HELP & SOIL: Fostering Meaningful Careers for Young Haitians
Haitian Education & Leadership Program (HELP) is an educational empowerment program in Port-au-Prince that provides underprivileged and promising young Haitians scholarships to universities in Haiti. In addition to providing full tuition, the program includes English language and IT courses, Citizen & Leadership training, and a Career Services program. The goal of the program is to provide job readiness skills and management training to their students; empowering them to rise out of poverty and become leaders in their communities.
We, at SOIL, truly admire HELP’s program, and are proud beneficiaries of the quality candidates that graduate from it. Four of our current staff members in Cap-Haitien are HELP graduates – Senior Sales Manager Beverly Pierre, EkoLakay Manager Keurlit Charles, Systems Assistant Victony Saint-Louis and Site Supervisor Jolynx Jean.
SOIL and HELP have a long history of working together. The founders of the two organizations, Conor Bohan and Dr. Sasha Kramer, have been friendly colleagues for many years, and we brought on our first HELP student intern at SOIL, Suze Moise, back in 2015. While she is no longer with SOIL, Suze was a great addition to the SOIL team at the time. During her tenure at SOIL, her supervisor said, “With a sharp mind and an enthusiastic attitude, Suze has fit into our team right away and proved to be helpful in a variety of projects. If she wasn’t going back to school, we’d be trying to hang onto her for longer!!”
Suze’s strong performance led to six more HELP students interning at SOIL and four alumni earning full-time positions. Another fun connection: when SOIL was servicing the Port-au-Prince area, HELP had SOIL toilets installed in one of their dorms.
“HELP encourages students to bring their skills and vision back to their home regions to grow opportunity and economic activity outside the capital region,” says Niamh Bohan from HELP. “So we are delighted that SOIL offers high quality jobs and a changemakers’ vision which allow HELP graduates from northern Haiti to practice their trades close to home.”
Konbit Media, a professional media production house that was founded by HELP graduates, recently toured the SOIL offices and met with EkoLakay staff members. They are in the process of putting together a video of SOIL’s work and we will be excited to share it as soon as it’s ready!
HELP works with an ever-growing number of institutions all around Haiti for internships and job placements. Rather than focusing on a particular area of development or geographic region, HELP works to match a graduate’s field and interests with the needs of Haitian employers. Since HELP students pursue a broad range of degrees (accounting, agriculture, economics, education, engineering law, management, nursing, psychology, etc.) the jobs they end up getting are equally diverse.
During my five years at HELP, I learned a lot of things. I took English and computer courses, but most importantly, I developed leadership skills that allowed me to integrate more easily into SOIL and grow quickly within that team. Currently, I work as the Manager of EkoLakay. Access to the HELP’s dormitory room (CHE) facilitated me to develop a strong network of contacts and cultivate its five pillars: Respect, Rigor, Courage, Sacrifice, Service. These tools helped me stand out from others and manage my team more effectively. Also, with the salary received from SOIL, I support higher education in Haiti through HELP’s KOREM program. ~Keurlit Charles
The focus of HELP’s Career Services is on job readiness and a proactive approach to the professional world. The office of Career Services supports students throughout their time at university, working with corporate partners to provide CV writing workshops, internship placements, panel discussions on workplace expectations, and mock interviews. For seniors and alumni, the office posts job openings and conducts initial screenings to provide employers with the best possible candidates.
According to HELP, for decades ‘brain drain’ has left Haiti starved for the leadership it needs to address the many social, political, and environmental problems it is facing. HELP believes the best way to build a brighter future for Haiti is through elevating the people who understand those issues best: its citizens. Niamh says, “We hear from employers that HELP students require less training and investment and because of that, some institutions work extensively with HELP to fill their hiring needs, including Acceso, Barbancourt, BRANA, LIDE, and SOIL.”
SOIL is thrilled to be partnered with HELP and, through internships and job placement, assist the organization in its mission to create a generation of young professional leaders who will contribute to a more just Haiti.