Good Afternoon Folks,
On Saturday, August 18th 2012, We Advance held a fundraiser at the Revel Resort in Atlantic City.
We are also forever grateful to Steve Lord of Valgard Capital Partners, LLC. Steve is no stranger to philanthropy. Being a generous person himself, his company Valgard Capital Partners, LLC believes more in the importance of building relationships than building the bottom line. His company focuses on the added value brought to businesses by helping their clients reach their goals first. “When our clients reach their goals, we can reach ours”. Mr. Lord takes this sense of personal responsibility and awareness of the importance of relationship building into both his professional and personal life, which is a very good thing for We Advance.
We want to thank everyone for your continued support of We Advance.
“Femmes se poto mitan…..We are stronger together than we are alone”
At a prayer breakfast in Port-au-Prince last month, 23 Haitian and U.S. women colleagues met to drink coffee, share a bite and, well, grieve. Our host, Danielle St. Lot, Haitian activist and entrepreneur, did not plan this grieving and we certainly did not expect it. The hour of laughter and chatter beforehand could not have prepared us for it. But it had to happen. It had to come. It was time.
January 12, 2012 will be the two-year anniversary of the earthquake that devastated many of their lives and threw those of us invested in the country into triage mode. The network of women activists, business and political leaders that I had been working with in Haiti before the earthquake at Femmes en Democratie (FED), woke up one day to their children screaming, their grandmothers dying, their houses falling and their country destroyed. They had no time to grieve their losses because there was work to do.
Two weeks after the quake, Danielle, the founder of FED, made it onto a plane to D.C. in the only skirt she had left, a pair of flip-flops, and not even a dollar on her, to speak to members of Congress about the devastation. She was convinced that people had to know the extent of the loss and, in particular, what the women of Haiti needed. Over the last two years, she has become a voice for women throughout Haiti.
Each of the 23 women present on that balmy day in a garden restaurant in Port-au-Prince had a similar story. Lives were lost and businesses shattered. But there were neighborhoods to rebuild, people to help, and children to care for, so no one had time to stop and cry. As one guest sobbed: “We have never cried. We have been so strong. It is time to cry.” And we did. We mourned deeply.
Then we moved on.
So now on the two-year anniversary, my Haitian women colleagues want you to know, it is time to move on.
With only 6 women parliamentarians and 4 women appointed ministers, Haiti is in step with the rest of the globe, where women still hold only 15.6 percent of elected seats. How can we make sure the voice of half the population will be heard in decision and policy making processes affecting Haiti? We need to support female politicians through training and assistance and to increase women’s political participation at local, regional and national levels. And we need to push our government aid organizations like USAID who have money allocated for Haiti to spend more on women and make the funds accessible to smaller, micro-NGO’s in Haiti that work with women.
Haitian women also need money and jobs. Studies show that when women control finances, more is spent on health, education and well-being of their family and community. By investing in women, you are investing in the whole country.
Haiti is now “open for business.” It is ripe for investment opportunity under the visionary leadership of new President Michel Martelly. With its proximity, human capital and young, smart Haitian business people spearheading, Haiti is ready to become a name in manufacturing and agriculture. For companies who are investing in Haiti or are considering it, we ask that you look through the gender lens at each of your projects. Measure not only the impact it will have on women in the community, but how your business can be better served by hiring more women, putting them in managerial positions, and giving them technical training.
This is not about billion dollar investments; it is about small investments in existing or small businesses that want to expand, especially women run businesses destroyed in the earthquake. They need access to loans with better conditions, vocational training, business education and technology. At the women’s trade show in Port-au-Prince last month, I saw beautiful merchandise ready to export but they need partners.
Haiti is not just “rebuilding” with cement and muscle. Haiti is “reimagining” a nation, with a bold vision and collective dream. They have the opportunity to look towards the single vision of citizen participation in decision-making, where everyone’s rights are respected and women have an equal say in the process and equal opportunity for economic freedom. President Martelly, with his willpower, energy, intelligence and heart is a strong supporter of women. One constitutional amendment that he supports says that, if ratified, 30 percent of offices in national life must be occupied by women.
Pretty progressive. VERY smart business.
Actress Maria Bello is co-founder of the Haitian women’s organization, We Advance. (weadvance.org)
Who knew a woman who runs around on TV with a gun and another who runs around in heels would have so much in common? We were brought together through a bizzare turn of events, and we discovered our mutual goal of empowering women using our own unique voices. We decided to journey together with Kris, Farouk Shami, Patricia Arquette, Suzanne Lerner, and a few of their friends to experience the Haiti that Maria has come to know and love through her organization, We Advance.
We Advance was started after the earthquake in January 2010, as a direct response to the increase in gender-based violence and poor health care for women in the poorest areas of the country. We Advance works with and represents the voices of over 40 micro-organizations working in the most desperate situations and communities in Haiti.
Our itinerary was to visit some of the small, grassroots NGOs that We Advance works with, including Artists for Peace and Justice, Femmes en Democratie, and Give Love, and to join women at the trade fair and fashion show in celebrating their achievements.
This is who we celebrated:
Danielle St. Lot: Danielle has been a women’s rights activist in Haiti for 35 years. She galvanizes women to stand up for economic, political, and social justice and equality with her organization Femmes en Democratie. She launched the women’s trade fair in Haiti this past weekend with women artisans and designers from all over the country to promote their products and to show their beautiful fashions. As a former Minister of Commerce, Danielle knows that it is through not only charity but creating employment that Haiti will rise.
Claudia Apaid: Claudia is the daughter of a Haitian entrepreneur, who went to an orphanage to give toys to kids for Christmas, and, seeing the appalling conditions that the children lived in, founded Sow a Seed in 2004. Sow a Seed is an organization that collaborates with partners with orphanages all over the country to give better care to their children. She threw a Christmas party this weekend for 500 orphans, many of whom experienced their first Christmas ever.
Barbara Guillaume: Barbara is a women’s leader, poet, singer, and co-founder of We Advance. She is running for mayor of Cité Soleil, the poorest slum in the western hemisphere, because, as she says, “If we can change the worst of Haiti, we can change all of Haiti.”
Caroline Sada: Caroline is a beautiful, 37-year-old powerhouse who grew up in Haiti and was educated in the States. She worked as a high-level executive with an international makeup company and left it all after the earthquake to come back and rebuild her country.
Sophia Martelly: Before becoming the First Lady of Haiti, Sophia dedicated her life and energy to people in need in the slums of Haiti. Now she will launch her country’s “12 by 12″ initiative in January, which will enable thousands of households run by single mothers to buy food and send their children to school.
We came to celebrate the thousands of Haitian women who are working tirelessly every day to bring economic and social justice to all people in Haiti. So to them we say: we are humbled and moved to have been with you and to tell the world about your grace. We are proud to tell the world your stories.
The mission statement of We Advance is, “We are stronger together than we are alone.”
We are grateful to partner with such amazing women and to have been on this journey together.
Please join the journey: weadvance.org.
Forget about her messy love life. Kim Kardashian put the drama behind her for several days last week and over the weekend — when she and her mom, Kris Jenner, visited Haiti for a pre-holiday humanitarian mission.
In a new photo from Saturday, Kardashian, 31, and Jenner, 56, look on serenely with a local Haitian child (wearing colorful beaded jewelry and a “Spread the Joy” t-shirt) at an event.
The mother and daughter were visiting the impoverished nation — still rebuilding from the devastating January 2010 earthquake — as part of We Advance, the organization cofounded by actress Maria Bello.
Along with Bello, fellow actress Patricia Arquette and designer Donna Karan, the reality stars visited the Artists for Peace and Justice School, helped replenish supplies at We Advance clinics, checked out a fashion show launched by local women and designers and celebrated at the Sow a Seed Christmas bash, where 500 local orphans were treated with gifts. The final stop on the agenda: An intimate meeting with the President of Haiti, Michel Martelly.
According to its website, We Advance strives to “advance the health, safety and well being of women throughout Haiti,” working in “some of the poorest slums in all of the Western Hemisphere.”
Kardashian — in the midst of an ugly divorce from Kris Humphries — had an “amazing” experience on the mission, a pal told Us.
To read the full article on usmagazine.com, click here or on the image below:
We are so thankful to Dr. Jeffrey Shapiro, who donated the toothbrushes for our health and hygiene kits at our We Advance clinic. Dr. Shapiro is a doctor at Jeffrey R. Shapiro, DDS, PC in New York City, where him and his team do cosmetic and reconstructive dentistry. Find out more about Dr. Shapiro and his team on their website: ismile.com
Twenty-one year-old Stephanie Meancourt held her head high as she walked toward me in her new hot pink dress. She grinned at the audience and then, with a shaky hand, reached for her diploma. Like almost every graduate sitting in front of me, this was the first diploma Stephanie has received, and I feel confident that it will not be her last. “I have changed my mind about life,” Stephanie struggled to explain in English. “I see my life in a new way.”
When We Advance gave me the opportunity to begin an English program, I was thrilled. I became a teacher because I always have believed that education is the key to social and financial progress for all, but especially for those who are the most needy. Having taught in the New York City public school system for five years, I have seen many examples of how education has changed lives, but never has the power of education been so clear to me as it was on Friday, October 7 in Waff Jeremie, a neighborhood in the worst slum in Port-au-Prince. That day, forty-five men and women who had passed the We Advance Level One English Course proudly accepted their diplomas.
“We feel more independent,” Jedelene Latendresse, age twenty-one, explained as she described the effects of We Advance’s English Education Program on the female students. “We feel more confident, that we can do more by ourselves and rely less on the men.”
And men in Waff Jeremie have benefited from the program as well. Two months ago, Anderson LaPierre often went hungry because he had no money for food. Still, however, he came to English class promptly every day, always did his homework and eagerly participated in class activities. A couple of months ago I had the good fortune of meeting an American who is president of a magnetic components factory in Port-au-Prince. He happened to be looking for a hardworking, intelligent and good-natured young man to work for him. When I learned this, Anderson immediately came to my mind. The next day I gave Anderson fifty Gourdes (just over one American dollar) for a haircut, and he went to the factory for an interview. Now Anderson has a job, and though it doesn’t pay much, he eats every day and saved enough money to buy me a beautiful engraved box. He also passed his We Advance Level One English Language Exam and has a certificate to prove it.
This program is special because it is not just an English course; we have incorporated into the curriculum social issues that are relevant to our students such as domestic and sexual abuse, birth control and HIV/AIDS. We encourage our students to share their opinions and experiences and to dialogue about these issues. Perhaps not every We Advance student will find a job or become fluent in English, but all have gained self-confidence and determination to improve their lives and give their country a better future.
Written by Clare Harwood
Clare Harwood is a teacher for We Advance. She has taught in the New York City public school system for 5 years and received a Master’s in English Education at Columbia University Teachers College.
Yesterday, We Advance is thrilled to have had our first ever graduation ceremony for over 40 men and women in our English program. Here is a clip from the ceremony in Haiti!