so it will be interesting to see what the rest of them show.

Time has really flown – I’ll be leaving in two days, but hopefully will have the chance to return sometime in the next few years.

Dr. Emily C. Moody, MD, MHS, is a Resident in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at the University of Minnesota Medical School.  A matching grant from The Global Volunteer Partnership facilitated her volunteer assignment with a Ugandan pediatric hospital and efforts to develop educational tools for protecting children from environmental hazards.  Health Volunteers Overseas, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit ”dedicated to improving the availability and quality of health care in developing countries through the training and education of local health care providers,” hosted the assignment.

In Mbarara: a post from the field by Dr. Emily Moody

It’s been a fascinating week here, I’m really glad I was able to leave Kampala and to come out to Mbarara this week.  We had two missions in coming here: one was to visit a Catholic children’s hospital (Holy Innocents), and the other was to visit Dr. Liz, a pediatrics resident who won a grant from the American Academy of Pediatrics for a peer-to-peer nutrition education and gardening project.  We also got to visit the Mbarara pediatrics residency program and their teaching hospital. I learned a lot and had a lot of fun and interesting experiences.

A highlight was certainly visiting the 4 schools involved in Dr. Liz’s project.

A primary school

A primary school

The schools are all quite small, and in what seem to be extremely out-of-the-way places.  Primary school here is from P1 to P7, and attendance is required for all children, although most don’t make it through P7.  Our group arrived to each school by car, and from the intense curiosity and excitement of the children, it was apparent that cars don’t arrive there every day.  Faces would peer curiously out all of the school building windows, and as soon as the bell rung we were swarmed by kids, out to take a look at the visitors.  Eventually, after meeting and greeting with the school head teachers, the children would be assembled.  The nutrition and gardening clubs would get together in front of the whole school to present songs, skits, and poems.  Some were general greeting songs, or school spirit songs, but some were actually about the nutritional messages that had been taught through the program.  We got a tour of each school’s gardens that had been planted with high iron beans and high vitamin A sweet potatoes, which was really fun.  They were all impressive gardens, but one school in particular had immense gardens, with a very large plot for each level, and an even larger one that was tended by the teachers.

They had added tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, eggplant, pumpkin, and other vegetables in addition to the beans and sweet potatoes that were being promoted by the project.  The excitement of the children to meet us and the genuine interest and excitement about learning the nutritional and health messages and for tending their garden were so impressive.

A garden project

A garden project

We learned that most of the children won’t go on to secondary school because the parents don’t have money for school fees.  Primary school is free, and costs only the small amount for uniforms, but secondary school fees, although quite low by our standards ($80 to 1000 per year in boarding school) are more than most families in the rural villages can manage.

On Wednesday we met the group called HEADA, a local community involvement non-profit organization run by a dynamic and impressive small group of young professionals and students. We met 6 of the members (only two were missing) in a small 10 x 10 square cement office crammed with three arm chairs and a large desk.  On the wall they had posted the game boards and educational tools they used for teaching the nutritional concepts, drawn with permanent markers on burlap sacks.  The group had been started in 2009 by John, who was studying to be a teacher at the time, and his roommate who was studying to be a doctor.  They realized that schoolchildren often learned about reproductive health from each other, and that often they shared misinformation with each other.  So the group decided to try to initiate a peer education project in some rural secondary schools about reproductive health.  They gradually involved more friends who had interests in rural youth and community strengthening projects, and got a few small grants to help with costs.  They were such a bright, motivated, interesting group of people, it was truly inspiring to meet them and to hear about their projects.

The nutrition and gardening project was motivated by the fact that malnutrition is very prevalent in that section of the country while at the same time it is one of the most fertile areas of the country.  Dr. Liz told us that up to 40% of children in that area are stunted. So they chose these 4 primary schools, found an interested teacher to be the head of the club, and a representative boy and girl from each level from P3 through P7 to participate in the peer education. This is the second year of the project, and the health and garden clubs are strong, and the gardens are growing up.

Primary school children singing about hygiene and nutrition

Primary school children singing about hygiene and nutrition

Dr. Emily C. Moody, MD, MHS, is a Resident in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at the University of Minnesota Medical School.  A matching grant from The Global Volunteer Partnership facilitated her volunteer assignment with a Ugandan pediatric hospital and efforts to develop educational tools for protecting children from environmental hazards.  Health Volunteers Overseas, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit ”dedicated to improving the availability and quality of health care in developing countries through the training and education of local health care providers,” hosted the assignment.

Full Days and New Opportunities: a post from the field by Dr. Emily Moody

I have been working at Mulago Hospital for two weeks now and the days have flown by. I have been working a lot in the acute care area, which is analogous to a pediatric emergency ward, and it is incredibly busy.  It is easy to get caught up in all of the work so much that it becomes difficult to leave the ward or to shift focus to anything else.  I had hoped by this time to have gotten further in my assessment of environmental health issues and training needs at the hospital.  However, on the wards I am confronted with so many individual patients with basic acute medical problems like neonatal sepsis, respiratory illnesses, and diarrheal disease that it becomes hard to step back and think about environmental risks for chronic illness. I think a good place to start will be to survey the residents both about what they see in their patients as environmental health problems, what sorts of training they get in environmental health, and what they feel they could use in additional training or support.  It will work out quite well because next week I am planning to go to Mbarara (a city straight west of Kampala) and will get a chance to meet with residents in their program.  I think it is a much smaller program.  In addition to getting a chance to talk with them about environmental health, I’m eager to see their hospital and participate in rounds there.

Dr. Emily C. Moody, MD, MHS, is a Resident in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at the University of Minnesota Medical School.  A matching grant from The Global Volunteer Partnership facilitated her volunteer assignment with a Ugandan pediatric hospital and efforts to develop educational tools for protecting children from environmental hazards.  Health Volunteers Overseas, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit ”dedicated to improving the availability and quality of health care in developing countries through the training and education of local health care providers,” hosted the assignment.

Settling In: a post from the field by Dr. Emily Moody

This week has been a whirlwind of getting used to Mulago Hospital. Both the physical structure of the hospital and the structure of the residency program are very new organizations for me to get used to!  The hospital consists of a lot of individual ward buildings going up the hill, separated by dirt roads, some paved sidewalks, grassy areas, and a few trees.  Each ward consists of a couple of large open rooms lined with cribs, and busy with patients, family members, and care teams.  Because this is a teaching hospital connected to both a medical school and multiple residency programs, some of the rounding teams are quite large.  Parents are the principal caretakers of patients, and are responsible for all feeding, cleaning, and most medications (except those administered by iv, which are given by the nurse).  A ward with up to 50 patients generally has 1-2 nurses, so family support for patients is necessary.

The pediatric residency program here has very strong research training, and each resident designs and carries out a large independent research project between their second and third years. Currently the second year residents are busy getting their research proposals together and presenting them to the department.  It has been really interesting to hear the proposals, which have covered a number of different infectious disease topics, and some chronic illness topics.  Nothing yet about environmental health – and I don’t really expect to hear one.  I’ve been talking with a bunch of residents about their research and asking about environmental health along the way, and it’s an area that they don’t have a lot of experience in. They commonly see things in the wards like organophosphate poisoning, which we rarely (if ever) see in our pediatric emergency departments, yet it’s difficult to find facilities to test blood lead levels, which we do routinely at home. It’s understandable that with such a large burden of acute disease, it’s hard to invest anything in preventive medicine.

Dr. Emily C. Moody, MD, MHS, is a Resident in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at the University of Minnesota Medical School.  A matching grant from The Global Volunteer Partnership facilitated her volunteer assignment with a Ugandan pediatric hospital and efforts to develop educational tools for protecting children from environmental hazards.  Health Volunteers Overseas, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit ”dedicated to improving the availability and quality of health care in developing countries through the training and education of local health care providers,” hosted the assignment.