How do you transform dreams into reality? Through hard work, passion, service, and an undying thirst for change. And you will find an abundance of all of these throughout the life of Father Joseph, the founder of uFondwa.
Everything that uFondwa is, every lesson we teach, every scholarship we give out, our entire mission is an expression of the kind of life Father Joseph has lived. Born in Fondwa, he grew up living the impoverished conditions that face the rural poor of Haiti and it has been his mission over the last 30 years to discover solutions to these problems. Only someone who comes from a place of crippling poverty could affect change on such an incredible level. Through death threats, environmental disasters, and other hardships, Father Joseph has been the guiding light of uFondwa from the very beginning.
Father Joseph was educated at the Université et École de Commerce André E. Laroche in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, earning a degree in commercial accounting. From there, he attended the Catholic Theology Union in Chicago, where he earned a Master of Divinity with special studies in liturgy and politics. The knowledge he gained at these schools, along with extensive training in credit cooperative management and banking administration, gave him the foundation he needed to affect change in his beloved Fondwa.
Father Joseph knew firsthand the transformative power of education, so he set out to change things in Fondwa for the better. Long before uFondwa was on the horizon, Father Joseph founded the Asossyasyon Peyizan Fondwa (Association of the Peasants of Fondwa/APF Haiti). This organization built both primary and secondary schools that, today, serve approximately 550 students. Other community projects included the creation of an orphanage and a radio station. Other education programs were put into place based around water purification, renewable energy sources, agriculture, and reforestation. The success of these programs convinced Father Joseph that they could go even further. After three years of non-stop planning, APF Haiti established the University of Fondwa in 2004, the 200th anniversary of Haiti’s independence.
Father Joseph knew that, if lasting change were to happen, it would have to come from the people of rural Haiti. Although NGOs can be very helpful, they tend to offer top-down models of aid. Father Joseph wanted to create wealth from the ground up, so he founded Fonkoze, now the largest micro-finance institution in Haiti. Fonkoze offered rural Haitians the financial aid that they needed to to begin pulling themselves out of poverty. Since then, Fonkoze has flourished with 45 branches, 1,000 Haitian employees, millions of dollars in assets, and has made over 62,000 loans to the rural poor.
Every grassroots accomplishment of Father Joseph, Fonkoze, and APF Haiti were hard won. Fighting corruption at every turn, many of Father Joseph’s good friends and colleagues were murdered by those who resisted positive change. The strength of Father Joseph’s character, his passion, and his faith allowed him to push past these tragic losses and keep fighting for the people. He works to this day to inspire young Haitians and lift the rural poor of Haiti out of poverty.
The three degree granting programs at uFondwa, Agronomy, Veterinary Medicine, and Business Management, are the three pillars of rural education that Father Joseph has advocated for all his life. By offering scholarships to rural students, they can learn skills and knowledge that will directly impact the quality of life in their home communities. Much of their time is spent working with the rural poor, teaching them new methods of farming and financial management, giving them the tools that they need to help themselves. With your donations, we can offer scholarships to more students, further compounding the change that education can bring to these rural communities. You can choose to donate on a weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, quarterly, semi-annual, annual, or one-time basis. Every dollar will contribute to Father Joseph’s dream of a brighter future for all Haitians! Please donate today!