Hermite: A Quick Follow-Up

I recently wrote about Hermite, a CLM member who lives with her three children near Lascahobas. (See: here..) We were pleased with the progress she had made in the program’s first nine months, but concerned about a couple of things.

We were, for example, worried that she hadn’t yet established a way to earn even a trickle of her own income. She continued to depend instead, almost totally, on a man who doesn’t quite seem like someone to depend on. I spoke to her case manager, and we agreed that the ideal thing would be for her to have a small commerce, but we weren’t sure whether she could manage one. Hermite is blind, and we’d have to help her imagine a commerce that would not depend on her sight.

She and her case manager decided on snacks. She now sells cookies, crackers, lollipops, hard candy, and other similar junk food. The key to it is that all her merchandise can be sold in five-gourd units. That’s helpful because the Haitian five-gourd coin is easily recognized by touch.

I went by her home today and was happy to see that her commerce is off to a good start. She keeps it in a large purse, rather than a display case, so it is protected from thieving fingers that she cannot see. A fellow CLM-member made the first purchase for her, and may continue to buy for her, but she told me that she herself plans to buy merchandise tomorrow. Her initial investment was 750 gourds, or about $12.50, but her first round of sales already enabled to increase her capital to 800 gourds, even though she used her sales to buy both 50-gourd shares at her savings and loan association’s meeting and various things her children needed. So the business appears to be succeeding.

She has challenges to overcome. Her merchandise moves most quickly when she sells it along the road that leads up towards her neighborhood, but that’s several hundred yards from her house, and she’s been reluctant to take it out to the road herself because she has an infant to deal with. Her oldest daughter, a tiny eleven-year-old girl, was selling for her, but other children started picking on her. So Hermite moved the business into her home, where she can do the selling. But she lives off the beaten track, so sales are slow. She knows she needs to get the business back to the side of the road, but needs to do it herself. She doesn’t want to subject her girl to teasing.

In the meantime, Hermite is happy with with the business. She says, “I never used to know where to get five or ten gourds when I needed them. Now I just take them from the sales.”

Hermite’s Story: Integrating Persons with Disabilities

In 2015, Fonkoze’s CLM team launched a pilot designed to evaluate whether our approach can help persons living in ultra-poverty who are also living with disabilities. We undertook the experience in partnership with the office of Haiti’s Secretary of State for the Integration of Persons with Disabilities. Our close collaborator and largest source of financial support for the undertaking was Texas Christian University. It was a great experience.

Prior to that point, our official position was that our program could not serve those with disabilities. We thought that they needed extra or different supports that we did not know how to provide. Haiti’s most excluded citizens – rural, ultra-poor, and disabled – were thus excluded, in principle, even from CLM.

In practice things were more complicated. Since the only criterion for exclusion from the program that we could apply to disabled persons was whether a woman whom we were considering would be able to do the work, our field staff was left to make decisions on a case-by-case basis. We would come across a mother who was hard of hearing or had limited use of one of her hands or partial immobility, and she’d end up in the program. And that’s just physical disabilities. We had no tool to diagnose intellectual disabilities – we still don’t – so women with such problems would enter the program and go as far as their own and their case manager’s intelligence and imagination could take them.

The pilot allowed us to spend time focusing on how our approach works with persons with disabilities. We reviewed it extensively, releasing two detailed evaluations. And we learned some important lessons. We concluded that we should make finding and working with persons with disabilities a goal of our program, as long as they are poor enough to qualify otherwise. We added looking for them to our selection process, and now work with them as part of our cohorts, even if they are without dependent children and even if they are men. Otherwise, our program serves only women with children.

It can be challenging for our case managers, who do not have special training for these cases. Our team knows how to access adaptive materials – like crutches, wheelchairs and walkers – from the Secretary of State’s Office or from Partners in Health, and we can link members to physical therapy where it’s appropriate, but otherwise members and their case managers have to face the obstacles that disabilities create the same way that they face all the other obstacles – whether unique or common – in the lives of those living in ultra-poverty. They sit across from one another, thinking about specific solutions to specific problems, and then work hard to make them succeed.

We are halfway through our 18 months process with a very small cohort of 50 women who live near downtown Lascahobas, the commune immediately to the east of Mirebalais. There are no men in the group, but four of the women have disabilities of various sorts. In three cases, they have mobility issues. One woman is missing part of one of her legs, a second has a partially paralyzed leg, and the third has a slightly misshapen leg that leaves her limping on one shorter leg and one that is longer. As they sit in the circle at a three-day training workshop, the three are hard to distinguish from the other women. And that’s also true of the results they have achieved in the nine months they’ve been with us so far. They have made more or less progress, depending on their effort, their planning, and their luck, but nothing really sets their situations off from the range of situations experienced by others in the group.

Hermite is a little bit different. She is blind. She lives in a very small, very shaded yard with her three children. A slight, light-skinned woman, she rarely roams very far. When you ask her how things are going she says that things are good. And when I press she explains that even though her pig died, her two goats are pregnant. She is also living in a new house, with a good tin roof, so she is no longer drenched by the frequent tropical rains, and she and her children have a latrine to share.

More important has been the change she’s seen in her younger children’s health. Both of her younger ones, a four-year-old girl and an infant boy, were diagnosed as severely malnourished. They were at risk because Hermite could not keep them fed. We referred them to a clinic run by Partners in Health in downtown Lascahobas, where they were treated with fortified peanut butter. After a few months of weekly visits, both children were pronounced healthy. This success story is all the more amazing because Hermite would not take them to the clinic herself. She is accustomed to thinking that she couldn’t because she is blind. Instead, she would send them in the care of their under-sized 11-year-old sister, who would carry the baby in one hand and guide the little girl with the other on the long walk to the clinic and back.

But there is a lot to be concerned about, too. Hermite says that her goats are pregnant, but she doesn’t really know. They are not in her care, but in that of her children’s father. It isn’t uncommon for women’s partners to help with the work. In fact, it can be ideal. Women with good partnerships have a much easier time of things. A man who manages some of the assets we provide can free the CLM member to focus on other things. But in Hermite’s case, it seems less like an sensible division of labor than a reaction to a belief by both of the that Hermite’s blindness means she couldn’t do the work herself. And we had experience with a blind program member during the pilot that proved that it’s just not true.

Moreover, the man turns out to be part of her problem in other ways. Hermite is not his only partner. He has another woman nearby whom he seems to consider to be his wife, though he is probably not married to either. That other woman receives the larger measure of his support, even to the point that we suspect that resources that we are making available to help Hermite end up leaking into the other woman’s household through him.

He makes most of his money by buying wood and turning it into charcoal for sale. He borrowed money from Hermite, promising to use it to create steady revenue for her in his charcoal business. When Josiane, Hermite’s case manager, didn’t se the revenue materialize, she asked some questions. He claimed to have used it to buy a door for Hermite’s new house, even though the other CLM husbands in the area had all been able to get a door on the new homes using their own resources. This should have been especially easy for him because he himself earned much of the money that we set aside for construction of her home by doing work himself, rather than hiring a builder.

The lack of independent revenue is especially troubling, as is Hermite’s resignation to the fact. She is a member of her local Village Savings and Loan Association, and the rules of the association stipulate that she buy at least one 50-gourd share per week. That’s less than $1, and she reports that she can go a week or two at a time, unable to scratch together the money to buy a share. What’s worse, she reports that food is still sometimes scarce around the house. And with her young children just recovering from malnutrition, that is especially troubling.

Josiane thinks that the solution would normally be small commerce. Even quite a small one could net her 50 gourds a week for savings and help feed her kids. But Josiane worries that it will be difficult for Hermite to manage one if she can’t see either her merchandise or the money she’s paid with.

But we know that she can do other tasks that one might expect to depend on good eyesight. Her neighbors tell us, for example, that when Hermite does her laundry, she can be counted on to get all the stains out. And there are sorts of merchandise that one could control without vision, and denominations of Haitian money that are hard to mistake.

So Josiane is committed to working with her during the nine months that remain for her in the program to help her develop a model. We feel a lot might depend on her success.

The Women of Bakè, One Year After Graduation

Bakè sits along an important, though unpaved secondary road that branches off the main one from Mirebalais to the Dominican border. The road through Bakè leads to Mache Kana, one of the important rural markets in the lower Central Plateau. Twice each week Mache Kana fills with merchants from Port au Prince, who come to buy produce by the sack. They take truckloads back for sale in Port au Prince. Bakè is at the entrance of the road, well before the market. The road through it is wide enough for the large produce trucks and for the dump trucks that come to collect rocks for construction at the Gaskoy River, which the road crosses.

The CLM team is now working around and beyond the market, but until April 2016, it was working in Bakè. The members there were part of a cohort of 300 families. Most lived in various neighborhoods of Eastern Mirebalais, along the main road.

Angeline Michel was a member of the cohort. When the CLM team met her in late 2014, she was living with a toddler and an infant in a small room in another woman’s home. The woman was a member of her church. As Angeline says, “Not even a relative.” But when she saw that Angeline had nowhere to go with her kids, she offered her a small space to sleep in. The children’s father lived nearby, but he didn’t really help support his kids. On the contrary, he was inclined to waste anything either he or Angeline managed to earn.

Unlike almost any woman who has entered the CLM program, Angeline had a job at the time. She worked as a teacher’s assistant in a preschool. The biggest part of the job was to manage children who either wet or soiled themselves. It paid 1500 gourds, or about $25, per month. It wasn’t – it couldn’t be – her main source of income because she rarely was paid. Principals of rural schools can find it challenging to collect school fees. Parents just can’t pay. The schools depend on that revenue, however, so it is hard for principals to pay teachers and other staff, too. Angeline’s salary was more a plan than a reality.

Instead of depending on her job, she depended on small commerce. “I would go to the market after school twice-a-week and buy laundry soap on credit. Then I’d carry it around the market until I sold it all. I’d pay for the soap at the end of the day, and I’d go home with whatever my profit was.”

When Angeline joined the CLM program, she chose goat-rearing and a pig-rearing as her two activities. Taking care of the goats didn’t go very well. Hers got sick and died. But she had better luck with pigs. She chose to raise a female, and it grew quickly. It only had two piglets in its first litter, but they were healthy.

She also saved up 1000 gourds and invested it in small commerce. She would buy fruit in and around Mache Kana, and then bring it to downtown Mirebalais, where she could sell it for much more. It was hard work, because the prices she was able to ask were highest if she was willing to walk up and down the more residential streets, carrying the fruit on her head, selling it piece by piece to customers at their homes. And she couldn’t invest much more than 1000 gourds because she could only carry so much merchandise around on her head. Nevertheless, it was a business model that worked. She would leave the school where she worked every day as quickly as she could, and then spend the afternoon selling her goods.

She struggled with her husband’s selfishness. When he sold off her two piglets, she quickly fattened up the sow, and sold it to buy a cow. Rather than keeping the cow herself, she gave it to a member of her family to look after. The man she chose for the job will have a right to every other calf her cow bears as his fee, but it means the cow is in safe hands, beyond her husband’s reach.

Angeline’s work at the school went well. The school’s owner appreciated her effort. “He saw that I tried to learn everything the teacher was doing.” Eventually, he promoted her to preschool teacher, with a raise from 1500 gourds per month to 2500. She took care of her children with the money from her business, and used the payroll – whenever the school director got around to paying it – to invest. Soon she had three small pigs. Her husband eventually sold them to buy the papers he would need to work legally in the Dominican Republic. Once he left, however, he began, at least occasionally, to send money to help her with their kids.

The money he sends became important because she had to give up her small commerce. She originally could go to Mirebalais in the afternoons because she had a neighbor she thought she could leave her children with. But one time while she was away, her baby wandered into the street and was hit by a passing motorcycle. Fortunately, he suffered only a broken leg, but she decided that she couldn’t trust people to keep an eye on the kids. So, now when she comes home from school every day, she stays with her boys.

The three of them live off food she buys on credit from a local merchant. She pays whenever she receives her salary or the boys’ father sends money from the D.R. “I haven’t made progress since I graduated from CLM,” she says, “but my boys and I live comfortably.” And she has a clear plan. “I’m keeping an eye on the cow. It hasn’t gotten pregnant yet, and I may have to sell it and buy another. I’m also saving whatever I can to buy a pig. I’ve done well with them.”

Nannan Cinéas hasn’t done as well as Angeline. She joined the CLM program in the same cohort of 300 families. A mother of seven children, she lives with five of them. Two others live with the father, from whom she is separated.

Before she was a CLM member, she was a successful business woman. She had over 5000 gourds in her small commerce. At the time, that was more than $100. But sending her children to school was the most important thing to her, and paying school fees for the four school-age kids who were with her gradually ate away her capital. When she joined the program in 2014, her business was no more. She depended on gifts of food or cash from neighbors or family – a cup of cornmeal or rice, 25 or 50 gourds – just to get by.

Like Angeline, she chose goats and a pig as the assets for us to give her, but none of those that we gave her survived. She worked hard and saved her money, and was eventually able to replace them. By the time she graduated, she had three goats and a pig. She also found a job as a cook in the same school that employed Angeline.

And like Angeline she used support that CLM gives all of its members to build a house. She finally had a place of her own to raise her children.

Or so she thought. The house and the accompanying latrine were hers, but she built them on land that she rented with her case manager’s help. Shortly after graduation, however, her landlord told her he wanted his land back. He wasn’t willing to have her on it anymore.

So, she sold her house for 6000 gourds and rented a small room for 2000 gourds per year. By then, her second set of livestock had died. Without livestock that she could sell to send the kinds to school, most of the money from the sale of her house went to pay the fees. What’s worse, she lost her job because her last pregnancy left her unable to work for several months before and after the birth of her child.

With no job, no livestock, and no commerce, Nannan feels as though she is back to zero. Once again, she depends on gifts from family members and friends. And with the due date for her rent approaching, she has no idea how she will raise enough money to keep her room, nor has she figured out where else she could go. She has no plan.

Béatrice Marcellus finds herself in similar straights. She’s a single mother with two young children and a third on the way.

She had better luck with her livestock than the other two women. When she graduated from the program, she had three goats, a growing pig, and some turkeys as well. Because she has fewer children than Nannan, she pays less to the local school, too.

But like Nannan, she built her CLM home on rented land, and the land’s owner decided to force her off it. “He didn’t just ask me to leave. He went out of his way to humiliate me. He would tie animals up in the front yard, and litter my yard with straw.”

She sold her house for 5000 gourds, and found a room to rent. She sold her pig and her turkey because she no longer had any place she could keep them, and her goats died because she didn’t keep them well fed. The place she found to rent is expensive, though. It costs 7500 gourds per year. She had the cash when she needed it because of the sale of her house and her pig, but there is very little chance that she’ll be able to raise as much money once again when the rent comes due.

We on the CLM team can and must learn a lot from the experience of the women from Bakè. The staff who worked with them closely seem to have done a poor job. On one hand, though it is not unusual for some members to lose some of their livestock, the losses that these three women suffered are unusually high. It seems likely that either the animals were poorly chosen in the first place, that the women were not taking good care of them, or that they were living in situations that made success with livestock unlikely. Good case management might have corrected any of these issues. And our team seems to have failed to work with the important people around the women: Angeline’s husband and the other women’s landlords. But part of our failure here is probably tied to a general fact about our program, one that needs to change.

We work hard with our members to help them learn to plan for the future. Research in behavioral economics and our own experience both tell us that people living in ultra-poverty, people poor enough to suffer from hunger a lot of the time, tend to be so focused on their daily struggle that they have no space in their thinking for considerations of the future. We believe that helping them get themselves to the point at which they can establish a clear plan is a key part of enabling them to make progress that can endure. They need to have a sensible objective, a practical strategy for attaining that objectives, and a realistic timeline for accomplishing each step in their plan.

But when we talk with our staff about future planning, we focus heavily on our members’ investments. How will they continue to earn money, and how will they be able to continue their growth by investing a part of what they earn? We probably don’t focus enough on the other aspects of their lives that require planning: establishing a secure housing situation or managing a prodigal partner. Until we teach case managers and CLM members as well to look at future planning as it relates to all the aspects of their lives, the progress that some of our members make will remain fragile.

All the CLM team’s experience over the last ten years suggests that our poor results with Béatrice and Nannan are very much the exception, not the rule. Our research partner, the Institute of Development Studies, in Sussex, England, is currently helping us study the program’s long-term impacts as a way to confirm that this is so. But even if it turns out the Nannan and Béatrice are a tiny minority, it is critical that we correct whatever went wrong for them.

Mimose Estiverne: Almost Three Years After Not Graduating

Mimose and her husband Osène live with their four children in Mazonbi, an isolated community sitting on one of the jagged ridges that separates the Central Plateau from the plain to its south. Mazonbi is sparsely populated and strictly agricultural. The secondary ridge it sits on twists northward along a steep, rocky path from the primary ridge in Gran Boulay.

She joined the CLM program with the group of 360 families in southern Mirebalais that graduated in December 2014. But Mimose did not graduate.

This surprised us. When we evaluated her after twelve months, she scored as ready to graduate. She had been flourishing. But her inability to meet our graduation criteria after 18 months had a lot to do with timing and bad luck.

Midway through her 18 months in the program she became pregnant. In the program’s last months, she had to discontinue her small commerce. Her pregnancy made it impossible to get her merchandise to market. Even the small markets nearby were too far for her to hike to with a load of merchandise on her head. And a series of setbacks left her without goats. A neighbor killed three of hers in a dispute with Osène, and negotiations for recompense left them with only two much smaller ones. Both of these died within a couple of months. At graduation, she and Osène had almost nothing.

Even so, after 18 months in the program she showed a sense of progress. The baby boy she had had when she started CLM had been consistently sickly. With her case manager’s advice, however, she learned how to get him the medical attention he needed. He started on the program of fortified peanut butter used to treat malnutrition in Haiti, and by the time Mimose left CLM, he was healthy most of the time. The family also had a two-room house with a good tin roof instead of the rickety, leaf-covered shack they had lived in previously.

She and Osène are hardworking farmers, and before long things were beginning to look up again. They made a commitment to family planning so that their four children wouldn’t become five, six, or more. Their first bean harvest after graduation was strong. They were able to use it to buy a cow, and soon the cow had a calf behind it. When her baby was ready, Mimose returned to small commerce using income from their farming as capital. “I really like having a small business. It helps me out. I use it to keep my family fed.” Almost a year after graduation, she was even able to send her older children to school for the first time. And within another year, the couple had made another important purchase: they used income from a harvest to buy a horse. It could have been life-changing because Mimose would no longer have to carry her merchandise to market on her head, but the pregnant mare died shortly after they bought it.

Soon they confronted a new opportunity. A neighbor offered them a chance to buy a half an acre of farmland. They jumped at the chance, managing a down payment out of farm income. When the same neighbor offered another half-acre next to what they had already purchased, it was a more difficult decision. They didn’t have the cash. But they decided to take a risk. They sold the cow and its calf for 30,000 gourds, or about $500. They would owe a little bit – about $125 on the total for the entire acre – but the seller was willing to wait.

Farming all that land would be expensive, and they made a second risky decision. At the beginning of 2017, they took all the capital in Mimose’s business and invested it in planting their crops. They bought seeds, and they paid and fed a team of neighbors to help them. They planted the entire plot.

Last week, things took an unfortunate turn. Though Hurricane Irma missed Haiti, there were heavy rains in spots. The farmland in Mazonbi is steep and rocky, and the downpour washed through their garden, taking most of their potential harvest with it.

With neither livestock nor a small commerce, they’ll need the little bit that remains just to feed their kids through the fall. Once the year’s avocado harvest is over, they are unlikely to get much more out of their land that they can sell. Osène will have to work in their neighbors’ fields this fall just to raise enough money to plant again next spring. And they are suddenly uncertain where the money for the final payment on their land – due in December – will come from. What troubles Mimose the most, however, is that she won’t be able to send her children to school this year. “I was counting on the harvest to buy uniforms and books and to pay their school fees.”

Looking ahead, the family should be in good shape. Osène is currently ready to put a crop of sweet potatoes in the ground, and they have other plans to get by until their next harvest. But without the diverse investments that the CLM program encourages its members to make, Mimose and Osène are destined to have a difficult few months.

Rosana Mitil 6

Rosana was initially reluctant to have her picture taken during our most recent conversation. “Jodi a m two lèd.” She had rushed from her home to the last day of the three-day refresher training she was attending, and she felt that she hadn’t given herself a chance to look good enough for a picture. A couple of the other women, however, encouraged her, and she eventually agreed. She put her foot down, though, about looking towards the camera.

Otherwise, she was in a good mood. She’s happy in her new house. From the program’s perspective, it’s finished. She herself, however, sees a couple of additional things she’d like to do. She wants to install a door between its two rooms, and she wants to paint it. She’s already chosen the colors: blue and chocolate-brown. The two rooms may seem very small. She and her husband have eight children and a grandchild living in it with her. But they spread somewhat into the one-room extension that they added to their goat shed as a temporary residence while the new house was going up in the old one’s place, and they make do.

She’s already registered three of the school-age children for the coming school year. She’d like to do more, but some of the younger ones, she thinks, can wait. They’ll have to.

The size of her household also makes her success at small commerce surprising. She took out a four-month loan of 7500 gourds, or about $120, from her Village Savings and Loan Association to get started.

She chose the sort of business our team might have been least likely to suggest. She sells basic groceries – rice, sugar, oil, and the like – out of her home. Such businesses are always hard to sustain in rural Haiti, even under the best circumstances, because the women who run them are under so much pressure to sell to their neighbors on credit. The women need to find ways to make sure they get paid without alienating potential customers, who can expect or even need special consideration. For CLM members, things can be even tougher, because they start with little respect from their neighbors, who can also tend to look at anything they have as a gift that they don’t really deserve. And it is also that much harder with a husband and nine children to feed. A household of eleven, with nine of eleven growing fast, can probably never have enough food. The tendency will always be to reach into the merchandise any time the kids seem a little hungry. Rosana must show great discipline to keep enough merchandise in the business itself.

She seems to understand the issues she’s facing very well, and continues to believe she can make it work, even though her goal for the business is limited. “There’s no profit in this. The profit is the food we eat.” She even knows that the business couldn’t and doesn’t stand up on its own. Her husband contributes to it regularly from his income selling day-labor to help keep the capital from drying up. But it enables her to keep her children fed while she looks to other areas to begin to build up her family’s wealth.

Her livestock is doing well. We gave her three goats, and she now has six, each of the original ones having produced a litter of one. Only one of the young is a buck, so within months she could have five reproducing nanny-goats. And she has a plan to add a small sow as soon as she harvests her fall crop of beans.

The crop will be critical for her. She has consistently attributed the hardships that she and her family have faced since entering the program to bad harvests. Two consecutive years of millet lost to disease, combined with the loss of last year’s crop of beans to high winds and heavy rains, have made it hard to keep her children minimally fed, let alone to make any progress. But the success of her small commerce enabled her to set aside the money she needed to prepare the family’s farmland to plant about eleven cans of beans, and she’s been able to buy eight cans of beans as seeds already. Fall crops tend to be more reliable than spring ones – though last year’s didn’t work out – so she seems hopeful, maybe for the first time since I met her.

Modeline Pierre 6

Modeline’s baby has been sick with diarrhea, but she’s been taking good care of her. She received oral rehydration fluid from the Haitian government’s child vaccination agent at his last visit, and she’s been making sure the baby drinks it. She was also pleased to learn that she can use coconut water, because there are plenty of coconuts where she lives.

Her livestock is increasing. She’s up to four goats from the two we gave her, and three of the four are pregnant. She worries some about her sow, though. It hasn’t gotten pregnant yet. She should probably sell it and buy another, but she can’t bring herself to do so. “It’s so tame! Even if it gets untied, it just strolls over and waits in the shade in front of my house.” She’s too happy with how easy the pig she got is to manage. This is something her case manager, Simon, will have to discuss with her, because if her sow doesn’t reproduce, there isn’t much use to having it.

Her house is almost finished, but a few final touches remain. Her husband has already prepared the palm planks they need to complete its last wall, and the hard lumber for its doors is ready too.

She says that her husband has been working really hard to get the work done. “L ap pase anpil mizè.” That means, “he’s suffering a lot,” and it’s indicative of the central change in Modeline’s life since she joined CLM. He used to spend most of his time working in the Dominican Republic. He was good about supporting her, but he wouldn’t stay around much because he couldn’t see how he could make a living at home.

But now he’s committed to staying at home with her, because the resources that CLM has made available to her enables him to work where they live. And both of them are much happier living this way. His mother was always willing to make land available for him to farm, but he never had the resources to take advantage of it. He now not only farms land she assigned to him, but he farms her land as a sharecropper, too. And they have a plan for further progress. One of the crops he planted is malanga, a starchy root. He and Modeline plan to use the proceeds from that crop to rent additional farmland. In the meantime, it’s avocado season, and the cash she’s been able to save allows him to buy avocadoes off their neighbors’ trees so he can lug them down for sale at the side of the road to passing produce trucks.

His increased presence had another consequence: their second child. But they are committed to family planning now. They have two children now, and two is enough. “If you’re always having children, you’re bound to move backwards.” She says she’s talked about this her husband, and he’s in full agreement. “He had to agree.”

The one area of her life that has seen little progress so far is small, but important. After more than a year in the program, Modeline still can’t sign her name. She appears to have some dyslexia, and if she is to get past it in the coming months, she and her case manager will have to work hard.

Below is her attempt to copy her name from my example:

Monise Imosiane 6

Monise says, “Things aren’t really good yet, but they are on their way.” She is into her new house, even though there is still some work to be done. It needs windows and a new door. She bought the tree that will be used to cut the lumber for 750 gourds, or about $12, but she needs another 750 to pay the men who will cut down the tree and slice the trunk into planks, and she doesn’t have that money yet.

Her livestock is doing well, despite a recent setback. She started with just two goats, and got them up to five. One of the kids, the largest of the three, just got sick, however, contracting diarrhea. She and her mother treated it with the natural remedies they know, but the kid was dead within a day of the first symptoms. Now she’s looking at its mother, which never grew the way that Monise had hoped it would, and she’s thinking of selling it. She plans to add some money to whatever she can get for it, and then buying a bigger, healthier-looking nanny-goat.

Her pig has flourished. She initially chose to raise a male and fatten it up for sale, rather than having to deal with a sow and its litter of piglets. Her mother already had a healthy sow, and two sows producing piglets in the same yard seemed like it would be too much to handle. The pig has grown well, though, and should be ready for sale by the end of the year. If all goes well, she’ll get enough for it to buy a small cow.

We often encourage members, especially those relatively successful with a pig, to set aside some of the money from the sale to buy another small pig, but Monise wants to reserve all of the sale’s proceeds to buy the best cow she can. So, she made another plan. Her mother’s sow is pregnant, but the older women has said that she’ll sell it after it weans the current litter. It is, Monise said, getting old. But the two women like raising pigs, and they want to have a female in the yard, so Monise took 500 gourds and purchased a piglet from her mother even before the piglet is born. She plans to take a female. Buying the piglet so young will mean that Monise’s profit will be much farther down the road, but it also enabled her to get it for a quarter or even a fifth of what she would pay for a weaned female in the market, which was important because with the school year ready to start she’s short of cash.

She’s managed to buy uniforms for only two of her three school-age children so far, having finally faced up to the fact that she cannot count on the children’s fathers. But she’s not sure how she’ll pay for the third child. She’s still not back in small commerce, and won’t be able to start again until she can get her hands on some capital. She’d like to borrow it from her Village Savings and Loan Association, but she ended up paying late fees on the first loan that she took out, so the Association and her case manager, Martinière, with whom they consult closely, has been slow to agree to a second loan.

Altagrace Brevil 6

Things are going well for Altagrace. We originally gave her three goats, and now she has six. Hers haven’t really reproduced yet, but she’s created some opportunities for herself to buy the additional ones.

For one thing, she and her husband had a good bean harvest because they got their crop planted early spring. Families in the area who decided to plant in March this year were generally successful, while those who waited until April were not. She and her husband planted in late March, so while their crop was not great, it was good.

They planted 13 coffee cans of beans in two plantings. She used 2500 gourds of savings from her cash stipend for the first planting, and 2000 gourds that she borrowed from her Village Savings and Loan Association for the second one. They harvested 37 cans. She used 2850 gourds from her harvest to buy a large nanny goat and 1800 gourds to buy a smaller buck. “I bought the buck because we sometimes have trouble finding them to mount our females, but I’m going to sell him at the end of the summer to help send the kids to school.”

She bought another female with 2000 gourds that the CLM program gave her to replace money that she lost because she accepted counterfeit bills the first time she tried to set up a business. She’s like to start a business again, but the model that appeals to her won’t work without a horse, donkey, or mule. She wants to buy loads of produce from farmers along the hillsides on each side of the river that runs from eastern Savanette to Mirebalais, and bring it to market for sale. She’s hoping that she’ll be able to buy the horse she needs once she sells her fall harvest of beans.

One of the most striking things about my conversation with Altagrace, however, was how confident she’s grown of her own worth. When I first met her she was shy, happy to let her husband do most of the talking for her. And he seemed to want to do the talking for them, too. He spent a lot of that first conversation ridiculing Altagrace, making fun of her because she had to leave school pregnant when she was just 13. He spoke dismissively of her and of her mother, whom they live with, too.

When I reminded her of the episode now, she just laughed. “He was just joking. He knows very well what I’ve done for him.”

Rosemitha Petit Blanc 6

The last month or so has been a sad time for Rosemitha. Her mother-in-law passed away in the hospital at La Colline after a short illness. Rosemitha is heartbroken. “She was always the one that took care of me.” Rosemitha’s husband spent much of his time in the Dominican Republic, trying to earn money, before the family joined the CLM program, leaving his wife and his mother back home with the kids. “When I had my child, she helped me and bathed me in the days afterwards until I could bathe myself.”

And the death did more than make Rosemitha sad. She had been proud of her new-found success as a businesswoman, and her husband was increasingly proud of her. But she spent all the capital in it taking care of the older woman, most of it even before she died. Care at La Colline was free, but either Rosemitha or her husband had to stay with her all the time, and whoever it was had to eat. Whatever was left of the money passed as part of funeral expenses, along with the income from the small patch of beans that her husband planted in the spring. And the couple still owes the coffin-maker 7500 gourds, or about $120. The CLM program can eventually help offset that debt, but Rosemitha doesn’t know that yet, so she is worried.

Without the income from her commerce, food in the home has once again become a challenge. Much of the time she’s reduced to feeding the family little more than plantains and greens from her small yard. The rice field her husband planted should help eventually, but in the meantime, times are hard.

She wants to get back in business as soon as she can, but she, her husband, and her case manager will need to figure out where she’ll get the money. And without her mother-in-law, she’ll face another challenge because she always felt good about leaving the children with her. As things stand, she can’t even leave the two younger kids with her stepdaughter because during his mother’s illness, her husband sent his daughter to live with a relative of his near La Colline. Her stepson and baby are too young to be left alone.

Idalia Bernadin 6

Idalia continues to worry about her youngest son. He’s been in and out of the hospital, suffering with shortness of breath. It turns out to be connected with a condition that causes him to have too much blood, which makes it harder for his blood cells to get the oxygen they need. That’s at least how I understand it. The only solution so far has been for doctors to remove some his blood every few months.

This has, in fact, provided a small measure of relief, though only a temporary one. But neither Idalia nor her husband want her boy to continue the treatment. None of the explanations they’ve gotten from doctors has made sense to them. They see doctors taking blood from their boy without feeling as though he’s getting much better. And they just can’t imagine that it could be good for him to be losing so much blood. Her case manager, Titon, will need to continue talking with both Idalia and the boy’s father to figure out what to do next. He might need our nurse’s help as well.

Her next older boy has needed medical care as well. Titon helped Idalia get him to the hospital, after a doctor visiting a mobile clinic we organized for CLM members and their families told them they needed to take him. The boy has been scheduled for hernia surgery, but the operation won’t happen until December. It will be free of charge at the PIH University Hospital in Mirebalais, but the hospital’s capacity is limited, so operations that don’t seem urgent can end up getting put off for a long time.

Idalia now has three goats: One of the two that we gave her died, but she and her case manager bought her another. That new goat had a kid, and it’s pregnant again. She’s worried about the second of her original two, however, because it has been mounted by a buck a couple of times without getting pregnant. She needs to trade it for another, but hasn’t gotten around to doing so yet.

She gave the goat that died and her pig, which also died, to Michel, a member of the local committee, to sell, and she’s worried because it has been months and she still hasn’t seen any of the money. The situation is delicate for her, because Michel is the same one who gave her access to a small piece of land to build her new home on. She and her husband had no land in Gwo Labou. She’s afraid to make him angry. She’ll need her case manager’s help to follow through.

She’d like to send her youngest boy to school this year. The older ones are probably too old to start. But she doesn’t see the money yet. The bean harvest she had built her hopes upon was weak, and with only three goats, she doesn’t feel as though she can sell one yet. So, the kid may have to wait another year.

Meanwhile, she already has her eyes on the future. She is very unhappy where she lives. She feels as though her neighbors only want her ill. “As soon as they see that you’ve begun to make progress, they start to hate you.” She no longer wants to return to Jinpaye, however. That’s the community her family fled before they settled in Gwo Labou. It is, if anything, even more remote than Gwo Labou, a long hike away from Gwo Labou up into the mountains that separate Savanette, in the Central Plateau, from Cornillon to the south.

Her plan now is to try to rent a room in Mirebalais. She feels that she will have less hostility to confront there, but she’ll have to figure out a business that will enable her to earn a living. And moving will present challenges as far as maintaining her farming and her livestock. She and her husband may have to figure out how they will split their time and their work.