Only a few years ago, Gary Barois, 20, would have never imagined that he would preparing to give a speech in front of a crowd of 300 people from across the globe in Washington, DC. Barois is from Cité Soleil, the largest slum area in Haiti. He was forced to drop out of primary school before completing his third year and was attempting to make a living selling telephone cards on the streets. He was barely scraping by, and returning to school did not seem to be even a remote possibility.
On Tuesday, September 29, however, Barois stood in front of a crowd of practitioners, donors, youth, members of the private sector, representatives of governments, and other partners in youth enterprise, employment, and livelihood development to tell them about his experience with micro-enterprise in Haiti. He was selected to represent Education Development Center’s Haitian Out-of-School Youth Livelihood Project (IDEJEN, Haitian acronym), along with IDEJEN staff members Isnel Pierreval and Kerby Jules, at the Making Cents 2009 Global Youth Enterprise Conference. In addition to participating in a two-hour breakout session on IDEJEN’s livelihood accompaniment phase, Barois was chosen by Making Cents to be a plenary speaker on a panel with other young international entrepreneurs.
Barois’s transformational journey began in 2007, when he discovered IDEJEN through a friend of his mother. After completing IDEJEN’s 12-month employability training program in 2008, he entered IDEJEN’s 6-month accompaniment phase. The non-formal basic education and the technical training received during the 12-month employability phase are complementary and help prepare youth for entry into either the workforce or IDEJEN’s entrepreneurship training that leads to the launch of a micro-enterprise. Generally, the micro-enterprise created relates to the technical field studied.
Barois’s previous salesman experience, combined with his superior results in math, literacy, and technical skills during the employability training, qualified him to enter the entrepreneurship track of the accompaniment phase. During two weeks of intensive entrepreneurship training, Barois, along with four other IDEJEN youth, developed a business plan, and submitted a proposal to the central IDEJEN office. After the proposal was approved, Barois and his team received $400 as seed money to start their business, Top Apel, which sells cells phones, phone accessories, and phone credit to respond to Haiti’s growing cellular phone industry.
“When we first started, we didn’t have any other source of income because [other funders] were thinking youth like us who wanted to get into business, well … there was no faith in us,” said Barois, who also sells his own pottery, which he learned how to make at the IDEJEN training center.
Now, Barois is a community leader, and his entrepreneurship activities have helped him save money to continue his education, in addition to giving him the confidence he needs to face future challenges, including speaking in front of a large crowd of people at an international conference. IDEJEN has transformed his life, endowed his resilience, and given him the confidence he needs to embrace life with a smile.
To see an interview with Barois filmed at the conference, please visit the following youtube page: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NgmVdFruP6k. For additional information on IDEJEN, please visit http://www.equip123.net/webarticles//anmviewer.asp?a=628&z=123.