Fr. Joseph Philippe, who founded a microfinance firm to help revitalize Haiti, will talk about his efforts in his homeland at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 25, in Dresser Auditorium of the John J. Murphy Professional Building at St. Bonaventure University.
Fr. Joseph’s visit is the centerpiece of a two-week stay at St. Bonaventure by a group of young Haitian leaders. The university hosted about 20 Haitian students last fall for the inaugural “Bona’s and Beyond: Haiti” educational program.
“Rarely do we get to meet a true hero, a man who is making a huge difference in the lives of thousands and thousands of Haitians,” said Dr. Jim Mahar, associate finance professor who has worked with Haitians on relief and revitalization efforts since the devastating earthquake in 2010.
Fr. Joseph’s microfinance firm Fonkoze has made over 200,000 microloans.
“Each of those loans has impacted scores of people — and he has done this in an environment where he has lost his friends to violence, fought corruption, and is now teaching hundreds of people. … He is not to be missed,” Mahar said.
During their stay, the visiting Haitians will attend classes, work with the SBU relief group BonaResponds, tour local businesses and farms, and make presentations at schools in Olean.
They will also participate in “Haitian Shark Tank,” an event at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 28, in the Finance Lab (101) of the Swan Business Center. The event will mirror the popular ABC show that showcases small business owners and their funding pitches to multimillionaire business people.
Fr. Joseph founded Fonkoze in 1994 and continues to serve as its coordinator, president of Fonkoze Financial Services, and a board director of Fonkoze USA. Fr. Joseph is also the founder of the Peasant Association of Fondwa (PAF) and has been its coordinator since 1988.
As part of the PAF, Fr. Joseph established and helps manage numerous commercial projects, including an agricultural, reforestation and animal husbandry project; a bakery; a guest center/educational tourist program; and restaurant, auto parts shop, guest house, cement store, and scaffolding rental company.
In 2004, Fr. Joseph also founded the University of Fondwa, an educational institution committed to sustainable and integrated development in rural Haiti. Fr. Joseph became a member of the Spiritan Catholic Holy Order (Holy Ghost Fathers) in 1982 and was ordained as a priest.
He holds an undergraduate degree in commercial accounting from the “Ecole de Commerce” André Laroche, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and a Master of Divinity degree with special studies in liturgy and politics from Catholic Theological Union, Chicago.
Fr. Joseph has also studied credit cooperative management at the Centre Lebret in Paris, and attended training in banking administration at Fairfield University in Connecticut. He received an honorary doctorate at the University of San Francisco in 2009 for his humanitarian work.
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