Aline Merilan – Five Years After Graduation

When Aline first saw CLM staff asking a lot of questions in the area around her home in Divye, a small community in Montay Terib, she didn’t know what to make of it. Montay Terib is a hard-to-access area in the mountains of southwestern Sodo.

Aline was having a difficult time of things. She had four children, but their fathers were not providing support. She had no income of her own, so she had to depend on her parents. “I had problems. I had no one to help me. I had no livestock. I didn’t have anything.”

She joined the program in 2012, and chose goats and small commerce as her two enterprises. And for 18 months she worked hard and began to flourish. She built her own small house on a spot of her parents’ land. She took care of her livestock, and her assets multiplied. By the time she graduated, she had six goats and a small cow.

She also built up her commerce. She would make the weekly hike down to the regional market at Kay Micho, in southern Sodo, and hike back up to Montay Terib with her merchandise. She sold basic groceries—oil and rice, for example – at the mountain market at Ka Boudou.

It was a hard way to live, but she was making it work. She made enough money with her business to keep her four children fed and in school, even with no help from the children’s fathers. When she reached graduation in 2013, as she reports, “Things were good.”

Within a couple of years, however, things took a turn for the worse when her mother died. Funerals are expensive in Haiti, and her one sibling, a sister, was already struggling to get by in Kabare, the closest large town. Much of the expense of the funeral fell on Aline. She was able to manage without taking on debt, but it meant selling most of her livestock. That meant that the full burden of school expenses would have to fall on her business, but she tried to plow ahead nonetheless.

She began, however, to notice that her father seemed to have turned against her, showing signs that he didn’t want her around. To this day, she is not sure why. He started to plant his crops closer and closer to her front door, leaving her and her children less and less living space. She finally made the only decision she thought she could, abandoning her house in Montay Terib, renting a room in Kabare, and moving there with her children. By now she had five.

She knew that she would need a different business living in Kabare, so she came up with a plan. She would buy 2-3 sacks of charcoal at a time, and sell small bags of it retail. A commerce like this one, often called “kase lote,” which means to break into piles, is a key step in the distribution of agricultural goods across Haiti. For something like charcoal, there are smaller and larger rural producers. They might make as few a one or as many as a half-dozen or even more sacks at a time. They either bring them to market or sell them to local merchants, usually women, who bring them to market instead. When they get to market, the sacks are purchased by other businesswomen, who sell them in turn to retail sellers like Aline.

But it was hard. School costs for the children were higher in Kabare, and she was now paying rent. The strain on her business was considerable. She met a man, and became pregnant. It was a hard pregnancy. She was sick much of the time. It made it harder for her to work every day, and every day she missed was a reduction in her sales. And the expense of going to the hospital and buying medication was an additional drain.

She was able to get her kids through the school year, but at the end of the year she sent the four older children to Montay Terib for the summer. They are staying with their paternal grandmother. Aline says they are enjoying the mangos. But Aline’s business finally collapsed shortly before she gave birth.

Her baby’s father is supporting her now, but he isn’t willing to support her older children, and she has no money right now to send them to school next year. She’s feeling better, and would be almost ready to go back to work, but doesn’t yet know when she’ll be able to get her hands on the initial investment that she will need.

Daniela Cherilien

Daniela was once a charcoal merchant. She never had enough capital to establish a large business, but she would buy a few sacks each week in the countryside around her home in a rural neighborhood outside of Gwomòn and sell them to the merchants who sit in the downtown market and sell it by the sack. Her husband was a hard-working farmer, and together their income enabled them to just get by.

Things took a turn for the worse for the family as Daniela’s husband grew ill. Persistent stomachaches weakened him. They both made him a less capable contributor to the household and created a drain on the family’s resources as they paid for medical care for him.

By the time Daniela joined the CLM program, her charcoal business was long gone and she was her family’s sole support. “Se mwen ki rele, mwen ki reponn.” That means “I’m the one who calls, and I’m the one who answers,” and in the Haitian countryside it’s a standard way to say that Daniela herself had to find a way to meet to all her family’s needs. That extends to her home repair, which is proceeding slowly because she has to carry all the rocks and clay that her builder needs herself.

She chose goats and a pig as the two enterprises for us to give her, and she hasn’t been able to make much out of them yet. Pig-rearing is a high-risk, high-reward proposition, and her pig died. She was able to sell the carcass to a butcher for 1500 gourds, but she hasn’t collected the money yet. Butchers who buy an animal that is already sick or dead know that their bargaining position is strong, so they rarely pay cash. The woman who bought Daniela’s pig said that she’d pay for it in July. Daniela is hoping that she’ll be able to re-establish her charcoal business when she collects the money. Her two goats are still just two goats.

In the meantime, she is managing her household with income from a small business she created from 1500 gourds of savings from her weekly stipend. She buys key limes, hot peppers, and sour oranges, and carries them around the marketplace, selling them in small quantities. “I thought about selling rice, but you never know what you’re buying. You expect seven full cans or seven cans and a couple of cups [in the sack you buy], but it turns out to be less. When I buy limes or peppers, I know what I have.”

She also uses the income to buy shares in the two VSLAs she belongs to. VSLAs, or Village Savings and Loan Associations, are small clubs that meet every week. At each meeting, participants buy from one to three shares at a price they have collectively determined. The shares become loan capital that club members can then borrow. They repay the loans with interest, so at the end of a one-year cycle, when the club separates the pot, the shares have accrued interest. Then the association reforms for another one-year cycle. Daniela was in one even before she joined CLM. A team from CARE had established them in her area. But she had ceased to be able to buy shares. Now she can buy shares every week in both that VSLA and the one that CLM established.

The CLM program is now helping her get medical care for her husband. He’s been diagnosed with both h-pylori and typhoid, and his recovery will be slow. “His pain is so bad some days that he can’t even get onto a motorcycle or into a truck to get to the hospital.”

Daniela’s been part of the program for about a year, and her progress towards graduation has been slow so far, but both she and her case manager, Annel, believe in her final success. She’s Annel’s favorite person to work with, because she wants to talk through all the decisions she makes and is careful to carry out any plan they agree on. And she’s happy to explain why. “If there’s something you cannot do or achieve by yourself, and someone comes along who’s willing to help, you have to give them reason to feel encouraged.”

Sonia Dormevil – Five Years After Graduation

Sonia is from Montay Terib, or Terrible Mountain, a mountainous area of Sodo, lodged between the fertile center of the commune and the coastal plain to the west. Though it is not especially far from large population centers in Kabarè, Sodo, and even Pòtoprens, it is nevertheless remote. There is no road to or through it that even a motorcycle – much less a car or truck – could travel. All transportation requires walking.

She joined the CLM program in 2011. At the time, she had three children, the youngest a nursing infant. “They took me into the program because I had nothing going on. I was living in misery.” Her family was regularly going hungry.

She chose goats and a pig as her two enterprises, and got to work. By the time she graduated in 2013, she had made a lot of progress. Not the spectacular progress that we sometimes see, but she had increased the value of her livestock by 50%, and her family was eating two meals each day.

She also had a plan. She wanted to continue to increase her livestock until she had enough so that she’d be able to sell some and buy a mule. A pack animal would help her establish commerce, buying agricultural goods around Montay Terib and bringing them to market in Kay Micho, Titayen, or Kabarè. Other graduates from Montay Terib entered Fonkoze’s credit program after they graduated, but she decided not to.

After graduation, things took a turn for the worse. The CLM program had not yet learned to establish veterinary technicians in the regions where it was working, and when the program left the area, her pig died. Then her goats were attacked by external parasites, and several of them died, too. And that wasn’t the worst of it. Her relationship with her husband began to deteriorate. “I think he wanted the house the CLM helped me make.”

So, in 2014 Sonia took two of her children – her eldest and her baby – and she left. The three moved to Kabarè, a market town north of Pòtoprens, along the coast. She had a sister there whom they could move in with. She got a job as a maid to keep her children fed.

But she soon saw that there was no future for her as a maid. She still had two small goats in Montay Terib, so she hiked up and sold them, hiking back down with the money from the sale. She began selling garlic, onions, and leeks in the Kabarè market. She liked being in business. She liked the bustle of the market. But she wasn’t making much money. She was just barely getting by.

So, she talked to her brother-in-law, and he explained a different business she might try. It is profitable, but also labor-intensive. Kabarè is an important selling point for produce destined for Pòtoprens, so there are markets three days a week. Every market day, she buys a 50-kilo sack of flour and brings it to a bakery, where they turn it into bread. Then she sits in the market, selling what they’ve made.

It’s a struggle. She explains, “I get no help from the kids’ dad. I am their food, and I am their clothes. I pay for school, and I pay our rent.”

But she is managing. She has about 4000 gourds in her business – a little over $60 – and in a week of work, she can earn enough to pay her basic household expenses and to make a 750-gourd contribution to her saving club.

And she has a new plan. “I have no place of my own in Kabarè. I have to rent, and it’s not good for me. I have to pay 3500 gourds or even 4000 every six months. I want to buy a home for me and my kids.”

Three and a Half Years After Graduation

When Carmène joined the CLM program, she and her husband were living in Platon Zèb, a remote corner of a neighborhood called Laferyè, one of a series of neighborhoods along the ridge that separates the Central Plateau from Pòtoprens.

When she entered the program, she and her husband, Yatande, had very little. They had purchased goats with money they earned through a cash-for-work program that cut roads from the national highway in Fon Cheval to the catholic church in Gran Boulay. All had died, however, by the time we met Carmène. Yatande was a homebuilder, but his clients weren’t paying him. Carmène was sometimes able to borrow money to set up a small commerce, but she never could build it up into anything. Clients had trouble paying her, and she didn’t manage it well. Though they had sent their four children to school for the year, they weren’t sure how they were going to pay.

By the time she had spent six months in the program, she was advancing quickly. The program uses a special evaluation form at the six-month mark, designed to help us see whether members are on track. Rather than evaluating their progress against graduation criteria, we look a factors that point towards eventual success: whether the member is building friendships, whether she seeks and uses advice from community leaders, whether she has a plan for moving forward, whether she is using the training her case manager provides, and whether her assets have begun to increase their value. Carmène scored 90 out of 100.

And, in fact, by the time she underwent her twelve-month evaluation, Carmène could have graduated from the CLM program. Her family was eating hot meals twice-a-day, they had three times the assets we originally had given them, and she was confident in her ability to move forward. Asked whether she thought that Fonkoze should worry about her, she said no and then explained: “I’m going to keep working hard and to manage what I have so it will increase.” When she graduated six months later, she had four times as much as we had given her, having added a horse, a young bull, and a pig to the three goats, which had turned into five.

She also had begun a small commerce, selling groceries out of her home. Neighbors could buy rice, beans, oil: whatever they needed to fix a meal. It meant that they had a place to turn if they ran out of something before market day or if they couldn’t get to the market for some reason. When she graduated, she decided to strengthen her business by joining the credit program offered by Fonkoze’s commercial sister, Fonkoze Financial Services, or SFF. She became part of a solidarity group of five women. All five were CLM graduates. Together they took out their first loans, borrowing 3000 gourds each.

The business worked well. Though she couldn’t always collect what her neighbors owed her, most of them paid, and she knew that the ones who didn’t were struggling with problems she had known too well.

In 2016, she and Yatande decided to move. Platon Zèb was her home, but he was from Labasti, a market area down the mountain along the main road into Mibalè. They repaired the small bachelor house he had built years earlier on land he purchased as a young man, and moved down the hill. “It is much better for us here. There’s no water in Laferyè. Here there’s plenty.” Yatande is quick to say that he still has work to do. “This is still a man’s house. I haven’t built a woman’s house here yet.” They were, however, careful to install a latrine, complete with a PVC exhaust pipe, just as those that CLM helps members construct.

Carmène’s business grew, but when she moved to Labasti she had to change it. “I couldn’t keep selling out of my home. Too many of my neighbors were already doing the same thing.” She took out a larger loan, and used it to buy beans in markets in Laskawobas and elsewhere where they are relatively inexpensive. She would sell them retail in the market close to her home, but also to other merchants who would sell them as part of a home grocery business, like the one she had once managed. Her most recent loan was for 20,000 gourds, and she was able to take it as an individual loan. “I always repay on time, right in the credit center, and I never cause any trouble. If I did, they wouldn’t have let me take out my loan by myself.”

Carmène’s is an encouraging story, but not all the women who graduated with her in December 2014 are doing as well.

Safine lives in Redout with three of her seven children. She isn’t from Redout, an area along the highway into Mibalè just above Triyanon, the largest town between Mibalè and the ridge. She grew up in Difayi, in Boukankare to the north. She moved to Redout about ten years ago to join a man from there, but he died in Pòtoprens in the 2010 earthquake. She was eventually able to buy a small home with money she earned through a cash-for-work project. “I took a shovel and would clear out the run-off canals along the highway.”

But she did not own the land the house was on, and its owners were constantly trying to get her to leave because she had nothing she could pay the rent with once the cash-for-work dried up. She had almost nothing: no livestock or any capital she could invest in small commerce. On the scorecard that Fonkoze uses to measure poverty, she scored about a low as one could. She could occasionally get rent money from her younger children’s father, a man named Maxo, but he didn’t pay regularly.

That wasn’t the worst of Maxo. He was abusive. Her case manager, Hilaire, had to work hard with her to help her out of the relationship. That work culminated when Maxo attacked her in front of the new home she was struggling to build. Hilaire helped Safine through the process of having Maxo arrested, and then with negotiations with his family, who wanted to keep him out of prison. She eventually received a guarantee that he would leave her alone along with help completing construction of her home.

Hilaire also helped her buy a small plot of land that she eventually built a small home on. She chose goats and a pig as her assets, but they didn’t fare well, because she had no place they could graze. And she was too close to the highway. She occasionally lost a young goat to passing traffic.

She eventually established a small commerce, and easily met the program’s graduation criteria, but struggled throughout the 18 months. She would occasionally have to spend the money she used for her business buying what she needed to take care of her children. Her case manager would then help her get a job in the kitchen of one of the numerous training workshops that the CLM program provides its members. She could then use that money to re-establish her business.

After graduation, she continued to struggle. Her remaining goats died, but she rented a plot of farmland and started to work it. She planted plantains and manioc, crops that would yield both food for her children and something to sell. This year, she’s planting corn as well.

She hasn’t been able to sustain her small commerce. She explains, “I get no help from the children’s father. My commerce has to pay school fees, books, uniforms. It buys sandals for their feet and barrettes for the girls’ hair. It pays for the food they eat.” She occasionally goes to Pòtoprens to work as a maid for a while when she doesn’t know what else to do. But she and her children are healthy, and the children continue to go to school, even if she isn’t yet quite sure how she will pay of the balance she owes for the current school year.

Elda Derilais – Two and a Half Years After Graduation

Elda was born in Byeneme, an area in the northern mountains of Laskawobas, overlooking the Artibonite River. Her parents were farmers, not wealthy but with the means to send all their children to school and, eventually, to buy a small amount of land lower down the mountain, in Lonsi, so that their children could be closer to school and church. “Land was cheaper back then,” Elda explains, “and school was just too far.”

She finished primary school in Lonsi and started to attend high school at the public school near downtown Laskowobas. Then she met a man. He was teaching elementary school at the church school near her home. When she became pregnant, he took her to his parents’ home in Lezangle, on the far end of southern Haiti, hours away from anyone she knew. He was away teaching at various schools most of the time, so she was alone with his parents when she had their first child. When their boy was ready, she moved to Petyonvil, where the father had an apartment, so the three of them could be together.

Their small family didn’t last long. Elda’s partner began to show signs of frustration. “He was mad because he was earning money, and I wasn’t. I just took care of our baby.” Finally, the man threw Elda out of their home. She took their child, and moved back in with her parents, in Lonsi. At the time, she was three months pregnant with their second child, a girl, but neither of them knew it.

When she first returned to her parents, Elda depended on them for everything. “I couldn’t work while I was pregnant or when I had the baby in my arms.” She finally found an opportunity through World Vision, an international non-profit. They included her in a training for rural health agents. She enjoyed the training, and got her certificate, but then World Vision pulled out of the area. Her family took to calling her, “Nurse,” but she never had the chance to do the job she trained for. When Fonkoze’s CLM team met her during the selection process, she had nothing: no assets, no income, no home of her own – just two little children dependent on her for everything.

Elda chose goats and small commerce as her two activities, and while she has always taken good care of her goats, her focus was on her commerce from the start. The CLM team made 1500 gourds available for her to start the business, which must have been about $30 at the time, and she knew what she wanted to do from the beginning. She had seen how some of the other women she knew in Lonsi had managed mabi businesses, and she thought she could succeed with one, too. “I decided to sell mabi because you can start with only a little money.” Her case manager, Lénort, encouraged her plan.

Mabi is an herbal drink popular in Haitian markets. It’s made from the bark of a tree, which is flavored with cinnamon and vanilla extract. The concentrated liquid is then combined with sugar and served with ice. The final result is a bitter and dark brown. Many Haitians find it refreshing on hot days.

Elda needed all of her 1500 gourds to get started. She bought two buckets for 125 gourds each. She’d carry her mabi in one and her cups and ice in the other. She spent 500 gourds on the bark that mabi is made from, 250 gourds on ice, 250 gourds on cinnamon, and 250 gourds on vanilla extract.

The business requires a lot of getting around because it sells best in the markets themselves. She can sell in Laskowobas on Wednesdays and Saturdays, Nan Kas on Mondays, and Kwafè on Thursdays, but none of the three markets is especially close to her home.

Her business took off. She soon found that she could keep her children fed and in school. When she graduated from the CLM program, she joined a credit program offered by Fonkoze’s sister organization, Fonkoze Financial Services, but she left it quickly, dissatisfied with the service she received from her credit agent and unconvinced of her need for the credit.

Even without credit, she was able to use her income both to save and to invest. She has purchased two cows with her profits, and has almost 28,000 gourds in savings. And she has a plan: “The house I built with help from CLM is starting to break down. I want to buy a small plot of land and build a new house for me and the kids.”

But she hasn’t been thinking only of herself. Shortly after graduation, she participated in a day-long meeting with about 30 CLM graduates. They got together to discuss their experience and the problem of extreme poverty in rural Haiti. Four of that meeting’s participants were selected to present a workshop at Université Quisqueya, in Port au Prince, that brought together members of women’s groups from various parts of Haiti who were interested in hearing about the situation of the rural women who live in extreme poverty. There was a lively exchange after their presentation, and Elda came away from the meeting impressed by the women she met.

When she got home, she decided that Lonsi needed a women’s group, too. So, she formed OFVP, the Organization of Tough Women of Pitifon. Pitifon is the larger region that Lonsi is part of. She felt that she had begun doing well herself, but she could see other women around her who stilled need help. Together with the women she recruited to lead OFVP with her, she would offer council and training based, at least at first, on the lessons she learned from CLM. Eventually she hopes they will be able to attract funding that they can invest in neighborhood development.

In the meantime, she works hard making and selling her mabi. Her kids’ father has started calling to ask how the kids are doing, but he never offers any support, instead just asking whether they can come visit him during vacation. Other men now flirt with Elda, but she says she’s careful. “They’ll want you to have their child, but then they’ll abandon you and you’ll be stuck with more trouble.”

Sonie Elicio

Sonie is the mother of five children. She had four with a first partner, though only one of them survived. She has four with the man whom she currently lives with in Tyera Miskadi, a section of Tomond. Only three of the five children live with the couple. Her oldest lives with her mother, and another with her brother.

She joined the CLM program this year. She was what the team often refers to as an “orijinal,” a woman whose dire poverty is evident in all the ways that the team’s process considers. She was living in a home in horrible condition, really no more than a shack. Her husband would sometimes find work, but somehow the money never reached her and their children. She was without any assets. She owned no livestock, and could not afford the merchandise she would need to start a small commerce. Though the couple has some land, they lacked the resources to farm it. She had no way to keep her young children consistently fed.

When she first joined the program, she didn’t know what to think. “I didn’t understand.” But the more the team spoke with her, the clearer things became. As she received the various transfers that the team offers, she felt her life begin to change. “They gave me goats, they gave me a water filter, and they give me money, too.”

The cash, or weekly stipend, has been especially important. She uses some to help her feed her children, but also has purchased some of the basic things she needs. When she joined the program, for example, she had no footwear of any kind. She used 100 gourds, or about $1.50, to buy a pair of plastic sandals. But her biggest expense was the fee she paid to the young men who dug the pit for the latrine that CLM is helping her install.

But more important still was the help she received at a medical clinic the CLM team organized in her neighborhood thanks to Haiti Clinic. Sonie has been suffering from asthma for a long time. She has frequent attacks that she tries to combat with an inhaler that she gets from a clinic in downtown Tomond. On the day of the clinic, her asthma was so bad that she could not walk the few hundred yards to get there from her home by herself. Haiti Clinic’s Haitian medical staff received her, and gave her medication that is now keeping her asthma in check

For Sonie, the combination of feeling better about herself and just feeling better is having an effect. She’s starting to imagine what she could do to continue to improve her life. She’d like to start a small commerce to go along with the livestock that she’s asked the CLM team to give her. “I want to buy charcoal and sell it in Port au Prince and maybe buy and sell chickens in the local market.”

But it will have to wait. “I need to repair my home first. If you don’t have a house with a door, people can come by when you step out and take your merchandise.”

Faustin Antoine

Faustin began to see strangers in his neighborhood in January. They would drop by and ask some questions, but Faustin wasn’t that interested. When they told him that they’d like to make him part of a program and invited him to the first training, he didn’t give it much thought. “People said they were going to give out stuff but that you’d have to give back.”

Faustin wasn’t used to seeing strangers because he doesn’t get around much. For the past three years, he has been unable to walk. A condition that has not yet been identified took away the use of his legs. When the CLM team met him, he was using a broken crutch and a stick to prop himself up to go back and forth between his bed and a chair in front of his house, almost the only two places he could get to.

He and his wife were living in the Dominican Republic with their four children when his condition first appeared. She would find occasional work as a maid, but he was the principal earner, working as a porter on construction sites. He would carry heavy loads like concrete, sacks of cement, and other heavy materials. The sacks weigh 50 kilos, or 110 pounds, and Faustin and his coworkers moved them around easily. “When we were having fun, we’d carry two at a time, one in our arms and one on our head.” When he could no longer work, he moved back to Haiti into a small house he had built in his parents’ yard in better times. His wife kept two children with her, and he took two with him. One of the two who were with him eventually left to join the mother.

The CLM selection team had a decision to make regarding Faustin. His situation was not what CLM has generally sought to address. His parents were keeping him fed, and a sister was sending the boy who remained with him to school.

But nothing that he had belonged to him. He was entirely dependent on others for everything. “CLM saw that I wasn’t capable of helping myself. Sitting around waiting for others to give you what you need is completely different from being able to reach into your own pocket.” Faustin had no hope that anything could change for him. He was living in ultra-poverty. He had nothing. But the team took him more for his hopelessness than for his lack of means.

He joined the program in February, and has received his assets. He chose goats and a pig. He can’t get around to personally give them all the care they need, but he can assign the work to his son and get his parents and younger siblings to help. But he values the accompaniment he’s begun to receive more than those assets. “They do a lot for me. I’ve gotten help I never thought I’d get.”

The team has been working especially hard to help him with his disability. The Haitian government’s Office of the Secretary of State for the Integration of Persons with Disabilities distributes adaptive materials like crutches and wheelchairs free of charge to those who require them, but the Office lacks the means to find those who need the help. The CLM team was able to bring Faustin to the Port au Prince office to get a wheelchair and then get him crutches at the regional office in Hinche.

The wheelchair was especially important, because it means he can now get around his family’s yard on his own. But even the crutches have made an important difference, making the couple of steps he must occasionally take without his wheelchair more manageable.

The wheelchair also helps him get to the doctor’s appointments that the CLM team helped him make. Faustin is now pursuing a solution to his problem in a way that he and his family never could have on their own. Since joining the CLM program he has been undergoing a series of diagnostic tests proposed by Partners in Health’s Mirebalais-based neurology team. More tests are to come. It is not certain that he will ever walk again, but it is possible.

Faustin values the assets and the cash that the program makes available. “It’s a real relief.” But he’s even more grateful for the close accompaniment he is receiving. Because the health that he is now pursuing “is more valuable than wealth.”

Rosa Marie: Three years after Graduation

I’ve written about Rose Marie before. (See here.) She was part of a cohort of 360 CLM families who graduated from the program in December 2014. At the time, she was living in Fon Cheval. She and her partner, Emmanuel, had moved out of the house farther down the hill she built with the CLM program’s help.

The move was a struggle because she was still nursing her twins, the couple’s third and fourth children, but they wanted to move because they felt that there was something wrong with the neighborhood in Nan Siwèl they were living in. The livestock the couple had been accumulating since they joined the program was dying off, mysteriously the way Rose Marie saw things. When her prized possession, the cow she had been saving for, died suddenly, she made the decision. With four small children, she didn’t feel as though she could take any chances.

But the losses had accumulated, and she found herself almost having to start all over again. Fortunately, the couple had some income nonetheless. Emmanuel had found work in one of the mines near Fon Cheval that provides sand for construction. While on the job, he also sold cellphone minutes. Rose Marie wasn’t getting around much. The twins gave her more than enough to do.

She eventually joined Fonkoze’s credit program. The center was a little bit of a hike from Fon Cheval, but many of the women were CLM graduates. So, though she was new to the neighborhood, she felt comfortable with the group. But she dropped out of the program after her second loan. She just didn’t think it was working for her. The nearest larger market was in Labasti, and the cost of the transportation there and back made her profit margin too low. “If you don’t bring 50 gourds home at the end of the day, it isn’t worth it.”

Rose Marie continued to get by even so. The yard she had moved out of now belonged, in part, to her. It was her late mother’s land. And it’s full of fruit trees: mangoes and breadfruit especially. Once she had had to leave that harvest for others, but eventually she could use it. She would hike down when the fruit was ripe, and pick some to sell in the market. The fruit is valuable. A single tree could bring her 2500 gourds, and between that and what Emmanuel was earning they kept the children fed and sent the older ones to school.

But the more time she spent in Fon Cheval, the less she liked it. “There’s no water up there, and I didn’t have a cistern. The kids were going around in dirty clothes because I couldn’t do the laundry.” She also noticed that her brother, who lives in the same yard that she had moved away from, was keeping livestock without any trouble. So she decided to return to the yard. At about the same time, she and Emmanuel were having difficulties in their relationship, and he left. “He doesn’t get along with people. He was always wanting to fight with my brother, and when they started drawing their machetes, it was time for him to go.”

She and her children moved in with her brother while she began building a new home. She had saved the roofing from her CLM house, and the yard had lumber that she could use for the frame. It has taken some time, but the roof and the walls are up. It still needs a door, and the front porch needs a ceiling, but she has the lumber she needs already, so it is just a matter of the builder’s finding the time.

She’d like to return to small commerce. She’ll sell groceries at the nearby market called “Ti Sekèy,” or Little Coffin, and in Labasti and Sodo, too. But she’s not ready yet. “I can’t have a commerce until my home is finished. I need someplace to keep merchandise.”

In the meantime, she gets by selling fruit from the trees that she and her brother have. Emmanuel sometimes calls, but he doesn’t send money. Occasionally his former employer does, but for the most part she is on her own. The fruit keeps them fed, and it enabled her to send all four kids to school this year. She also started to buy livestock again. “If you see me with 1000 gourds, you can be sure I’m investing 500.” Right now, she just keeps poultry, but her plan is to start buying larger animals, like goats and pigs, too.

Modeline Pierre – At Graduation

“The graduation ceremony went well.” Modeline explains, “I took care of everything they gave me, I kept watch over the livestock, and the ceremony was important because I wanted everyone to see my success.”

Towards the end of the 18 months, Modeline had six goats. But one of the kids died, and she had to sell another goat to pay the last of the money she owed to her savings and loan association.

The association offered her opportunities, but her loan didn’t really pan out. She and her husband borrowed money for him to invest in avocados, but the ones he bought never got to market. It was a total loss. And Modeline doesn’t plan to rejoin the association for a second round. “I don’t really like the people who are involved. We could try to start our own separate association, but they’re the ones who have the equipment to run it with.”

She and her husband will continue to focus on their farming. “Farming is what we believe in, and we’ll keep working at it.”

They are making their lives now as farmers in a way they couldn’t have before Modeline joined the program. Back then, her husband Wisnel lived in the Dominican Republic. She lived with their daughter in her mother’s home, helping out as a babysitter. When Wisnel heard what the program was offering his family, he returned for a visit to do his part. He gave Modeline the help she needed to build their new house, and he began taking care of their animals.

But the critical change in their lives came when Modeline’s stepfather intervened. The older man got involved in the same avocado investment that Wisnel made, and though neither man succeeded, he liked Wisnel’s willingness to work. So, he spoke to Wisnel’s mother. She had land that was going unfarmed because she couldn’t farm it herself. She had neither the physical strength nor the resources. The stepfather convinced her to turn the land over to Wisnel, and he went to work on it right away.

With livestock to develop and land to farm, Wisnel and Modeline decided there was no longer any reason for him to return to the Dominican Republic. Modeline says that he might still go work there occasionally for shorts periods if there’s no work to be done on their land. Quick windfalls will always help. But the two now live together fulltime, and Modeline could not be happier about it.

The family still struggles. There isn’t much to eat these days. It has been some time since their last harvest. Modeline can make one good meal a day out of the products of their plantain patch, but with very limited cash, she can’t always make a second meal. And since she does not have a small commerce, regular cash income depends on Wisnel’s occasional ability to work for a day in someone else’s fields. He has to be careful, though. He needs to make sure he has plenty of time to work his own land because good harvests are what they need to continue to transform their lives.

Modeline is already thinking of school in the fall for their first child. “I didn’t send her this year because the path down to the school in Mawotyè is too hard for a little girl like her. I couldn’t carry her down every day because I was pregnant. But that’s what I’ll do next year.” Modeline herself never went to school, but she’s determined that her children’s lives will be better than hers has been.

Solène Louis – At Graduation

Solène thought that the graduation was wonderful, but she was more interested in talking about what she and her family had achieved during 18 months. “When you look at where we’ve gotten at graduation: we have a four-room house, we didn’t have livestock and now we have three goats and a pig. And we send the kids to school without any problems.”

She herself made it through the sixth grade and has occasionally worked as a primary school teacher over the years, so it was especially hard on her when she couldn’t send her own kids to school. Now that she is able to pay for their school, she’s taking their education very seriously. She held them back at the end of last year to repeat first grade. They had passed, but she wasn’t satisfied. This year is different. “They’re starting to understand their schoolwork. They’ll be able to move up this year.”

She found have Ricot, her case manager, working with her every week to be an especially helpful part of the program. “He gave me good advice and helped me to save. When I needn’t to get something important done, he helped me clear the path by letting me use what I had saved. When someone is willing to teach you to manage your things so you can care for your kids, that’s the best thing there is.”

She has plans moving forward. She will work to continue to manage what she has carefully, not letting anything go to waste, and to invest in her children. She’s already purchased an unborn cow. It’s a cheap way to buy one. And the cow should be born in April. It should be weaned and in her hand by the end of the year.