Rachel Vinciguerra (MID/MSW '19)
Rachel Vinciguerra traveled to Les Cayes Haiti during summer 2017, in part, to conduct a program evaluation for the Fi Ki Fò (strong girl), girls’ empowerment program, at Pwoje Espwa orphanage.
Rachel and some of the Write to Be mentors with the girls at Espwa
Rachel previously worked at Pwoje Espwa between 2014 and 2015 as a Volunteer Coordinator. During her year there, she and some colleagues in Haiti and the U.S. noticed a gap in services and resources available to young women at the orphanage compared to men. During that year, Rachel and her colleagues established a pen-pal program between teen girls at Pwoje Espwa and young professional women in the U.S. called Write to Be. At the end of the year, the U.S. partners explored ways they could support the girls more substantially and the result was the Fi Ki Fò program.
The program has been in operation for two years and involves after-school skills-training courses for girls led by local women in the community, international mentorship through letter-writing, small business development, and a week-long workshop each summer. Rachel was contracted by Write to Be (the funding organization of Fi Ki Fò) to conduct a multi-disciplinary program evaluation to identify areas in which the program had been successful and to highlight areas which could be improved.
This experience allowed Rachel to conduct her first program evaluation using the skills she learned at GSPIA to support an organization and mission that she helped develop a couple of years before. Rachel designed the evaluation in the Program Evaluation course at GSPIA and created and received feedback on her focus group guide in the Focus Group and Community Development Course at GSPIA.
Rachel with Fi Ki Fò program teachers
In the spring semester, Rachel trained staff in Haiti to facilitate reviews of translated instruments, conduct pilot tests, and collect preliminary data. For three weeks in May and June, she traveled to Pwoje Espwa to finish data collection including facilitating focus groups with program girls and teachers, conducting cognitive interviews and surveys, and collecting remaining program data. She produced the final evaluation report in both English and Haitian Creole, so stakeholders in the U.S. and Haiti would be able to easily read and interpret findings.
The study found that girls in the program did not experience significant changes in self-esteem over the course of the program. They did, however, have personal financial savings for the first time and felt they improved in all skill-areas provided by the program. Additionally, the women employed as teachers felt empowered by the program themselves and have been integrating their own personal experiences and advice as women in Haiti into their skills-courses for the girls. Some of the areas for program improvement include: finding avenues to engage boys and men in understand gender inequality, finding ways to integrate financial skills and savings habits into the skills-courses within the program, and incorporating some of the girls' specific suggestions into the program design. The evaluation and recommendations will be used to make changes to the program starting in the fall 2017 and some of the ongoing monitoring recommendations will be implemented for data collection and database management in the Fi Ki Fò program moving forward.
Rachel will graduate in April 2019 with a Master of International Development and a Master of Social Work. She hopes to work in and around the field of international monitoring and evaluation, particularly focused on girls' and women's empowerment.