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Our Blog: Education
February 26, 2013
Microloans, pastries & her children's education
Gertrude Bernardin is a courageous young woman living in Cap Haitien, in northern Haiti. Growing up in a working class family, her mother sold produce on the market and her father was in the military.
She is a mom to two teenage boys, both of whom are now in secondary school. She went to secondary school but did not graduate. It was then that she decided to become a pastry chef, because she really loves to cook.
Several months ago, some neighbors invited her to take part in a FINCA ‘village bank.’ She accepted their offer and received her first loan soon after.  She has managed that loan successfully, and now is on her fourth loan from FINCA, for 10,000 gourdes or $238. She feels great with the other members of her lending group, and is really proud to be a member of FINCA. She feels she is learning a lot from her loan officer and thinks it is good for her both financially and socially, to belong to this village bank.
Gertrude regularly purchases flour, sugar, milk and eggs to make pastries that she sells on the streets and in public markets. She also sells to private supermarkets who request her pastries every day. Her business has recently begun to gain more notoriety, and occasionally she receives special requests from clients to cater events or weddings.
Gertrude is a single mother and the sole provider for her small household of herself and her two sons (14 and 17 years old). The elder son is completing his senior year this year, and hopes to study to be a doctor. Gertrude hopes with all of her heart that she will be able to pay for his education. The younger son wants to be an engineer. Thanks to FINCA’s loans, she hopes her business will continue to grow so she can realize her dreams for her sons.
January 14, 2013
Haiti, first impressions of northern villages
by Matt van Geest
Driving into Phaeton for the first time, I had the sense that this place was different.
I’ve been all over Haiti over the past eight years, to small seaside towns and big urban centers, crowded slums and mountain villages – but this isolated place was different. A beautiful, towering row of neem trees dominates the wide entrance to the village with a row of houses on one side, a school, child care center, clinic and Catholic church on the other.
At one time, the thousands of hectares of scrub land that surround Phaeton and its sister village, Paulette, were the site of a sisal plantation, one of the biggest in the world. At the height of WWII, when sisal production peaked, the sisal company in Phaeton was Haiti’s largest employer and biggest source of tax revenue. Today, however, the story is much different. The company is long gone with a lonely smoke stack as the only visible reminder of what this place once was. The 3000 people that live here get by, barely, by raising some cattle, fishing, on charcoal production and small-scale commerce.  
The Vibrant Village Foundation has been funding a feeding program, run by our partner, Mercy and Sharing, for the last few years. We’re looking at ways of improving this program but we’re also thinking long-term. We’ve started a process of community meetings, in both Phaeton and Paulette, to listen and learn, to understand the hopes and dreams of this community to see how we can walk alongside them into the future.
Water is the biggest challenge here. A deep well provides some water to the community but all the hand pumps scattered throughout the area are too salty to drink. There is not enough water to do anything but the basics. We’re hoping that we can find ways to improve water supply to reduce health problems but also spur some economic activity, especially through small-scale gardening.  Beyond that, we’ll wait for the community assessment process to be completed before we make any decisions for the future. Our commitment here is for the long-term and I’m excited about the possibilities.
December 18, 2012
Support for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in Oregon
On June 15, 2012, President Obama announced a new policy directive known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA is estimated to impact close to 1.8 million undocumented immigrants under the age of 31 and their families, nearly 30,000 in Oregon alone. 
According to Larry Kleinman from PCUN (Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste), one of the leading advocates for immigrant rights in Oregon, “the DACA program, and the events that brought it about, has immense significance for the immigrant community, for our society generally and for transforming the divisive politics and crushing impacts of our broken immigration system.”  
For qualifying immigrants, DACA will offer a series of critical benefits: protection from deportation for up to two years (renewable); work authorization; access to travel abroad for educational, employment, or humanitarian reasons; and—depending on the state—a driver’s license and access to in-state tuition. For potential DACA beneficiaries—known as DREAMers —this is a tremendous, potentially once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to gain greater access to civil society and expand their already meaningful contributions to social, economic and civic life in the United States. 
The President's announcement resulted directly from what Larry described as “courageous activism of undocumented immigrant youth.” Beginning in 2008, hundreds of DREAMers began to engage in civil disobedience, putting themselves at direct risk of deportation to countries they barely knew. Larry equated this type of courage to the “lunch-counter sit-ins of fifty years ago,” and applauded these young people who “braved potentially dire consequences to insist on just treatment.”  

Now, thanks to the DREAMers' leadership, underscored by the powerful message sent by the Latino vote in November's election, a path to citizenship for the eleven million undocumented immigrants is on the nation's 'front burner.'  As Larry explained, successful DACA applicants “with a work permit in one hand and a driver's license in the other, are now empowered to lead more decisively than ever.” 
This September, in our home state, the Oregon Community Foundation (OCF) took a leadership role and convened a collaborative funding effort to respond quickly to the growing number of DACA applications being filed in our state. The Vibrant Village Foundation joined five other funders—Meyer Memorial Trust, Northwest Health Foundation, Collins Foundation, McKenzie River Gathering Foundation, and the United Way—to pool $180,674 towards this cause. The funds will be dispersed among six qualified organizations currently working to meet the demand of residents in Oregon. These organizations are CAUSA, Catholic Charities, Immigration Counseling Service, Lutheran Community Services, PCUN and the Center for Non-profit Legal Services. 

Larry noted the importance and timeliness of this community investment to help integrate these immigrant youth into society and to build capacity for the organizations that will continue to assist ten million more people when immigration reform becomes a reality.