Monday, August 9, 2010

Video Interview with Wilonda Cannon

Wonderful overview of Project Eden in Haiti. Wilonda is the Project Manager of the team.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Friday: Visit to Grace Village

On Friday, the Project Eden team visited Grace Village and delivered clothes, shoes, toiletries, and toys supporters in Chicago donated. The entire team was moved by the resiliency of the Haitian people and the compassion and care Bishop Jeune and his family have extended in order to provide a home for the thousands displaced by the earthquake.

Initially a compound housing a girls' orphanage, a church, and a school, after the earthquake Grace Village became a home for more than 14,000 people. The Jeunes administer Grace Village like a city. The residents pay 60 cents per household which covers the salaries for the security staff. Everyone is expected to keep the grounds clean and there is a curfew. The camp has been divided into blocks and the residents of each block meet once a week with the Jeunes and their staff to discuss their concerns about life in the camp and the rules everyone is expected to follow. Residents have even set up booths and sell goods to one another. The camp has reached capacity and cannot allow any more people to put up tents.

We commend Bishop and Madame Jeune for all they have done for the people of Haiti. It is a privilege to partner with them to do the Lord's work here on earth.

Thursday: Our Participants Say "Thank You" to PE

Thursday's graduation was the capstone to three days of hard work by PE and the attendees. And while our participants were thankful for all we shared with them, they blessed us with so much more. As a surprise for us, the participants worked together to show us their appreciation for the workshops. They sang a song for us and presented each PE team member with a unique gift. Finally, they prayed the Lord's blessing over us for our commitment to them and their success.

Project Eden members are humbled by their thoughtfulness and expressions of gratitude. We are grateful to God that we have been so blessed to have met and worked with each one of them.

Thursday: Graduation for Participants!

In Haiti, education is valued because so few have the opportunity to obtain it. Therefore, Project Eden held a graduation ceremony and gave all 200 participants personalized "Certificates of Completion." We also gave "Certificates of Service" to each of our 10 translators, who assisted us everyday. We could not have been successful without them!

Bishop Joel Jeune, Founder and Director of Grace International, a long-time partner of Project Eden, attended the graduation with his wife Doris Jeune, who was also a participant this week. Bishop Jeune oversees 200 churches and worked with Project Eden to spread the word about our program. We are grateful for his partnership and all the work he, his wife, and their team have done to make these workshops a great success!

Thursday: Construction Training (Day 3)

On their last day together, the Construction Team taught on how to develop a construction company in Haiti, step by step. The presentation covered all aspects of business formation including: writing the vision (in accordance with Habakkuk 2:2), creating the business plan, and filing administrative paperwork with the proper government entities. Our participants were surprised to see all the components that go into creating, planning, and executing a successful business.

In the afternoon the trainees were divided into three groups and were challenged to design their own communities. This mini urban planning exercise revealed what participants thought was important to include in a successful community: homes, hospitals, hotels, schools, airports, and stores. It was also interesting to see that they thought services like the fire department, should be located in the middle of the commmunity to provide equal accessibility to all residents.

At the end of the workshop, participants were excited about what they had learned and eager to put it all into practice.

Thursday: One-on-One Business Consulting (Day 3)

On the last day of the One-on-One Business Consulting workshop, business owners finally got the chance to sit down individually with a Project Eden Advisor and go over their business. PE Advisors pulled back the layers of their businesses and gave them strategies on how to expand and streamline their services.

These individual sessions gave participants the opportunity to discuss their unique challenges and ask questions in an intimate and safe environment.

Thursday: Be All You Can Dream (Day 3)

They presented their store design to the Board and explained why they designed the layout as they did. Melzie taught that product placement within stores is key to driving up sales. For example, the owners of the grocery store should put the milk at the back of the store and not the front, so that customers have to walk past aisles of merchandise before they buy an essential item. The purpose is to increase the likelihood that other products will catch customers' eyes so they will make an unplanned purchase. This strategy will increase sales for the owners and educate customers on the merchandise available at their store.

Participants also had to submit financial information with projected sales figures for a two-year period. Finally, attendeess also viewed their commercials as a group, which was an exciting and humorous part of the workshop. It was also a pivitol moment for them to see themselves promoting their own business. The idea that they could have a successful business, with people from all over the city or even the country, coming to buy their products or services, was taking shape.

There were three winning teams out of 15: the Italian restaurant, the natural juice company, and the chocolate company. They were judged on design, creativity, teamwork, as well as the quality and content of their commmericals. Picking the winners was difficult. All of the groups gave 110% and were enthusiastic about the exercise.

Finally, every participant in the Be All You Can Dream workshop received a certificate of completion, a rewarding moment for them and for our workshop leaders.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Wednesday: Construction Training (Day 2)

After another in-class session, the Construction team visited the project site for a new marketplace in Port-au-Prince. The participants saw the practical application of the theory and planning principles they learned the day before. For example, they observed the installation of cement floors with rebar reinforcemnents, which is the industry standard. They also saw design materials which were outside the scope of the team's presention.

Wednesday: One-on-One Business Consulting (Day 2)

On Day 2, Demitrus led a session on marketing which included the "5 Ps of Marketing," product, people, place, price and promotion. To drive home this lesson, Demitrus showed attendees pictures of marketing examples from the U.S. and Haiti, and discussed ways they can use marketing principles to take their businesses to the next level. For example, utilizing the radio, which is popular in Haiti, is a strategy many participants should consider.

Demitrus also taught that they should brand their businesses in a way that captures a specific market. She explained why it is important to narrow their market and focus on their ideal or best customer by looking at how that person purchases, when they purchase, where they purchase, why they purchase, as well as that person's age and economic status.

Finally, Demitrus encouraged participants to think of ways they could sell their products to other people in Haiti as well as those in other countries.

Mark taught on pricing and financial statements. The participants were familiar with the concept of a business plan but had never created one of their own. The Team provided a sample business plan and participants were excited to learn about how to write one.

Wednesday: Be All You Can Dream (Day 2)

On Day 2, the Team led participants in the interactive portion of Be All You Can Dream, a business simulation in which attendees create a retail complex. The participants voted to their space the Carrefour Community Complex. (Carrefour is a town just outside of Port-au-Prince. Next, attendees break out into groups, with each group creating its own business and competing for retail space. Some of the business ideas they developed include a clothing store, a computor store and repair shop, a candy store, a bakery, an internet cafe, a soda bottling company, a construction supply company, a grocery store, a recycling company, and an Italian restaurant.

Each space in the mall was priced according to location, with spaces in the front going for double the price of those in the back.

The exercise included submitting their business ideas to a board of directors (comprised of the Team leaders) for approval and paying the bank for their location in the mall and the building materials. One team even asked for a receipt! That team received extra points for their attention to detail and commitment to keeping accurate financial records.

Finally, participants wrote and starred in commercials promoting their businesses, which were taped by the PE Media Team.

Participants' ideas reflected the needs of their communities and demonstrated the depth of their creativity. Everyone was very engaged in the process and reported that what they learned was very valuable.

Tuesday: Construction Training (Day 1)

In our third workshop, Construction Training: Theory and Planning, facilitators stressed the importance of laying a proper foundation. They also shared the importance of discarding tradition, once tradition ceases to serve its purpose. For example, participants explained that their practice of building roofs with only cement blocks was handed down to them from French colonists. The team explained that the earthquake demonstrated why the tradition of building with only cement was a dangerous one and could easily be replaced by using materials that will make the roof lighter, stronger, and safer. Although skeptical, participants were willing to consider making a change. In order to move from theory to planning, their homework was to design a roof that did not contain cement. This was a lively workshop where participants asked many questions and demonstrated their hunger for more understanding of proper construction principles.

Tuesday: One-on-One Business Consulting (Day 1)

In the One-on-One Business Consulting session, Lori Threatt, Laurie Smith, Mark Muse, and Demetrus Evans echoed the “No Fear Here” sentiment and had participants read 2 Timothy 1:7 at the beginning of their session: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” The participants included 27 business owners from IT, retail, food industry, and construction.

Laurie taught participants how to identify trends in their community and country and how to turn those trends into business opportunities. For example, if foreigners are pouring into Haiti to help, it will be difficult for them to help if they don't know Kreyol. Therefore, there will be more opportunities to teach Kreyol. There would also be more opportunities to build hotels, open restaurants, as well as sell more souvenirs.

Tuesday: Be All You Can Dream (Day 1)

“Laperez pa gen plas li nan sal la” is Kreyol for “Fear is not allowed in this room.” That’s the statement every participant had to agree to when they walked into the Be All You Can Dream session with Melzie Robinson and his team, Lee Warner, Betty Evans and Yolanda Thomas. Fear of the unknown, fear of failure, even fear of daring to believe they could be successful, have held many Haitians back from realizing their full potential. Project Eden understands that true community rebirth cannot fully be realized until people know who they are in Christ and the abundant life they can have as a result of that divine relationship. So Melzie began his session by feeding participants the Word of God. As a result, 12 people received Jesus Christ as their Lord and personal Savior.

With the spiritual foundation laid, Melzie taught on the advantages of entrepreneurship and the keys to becoming a successful business owner. Lee presented a seminar on Financial Literacy and taught the importance of keeping good records, including balance sheets and income statements. The session was engaging and participants experienced a great outpouring of revelation and understanding from God on practical steps they can take right now as they travel the road to great success.

Tuesday: PE Workshop Registration (Day 1)

Nearly 200 people attended Tuesday’s trainings which ran simultaneously at our host location, Le Plaza Hotel: Be All You Can Dream (BAYCD), One-on-One Business Consulting, and Construction Training: Theory and Practice.

Participants arrived early and were lined up all the way out the door far in advance of 8:00 a.m. registration. There's no doubt about it, Haitians are punctual people! PE members Charity Nelson, Betty Evans, Yolanda Thomas, Ray Williams, LaMeisha Taylor, and LaDawn Burnett greeted and assisted our guests, who found their attempts to speak Kreyol and French amusing, yet sincere. Clearly our participants aren’t the only ones learning something new!

Due to capacity limitations, we verified attendance by checking government-issued IDs. The classes are in such demand that once participants go home and tell their friends about what they've learned, everyone wants to come! We hope to expand our capacity to train more people in the coming years.

Monday: Economic Development Tour (Through the Mountains)

The following slideshow illustrates the shift in community and landscape as we traveled out of Port-au-Prince and into Jacmel. The land is beautiful but there are reminders that the earthquake did not just hit Port-au-Prince.

Jacmel is also home to a rich supply of Haitian art. We were fortunate to meet an artist painting and preparing his goods for the marketplace. We were also blessed to stumble upon a local Haitian art gallery. The paintings are vibrant and full of emotion. We wish we could share what we saw but copyright laws prevent us from doing so. However, we hope these photos give you a glimpse of the “other side of Haiti” and why it was once known as the “Pearl of the Caribbean.”

Monday: Economic Development Tour (Life Goes On)

Despite the rubble and daily reminders of that terrifying day on January 12, 2010, life in Port-au-Prince goes on. Hundreds of vendors are out early, often as early as 6 a.m., to sell their goods. Since there’s no mega-mart, anything can be bought on the street. From food (rice, beans, cooking oil), to clothing and shoes, to cleaning supplies and cosmetics - someone sells it. And often, street vendors have products that the convenience store doesn’t have. For example, a team member needed nail polish remover and was able to buy a bottle from a young lady across the street from our hotel.

Also, be on the lookout for audio from our participants. They will share how our upcoming workshops have impacted their lives as business people.

Monday: Economic Development Tour (Earthquake Aftermath)

As Wilonda Cannon, Project Manager, explained in her post yesterday, Haiti is a land of extremes – extreme poverty and extreme beauty. Our slideshows reflect that contrast. The devastation of the earthquake is severe – the crumbling White House, leveled buildings, and thousands of tents everywhere you turn. Clean-up efforts have begun, but there's still a very long way to go.

Monday: Economic Development Tour (Overview)

Today we took an economic development tour of Haiti from the capital city of Port-au-Prince to the mountainous town of Jacmel. The purpose of this tour was to allow team members to see Haiti for themselves and use what they’ve witnessed to refine and expand Project Eden’s initiatives. Our guide fed us tidbits of Haitian history and information regarding Haiti’s economic challenges. This tour helped us to put a face to the statistics we have read. It also stimulated a rich brainstorming session on balancing economic and social development.

We Had a Few Issues Connecting

Hello to all PE Supporters and Followers!
We apologize for the delay in communication. Wi-fi access and electricity have been spotty. As a result, we are behind in our reporting. So here’s a re-cap of our trip!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Project Eden Has Arrived!

The Project Eden team had a safe trip to Haiti. We've arrived in Port-au-Prince and are excited to get moving! Continue to follow us this week!