Charlene Balick is a Technical Program Officer for Grameen Foundation based in Seattle, Washington. She has spent considerable time in Haiti working with Fonkoze.
On Thursday, 27 January, my co-worker in the Grameen Technology Center, Scott Everett , organized with some other members of SEAMO (Seattle Microfinance Organization) a benefit to raise funds for Fonkoze. The event was promoted by other Seattle organizations including Seattle Greendrinks, Re-Vision Labs and Seattle Works. I was thrilled to have a chance to be a part of the lineup and share stories and photos of clients I had taken during visits to Fonkoze over the past year and half.
The pub where the event was held, Pike Brewing Company, nestled down in the Pike Place Market was fantastic! Not only did they provide the event space and accompanying technical equipment for free, they donated 25% of all receipts for the night to the fundraising efforts. Music from the band, The Sunday Evening Whiskey Club, entertained throughout the night.
The program started off with Fonkoze board member, Melanie Howard, who was happy to fly up from Los Angeles to talk to the crowd about Fonkoze as an organization. She introduced Fonkoze and all the many products and programs they offer to uplift the poor in Haiti to a better life. She also was able to speak to Fonkoze’s recent efforts to help their clients and employees who have suffered great damages in the earthquake. She spoke to the way the funds raised would be used to help clients to re-build their lives in the forms of direct assistance and well as interest-deferred loans.
Next, it was my turn to go up on stage with Georgina Allen (who interned for six months in Haiti last year) and show photos I had taken on a field visit and tell two personal stories of two remarkable women, Edith Alexandre and Madeline Nodesti who participated in Fonkoze’s Chemen Lavi Miyò (Shoulder to Shoulder) program. I wanted to bring to the audience a personal face to the Fonkoze client’s courage and pride I experienced when I was able to meet them personally. I shared the story of Madeline receiving some chickens and goats and immediately setting to work to fatten up the goats and sell them for more valuable pigs (a form of savings) and how she was working to her future goals in commerce. I also showed some photos of women in the Ti Kredi program learning to write their names on chalkboard for the first time in their lives and share the excitement, dignity and mutual encouragement I felt in the room that day.
Georgina then spoke to the audience about the passionate and amazing staff of Fonkoze and how they dedicated themselves to helping those who had been affected by the previous year’s hurricane. She talked about the vibrancy of the women vendors she’d meet on her daily walk to work. Speaking of driven women, she also talked about Executive Director, Anne Hastings and her relentless work on building Fonkoze from nothing.
With the entry fee of $20, proceeds from the drinks sold, and the donations that people made (that I hope my stories inspired) on the laptops set up around the room, we were able raise over $3400 to provide directly to Fonkoze!