Haiti: Phone company draws inspiration from Wyclef Jean’s Yéle Haiti

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Corporate social responsibility and giving back to the community are guiding principles for the communications company ComCEL/Voilà, which this year celebrates its 10th anniversary in Haiti. Voilà prides itself on what it has done for youth, especially through its Education for Success program.

In a country that lacks free public education, Voilà provides scholarships for thousands of primary and secondary school students; it is the largest corporate funder of children’s tuition.

Often in partnership with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) such as Yéle Haiti — the foundation set up by the renowned Haitian-American hip-hop artist Wyclef Jean — Voilà also funds university scholarships, sports, environmental education, teacher training, and education and rehabilitation programs in the boys’ prison.

Voilà is a subsidiary of Trilogy International Partners of Bellevue, Washington, one of 11 finalists for the U.S. secretary of state’s 2009 Award for Corporate Excellence (ACE).

When Wyclef Jean launched Yéle Haiti in 2005, ComCEL, the provider of Voilà cell phone service, donated $1 million to the foundation. It remains the foundation’s largest corporate supporter.

In partnership with Yéle Haiti and other NGOs, Voilà rehabilitated 20 schools in Gonaïves after Hurricane Jeanne struck in 2004. It has also contributed to disaster relief efforts with donations of money, personnel and services, including setting up phone stations offering free phone calls for people left homeless.

In other initiatives, Voilà has provided farmers with seed and fertilizer, sponsored free outdoor cinema in poor neighborhoods, and supported women’s associations. The company has built windmills and wireless Internet computer labs, sponsored culture festivals, and sent Haitian students to the United Nations to present their ideas for a better Haiti. In all, Voilà has more than 30 active projects.

“Education for youth is the key to moving a country forward, out of poverty and into a productive place that can generate economic growth and viability,” Voilà says on its Facebook page. It pledges that it will “continue to service the Haitian community with local and nationwide projects that benefit the mind, provide the platform for self-sufficiency, creativity, economic development and problem solving, and move the citizens of Haiti forward.”

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