Business professor honored for support of Haitian poor


Dr. Winston Tellis, assistant dean in the School of Business at Fairfield University, has been honored for his work for Haiti's poor by FONKOZE USA (F/USA) which supports FONKOZE, Haiti's only alternative bank for the poor. F/USA is one of only five non-profit organizations approved by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to solicit U.S. investments for foreign organizations.

FONKOZE is recognized as a model Third World alternative bank for the organized poor, with a micro-credit and sustainable economic development program with branches throughout Haiti's nine departments.

Dr. Tellis was recognized for setting up a computer network system for FONKOZE and redesigning materials for its literacy and business training program. He also worked to set up a free program at Fairfield University to train Haitians in banking, accounting, computer skills, business and economic development in preparation for their becoming district office managers in Haiti for FONKOZE.

"This award is really for our School of Business," Dr. Tellis noted. "It was only possible with the support of the dean and the faculty members." The program prepares Haitians for their banking careers during a semester-long program of study, he explained. After leaving Fairfield, each student works in FONKOZE's main office for a few months and then moves on to manage an office in the district. Three students have already completed their studies at Fairfield and are working in Haiti as branch managers, while a fourth student is now studying at Fairfield.

Haiti, with a per capita income of approximately $250, is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. Since its establishment in 1997, F/USA has raised almost $1.2 million in investments. FONKOZE has grown from two staffers to 107, from one branch office to 15, and from 193 savings accounts to 6,715. Deposits have grown from $7,800 to $804,637 and loans from $25,000 to $1.8 million.

Other people honored by FONKOZE USA were Walter Frye, president of W. Frye & Associates, a Newark, N.J., CPA firm which provides pro bono auditing of financial statements for all of FONKOZE's home and branch offices, and Louis Prezeau, president of the City National Bank of New Jersey. Mr. Prezeau, the only Haitian American U.S. bank president, partnered with FONKOZE to help Haitian-Americans safely and quickly send money to their families in Haiti.

This isn't the first project the School of Business has undertaken to lend assistance to the poor in Haiti. Three years ago Dr. Tellis and Dr. Michael Tucker, associate professor of finance, asked students to research the rural economy of Haiti and the small village of Fondwa to determine the viability of introducing sun ovens to the region. They investigated pertinent issues such as environmental impact, import restrictions, weather patterns and sunshine index. They also looked into the possibility of manufacturing solar cookers on site, including the cost estimate and availability of raw materials. Dr. Tellis went to Haiti and traveled over 20 miles of bumpy roads from Port au Prince to Fondwa to deliver the two ovens to the people there.

Haiti has become a labor of love for Dr. Tellis, who has returned there on several occasions, often bringing family members with him.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on September 6, 1999

Vol. 32, No. 71