Category Archives: After Graduation

Ezione François — Two Years after Graduation

Ezione François lives in Bwa Kabrit, a small rural neighborhood just outside of downtown Laskawobas. When she joined the CLM program in 2016, things were really hard. “I didn’t even have a chicken. I had to depend on what my husband’s family occasionally sent to pay for the children’ school.”

It hadn’t always been that way for her. Early in her marriage, she and her husband were doing well. He’s a professional baker. He worked for a bakery owner six days a week. On Sundays, the owner allowed him to use the bakery to make his own bread, which Ezione would come sell. Roving bread merchants would take a supply fresh out of the oven early Sunday morning on credit, and they’d come back to pay for the bread in the afternoon. Ezione and her family were making progress.

Then her husband left her and their children to take up with another woman. He would occasionally send Ezione small sums to support the kids, but they didn’t amount to much. She depended on them entirely, however, and on sporadic gifts from others until she was hired to manage meals for her local branch of a network of community organizations. She had been a faithful member of her organization for years, and as its leadership saw her struggle, they decided to do what they could. She made 1000 gourds per month – about $20 at the time – and was allowed to take extra food home to her children.

The job enabled her to take care of her children until she had to give it up to take another. She had a dream in which she was confronted by a crowd of young children. When she told her pastor about it, he explained that he had been thinking of establish a community school in her neighborhood. She took the dream as a sign that she should be working for the school. So she started as a recruiter for the school before it opened, going around the neighborhood to get parents to sign their children up. Once the school opened, she became a teacher’s aide in the preschool. That became a long-term commitment, and she was working in the school when the CLM program selected families in her area. The problem was that the school couldn’t pay because parents didn’t pay fees. Ezione continued to work because she felt committed to the children, but it only made it harder to make ends meet.

By that time, her husband had returned to her. But he and his other woman had, Ezione says, “wasted everything they had.” Her husband had gone back to making bread, but he could no longer get a regular job at a bakery, much less his own day to work the equipment. Ezione began selling bread when she could, paying the bakery at the end of the day as her customers had paid her.

When she joined, she chose two goats and a pig as her enterprises, and she was able to make some progress with each. Her pig eventually had two litters. The first she sold to buy a cow, and though she lost most of the second litter to disease, she used proceeds from the sale of the two survivors to pay her children’s school expenses. Her goats never took off, but she has been able to sell one now and again for school expenses.

She used savings from her cash stipend, however, to add to her small commerce. She began to sell sugar together with the bread. It doesn’t bring in much, but it enables her to buy shares in her Village Savings and Loan Associations every week.

The VSLA that CLM established is into its fourth year, and she liked the activity so much that she established a second one at her church. “I like the way the VSLA brings us together every week. If neighbors have problems with one another, we can help them work them out. We pool what we have, and we work together.” The VSLAs like her, too. She was just elected as its new president.

Ezione has plans for the future. She used proceeds from the sale of her cow to send her husband to Chile. He hasn’t been sending back much so far, but she says it’s because he only recently got working papers. She’s ready to take a loan from her VSLA to start a small business selling coffee and hot chocolate in addition to her bread and sugar. And she already knows how she wants to spend her money the next time the VSLA’s cycle ends. She’s planning to invest in a pig.

When you ask her what she values about her experience in CLM, her response is quick and clear. “I liked all the training. You learn so much you didn’t know.”

Byeneme: Eight Years After Graduation

Byeneme is a small community in Sodo, one of the communes along the southern border of Haiti’s Central Plateau. It sits near the ridge that divides the commune from the plain that encompasses Pòtoprens, and offers a panoramic view of the valley to the north, which includes downtown Sodo and downtown Mibalè, too. The road into Byeneme does not pass through Sodo. The only direct route to the downtown area is a footpath straight down the hill. The road in runs, instead, along the ridge from National Route 3, in Fon Cheval.

The CLM program launched in Byenmeme in 2011, as part of its initial scale-up. The single case manager assigned to the area worked there one day a week with about a dozen families. It was a separate little population of members, disconnected geographically from the rest of their cohort. They graduated as part of a group of 300 families in downtown Sodo in March 2012.

Joisimène and one of her daughters.

Joisimène Bernard was a member of the cohort. At the time, she, her husband, and their children were really struggling. She wasn’t able to send the kids to school consistently, and the family lived in a shack covered only with a tarp.

The couple was excited to be able to build a new house. They received roofing tin, cement, and money to hire a builder from Fonkoze, but they wanted a larger house, so her husband went off to Delma, the populous residential suburb just north of Pòtoprens, and found whatever odd jobs he could so that they could double the amount of roofing tin they had to work with and, so, build an additional room.

Joisimène received goats and small commerce from the program. The goats never really prospered, but her commerce took off. She would buy produce — anything in season — at three different local markets: Dalon, Ti Sekèy, and Labasti. She kept 2000 gourds or so in the business. Then she’d haul her merchandise for sale in the large, residential areas near the capital. It was a reliable business, and it allowed her to grow. She saved some of her profit in her Fonkoze savings account until she had enough to buy a small cow. The cow grew and eventually had a calf. Then it got sick and died, leaving her with a healthy heifer. She’s hoping that, with patient care, it will eventually take its mother’s place and provide her calves.

The commerce was working well until the political troubles that developed in Haiti over the past year made it difficult. Prices for the kind of merchandise she would buy increased more quickly than her capital did, and at the same time transportation strikes and blockages increased the cost and the difficulty of getting merchandise to Pòtoprens.

So she gave it up. She saw that she needed to keep working, however, so she came up with another plan. With as little as 500 gourds — less than $5 — she can go down to Mibalè and buy bread, which sells well in her community. She can sell it for 1200 to 1300 gourds. So it’s profitable, even when she pays 250 for transportation. She doesn’t make a lot of money, but it’s enough to send her kids to school and keep them fed. “Children are different from adults. If they get nothing to eat, they complain.”

Louinèl and his older girls.

Wideline Pierre and her husband, Louinèl Maxi, were part of the cohort as well. They, too, chose goats and small commerce, but Wideline’s business was less successful than Joisimène’s. She sold basic groceries in Byeneme. Things like rice, oil, seasoning, etc. But such businesses are extremely hard to sustain. Neighbors buy on credit, and they don’t always pay. Eventually Wideline gave up. The capital she had left wasn’t enough to continue.

But in a sense, it wasn’t important to the couple. They have a strong partnership, and were used to depending more on what Louinèl could bring in. He would travel from Byeneme to Delma every Sunday afternoon and work there until Saturday, when he’d return home with his earnings. He would do construction jobs when he could find them, but he was never very particular. When he couldn’t find a job, he would hang out at the stations where riders get on and off the pick-up trucks that provide most of Pòtoprens’s public transportation, and hire himself out as a porter.

But in the last couple of years, things have gotten harder. Louinèl hasn’t been well. He’s had stomach problems that he hasn’t been able to shake. He can’t eat much of anything. His family makes him a watery soup out of stale bread and greens. For someone in his line of work, nothing is more important than physical strength, and he hasn’t been able to keep his strength up.

So Louinèl and Wideline had to change the way they do things. Wideline and the youngest of their six children moved to Pòtoprens to live principally with the child’s godmother. Wideline found work as a maid. She gets paid at the end of every month, and come up to Byeneme for a couple of days at home.

The new way of life works for the couple in a sense. Their children are healthy and well-fed, and they attend school, things the were a struggle before Wideline joined CLM. But their life isn’t what they’d like it to be. Louinèl explains, “You’re never really doing well when you’re working for someone else.”

Beauvilus and one of his girls.

Like Wideline, Marie Lourde Ciléus is hard to find in Byeneme. Her husband, Beauvilus, is more stable there. But her story is quite different from Wideline’s. Marie Lourde is a merchant.

Every Monday, she travels north from Byeneme to a large rural market in Difayi. Farmers come to Difayi from all across the mountains of northern Boukankare, and Marie Lourde buys their produce. Then she hauls whatever she’s purchased south for sale in the large produce market at Kwabosal, below Pòtoprens. She spends a night at home on the way.

It’s a hard life, but life was harder before she joined the program. Beauvilus reports that their children would get sent home from school because the couple couldn’t pay school fees. They had a hard time even feeding them, and the children sometimes missed school because there was nothing to eat at home. “We wouldn’t even bother to light the fire,” he explains.

Even now, life has its ups and down. Their sixth child had to be delivered by Caesarean section, and the expense ate up all the money Marie Lourde had in her business.

Beauvilus himself had always been a farmer. “When I was young, my parents didn’t think it was important for me to learn a trade.” But farming in Byeneme has been increasingly difficult. Water is scarce in the area, and millet, which had long been the most important staple in the region, was eliminated by the same disease that eliminated it throughout Haiti. Beauvilus now plants a little corn, and a few pigeon peas, but it’s not a living.

Marie Lourdes success as a business women, however, comes with advantages. When she was ready to go back to work after having their child, she talked to a merchant she travels with. The women who run such businesses in Haiti are called “Madan Sara.” It’s a name they share with a highly social species of bird known especially for making a lot of noise as they chatter with one another.

Marie Lourdes and the other Madan Sara talked, and the woman agreed to lend her the money she would need to return to business. Some weeks it’s 5000 gourds, sometimes it’s 10,000. It depends on what the other woman has available. But for the other woman, it’s worth it to be traveling in business with a trusted friend. It has meant that Marie Lourdes, Beauvilus, and their kids can get by as Marie Lourdes rebuilds her own capital.

Ti Manman – Four Years After Graduation

Until recently, the CLM team had a straightforward way of offering new members their choice of enterprises. We had a menu of two-item choices. A member could pick from among goats, pigs, poultry, small commerce, and agriculture, and each would pick two. We are much more flexible now, but in our early years, we were quite rigid. It made a complex part of our work manageable.

But there were occasional exceptions. Ti Manman was one. 

Ti manman” means “Little Mama,” and it is what most people call Simélia Duvelsaint. 

When she started the program, she had nothing. “A neighbor was letting me raise his sow, and he would have had to give me a piglet, but he took it back before it gave birth, so I got nothing.” 

She and her daughters were living in a straw shack. She supported them partly through small commerce. A neighbor would lend her money now and again, and she’d use it to buy used clothing, which she’d then sell at the Mache Kana market nearby. She had learned to sew as a young girl, so when she found a tailor who would sometimes let her use her sewing machine, she became capable of altering the clothes for her clients, too. Occasionally, she’d even get the chance to make a uniform or two for schoolchildren. 

It was, however, unreliable work because anytime the tailor went anywhere, Simélia would find the door locked, and she’d just have to go back home. “I couldn’t say anything. The woman wasn’t charging me. She was just letting me use her machine to be nice. She saw how difficult things were for me.”

Simélia had learned to sew by investing in her own education, something she started to do as a young girl. When she saw that her parents wouldn’t send her to school, she started earning money herself, grating manioc for neighbors who were making kasav, a Haitian flat bread. She used her earning to pay someone to teach her to read and write. “I never went to school, but I got up to the fourth-grade level. Now I’m one of the readers in my church, and I’m the one who works with my granddaughter.” She then found a tailor, and paid her to teach her the trade. “It didn’t cost much back then.”

She never had her own sewing machine, but she started to succeed. She saved enough to buy a cow, which she eventually sold to buy a small piece of land from a neighbor. But she never got to use the land, because one of the seller’s siblings took it away from her. “I had no one to help me,” she explains. She was left with the cow’s calf, but someone in the neighborhood broke its leg with a rock, and it eventually died.

When she joined CLM, she chose goats and small commerce, but at one of the first days of training, the staff asked whether there was anyone who knew how to sew, “and I raised my hand.” Her case manager, Martinière, used the money he would have used to buy her goats and small commerce towards buying a sewing machine, instead. “It wasn’t quite enough,” he explained. “We had to use money she had saved from her weekly stipend, too.”

But she got the machine, and started to work. “I saved as much as I could after paying for the girls’ school, and I started to buy goats. I eventually had seven, but they got sick and died.” She’s had more success with pigs. She now has two: a full-grown sow and a younger one. She also gave her younger daughter one of the sow’s daughters to raise, and her daughter’s sow is now pregnant, almost ready to give birth.

Though her older daughter moved out in July, Simélia still has two children with her: her younger daughter and that daughter’s little girl. And until this year, the sewing machine was the key to their income. But it’s been broken for about six months. The only repairman she could find tried replacing some parts, but it didn’t do the trick. She’s waiting for him to come try something else.

In the meantime, she’s selling used clothing again. She also sells laye, a platter woven of straw used in various ways in the countryside. Finally, she sells bowls made of gourds, which are used in Vodoun ceremonies. She goes to four different markets every week. Her income varies, but she uses a sòlto steady herself. She and about ten other women contribute 500 gourds, or about $5.50, a week, and each week one woman takes the whole pot. “When it is my turn, I can use the money to buy poultry, to invest in my businesses, and to pay back any debts I have.”

Simélia continues to work hard. She invests a lot in her children’s education. But she also has a dream. She would like, once more, to buy a cow. “It’s just something I’ve always wanted.”

A photo of a photo from 2015, sitting behind her sewing machine.

Twoudinò – Eleven Years after Graduation

Fonkoze piloted the CLM in three regions: Lower Lagonav, Boukankare, and Twoudinò. At the time, they were rated as the three poorest parts of the country. In each area, the team worked with fifty families. 

Twoudinò is in Haiti’s northeast, a region that has seen important changes since the CLM graduation. The main road between Okap, Haiti’s most important northern city, and Wanament, on the Dominican border, is now smoothly paved. Its completion has facilitated trading in the region because both Okap and Dajabon, the Dominican city across from Wanament, are important market towns. In Karakòl, just north of Twoudinò, post-earthquake relief funds helped establish a park of assembly factories that now employs almost 15,000 people. Excess electricity generated at the park makes the region the only one in Haiti with reliable power all the time.

Elissiène lives in Kayès, not far from the park. Her home is a multi-room cement house in the back of her yard. Her two youngest children still live with her, and the three older ones are off on their own. She’s a widow and has been one since before she joined CLM. Cement homes belonging to two of her grown children – “off on their own” doesn’t mean distant – sit in front of and on either side of her house, the three together forming a semi-circle.

She started the program with goats and poultry as her activities, and she managed both well. Eventually she was able to sell off her other livestock to buy a cow. But she didn’t feel as though she could take care an animal that big by herself, so she turned it over to a neighbor. He would receive every other calf it produced as his payment for caring for it. Neither he nor Elissiène benefitted from the arrangement, however, because the cow was stolen.

While she was part of the program, she also developed a small commerce. She used savings from her weekly stipend to get started. Eventually, she was selling bread, sugar, local rum, cigarettes, and other high turn-over items. The commerce prospered and she maintained it for years. “If you are a woman and you’re in business, as long as you know what you’re doing you’ll make some money.”

But she sold out her business a couple of years ago and threw all the capital into improving her house. She felt as though she had no choice. Two of her children got jobs in local factories, and they needed their mother as a full-time babysitter. Now that the kids are getting a little older, she’d like to go back into business. “I can leave them for short periods, now.” All she would really need to do is go off to buy her merchandise. She would sell, as she always did, right out of her home. Going back to earning an income, even a small one, is important to her. Her youngest child missed out on the national 9th-grade graduation exam last year because Elissiène owed money to her school.

Anne Marie, or “Mad’Kòk”

If you go to Jakzil and ask for Anne Marie’s home, they’ll try to take you to one of the three nearby women named Marie. But you won’t find Anne Marie. She’s married to a man they call “Kòk,” and no one knows her by anything except “Mad’ Kòk”, or Mrs. Kòk. “If you ask for Mad Kòk, anyone around her will bring you straight to my home.”

Jakzil is a village of closely-spaced shacks on the plain near Haiti’s northern coast. The Atlantic Ocean is just a few steps away. Anne Marie, like Elissiène, received goats and chickens when she first joined the CLM program, and she managed them with great success. By the time she graduated, she was ready to buy her second cow. In the years that followed, she sold the four calves they produced and invested the money in the house she lives in now. It has all been her work, because though she is known exclusively by her husband’s name, she cannot count on him to contribute to the household.

Jakzil was arid to start with, and in recent years drought has very much reduced her access to grazing for her cows. She watched the two big ones losing weight and getting sick. She eventually sold them at a loss to a local butcher.

But she did so with a plan. While in CLM program, she had built a small commerce selling salt. As a retailor, she saw the potential benefits of a larger business. So, she took the money from the sale of her cows and bought a salt basin. The coast around Jakzil is one of the areas that produces the coarse salt that is principally consumed in Haiti. Anne Marie lets sea water into her basin and then closes it off, letting the water evaporate. Once a month or so, she can harvest. A single harvest can bring in 10,000-15,000 gourds. She doesn’t have time to manage the basin herself, though. A neighbor does it for her, and they split the income.

She doesn’t, however, depend entirely on that income. She spends much of her time hunting tchatcha, a kind of small, saltwater crab used in Haitian cooking, and other small crustaceans she can find along the shore. She sells these to merchants, who bring them to market. She also gets a regular monthly salary from a local school with a school lunch program. She supplies them with the firewood they need in their kitchen. She collects it locally.

She’s focused now on her youngest child, a teenage daughter who still lives with her. Her most important goal is to keep sending the girl to school. “She’s my youngest. She’s the one I have to raise the highest.”

Rosette

Rosette also lives in Jakzil. She had nine children, and eight of them survive. Her four youngest are still in school. Two will be in their last year of high school this year, and two will be in 10thgrade. She has had to raise them alone.

She too chose goats and poultry as her two CLM-activities. They flourished while she was part of the program, but didn’t last long afterwards. “There was so much draught. The livestock couldn’t survive.”

So, Rosette found another way to get by. Her neighborhood is part of the area served by the electricity generated at the Karakòl factory park. Her home has electricity all the time. She acquired a freezer. She buys five-gallon jugs of treated drinking water and fills small plastic bottles. She freezes them and sells them as ice. A jug of water costs 25 gourds, and she can sell the ice for more than twice as much.

She remembers the program fondly. She especially enjoyed the group trainings. “You have to learn to be comfortable around people. You have to change, and we changed.”

Eliène and Odak – Six Years after Graduation

Eliène and Odak live in Grandlo, a collection of homes dispersed along and above a hillside that faces the small Partners in Health clinic in Bay Tourib. Bay Tourib is a broad rural section in far western Tomond. The CLM worked with 350 families in the region from 2011 through early 2013, in close partnership with Partners in Health.

Odak was born and raised in Grandlo, but Eliène grew up with her parents in downtown Mayisad, a major commercial center in the northwest corner of the Central Plateau. When she was young, her parents kept her and her brother and sister fed by farming land they rented outside of the downtown area. They even sent her brother to school, but not their two girls.

As a teenager, Odak left home for an apprenticeship in auto mechanics in Ench, the region’s largest town. One day, his boss took him to fix a truck in Mayisad, and that’s when he saw Eliène. It was love at first sight, and she quickly went off to Bay Tourib with Odak. At first, she moved into Odak’s mother’s house. He was living there with his mother, a younger brother, and a nephew. He was the sole source of income for them all. They then moved into a two-room shack made of rocks and mud. Its roof was made of the pods that palm seeds grow in. Without any cement to solidify the walls or tin to cover the roof, it was barely shelter, but it was theirs, though her mother-in-law, brother-in-law, and nephew moved in with them.

By the time the CLM team met them in 2011, they had two children. They were managing to send their eldest, a boy, to school, but their girl was still too young. And Odak was keeping the family fed with farming and odd jobs, at least most of the time. But it was hard. As Eliène says, “We didn’t really have an income. We didn’t have the means we needed.”

The couple received two goats and a pig from the program, and they continue to keep both types of animals today. But their real progress came through small commerce. They would go down to Tomond on Thursdays to buy merchandise Eliène could sell at the market in Koray on Saturday. When they saved up enough to buy a horse, her commerce was able to grow. 

She finally was able to expand it further. She began buying plantains in Tomond and selling them in Petyonvil, the suburb directly up the mountain from Pòtoprens. In Petyonvil she could buy carrots, potatoes, and leeks, all of which grow well in the tall hills southeast of the capital, and bring them back for sale at Koray. That way, she made money at both ends of her trip. 

Each time she became pregnant, however, she’d have to give up her business for a while, and the couple would depend entirely on Odak. He continued to farm and also to do odd jobs: he saws trees into construction lumber with a two-person saw and sometimes another builder will hire him to help build a simple home. 

But his main activity, like his wife’s, is commerce. He buys and sells fighting cocks. He can find them for all sorts of prices – 1500 to 8000 gourds – in Tomond and the other nearby markets. Then he brings them for sale to Pòtoprens. He can make quite a profit.

They have had their setbacks since graduating. In 2017, Eliène became pregnant with what would have been the couple’s fourth child. She followed her pregnancy closely. The Partners in Health clinic was just a short walk from her front home, so when she began to feel as though something was wrong, her monthly check-ups became biweekly, then weekly. As she entered her seventh and then her eighth month, her blood pressure was much too high, and her hands and feet were swollen. She was showing signs of preeclampsia. The Partners in Health team in Bay Tourib sent someone up the mountain to get a phone signal so they could call the driver who serves the clinic, and the truck rushed up to bring Eliène down to the larger clinic in downtown Tomond. From there, she was sent directly to the public hospital in Ench. Doctors were able to save Eliène, but not the baby. 

Unlike a Partners in Health hospital, a public one like the one in Ench must charge for most of its services, and for a couple like Eliène and Odak, three days there amounted to a serious expense, almost 20,000 gourds. At the time, that was over $320. It might not seem like a lot for a three-day hospital stay, but it was enough to wipe out the income from very good bean harvest they had that year. 

In 2018, the couple had a different type of problem. Eliène caught Odak with another woman, and left him. “I heard the rumors,” she explains, “and then he went with her to Pòtoprens. So, I left the kids with his mother and left for Pòtoprens, too.”

She eventually came back because she missed her children. “If it hadn’t been for them, I wouldn’t have returned.” But she doesn’t regret coming back to Odak. “The woman called, and when I answered the phone, she swore at me. So Odak took the phone and swore right back. He told her never to bother him again.” Odak is happy with the decision to give up the other woman for Eliène. He says he doesn’t want another woman again. “I thought about my wife, my children, and the children’s education.” Eliène has the last word, though: “If it happens again, “I’m leaving and I’m not coming back.”

Their latest challenge occurred late last year, when Eliène became pregnant again. She had wanted to use contraception, and Odak was supportive, but she found that none of the available options was right for her. “They made me sick. I’d lose weight. I’d get anemic.” Early in the pregnancy, it was clear that something was wrong again. Her check-ups were monthly, weekly, then even daily. Eventually, the lab technician in Bay Tourib noticed something in a urine test that showed she was developing preeclampsia again. She was only six months pregnant, but Partners in Health rushed her to the hospital in Kanj, which sent her to the University Hospital in Mibalè.

She got to Mibalè on Thursday, and doctors performed a caesarean section the following Monday. She was only six months pregnant at the time. Their boy, Dawensky, spent over a month in an incubator in the hospital’s neo-natal intensive care unit, but he and his mother are both fine. He will be released to go home as soon as he weighs 1.5 kilos. While at the hospital, Eliène made sure she would have no more pregnancies.

This second visit to the hospital hasn’t been without costs. Both mother and father have had to be in Mibalè for two months, away from their children. The hospital provides Eliène with her meals, but Odak must buy his. Their commerce capital is gone. When he and Eliène can finally go home, they will probably need to sell some livestock to get their businesses started again. 

But thanks to the fact that healthcare from Partners in Health is nearly free-of-charge, they will return home with assets there waiting for them that they can depend on to get themselves started again. And they are anxious to get started. They had purchase a small plot of land in downtown Ench to build a new home. They know that their children can get a better education there. They also feel that it is important to get away from the jealousies they feel hounding them in Grandlo. But it has been hard to save up the money to build the new house, and the last two months have only set them farther back than they already were. 

With Dawensky

Boukankare – Ten Years After Graduation

Simone Fleurimond lives in Lachose, one of the many small neighborhoods that dot southern Boukankare as it stretches from the mountains of Tit Montayn, Mannwa, and Balandri towards the Artibonite River. She’s been there for a couple of years, since moving from Montas, the nearby corner where she lived when she joined the CLM program in 2007. She was part of the first cohort of CLM families, the ones who participated in Fonkoze’s pilot of the program. The cohort graduated in December 2008.

When she joined the program in 2007, her life was hard. “I had no one. I didn’t have a husband.” Her two girls were in school, nevertheless. She sent them by farming land she would rent. She would sell part of her harvest to earn the cash she needed, but it was a struggle to come up with the money to pay for school every year. “Sometimes we didn’t have food to eat.” She tried to get ahead by taking care of a pig for a neighbor. That would have earned her a piglet, which would have given her a start towards building up something of her own, but the pig died.

The program gave her goats and poultry to raise. She keeps goats even now, more than ten years later, and occasionally keeps chickens as well.

She graduated the program with her livestock, and transitioned into Fonkoze’s Ti Kredi program, an approach designed with more accompaniment and fewer barriers to participation to overcome than the institution’s standard credit programs, and she graduated from that program less than a year after graduating from CLM. She still carefully preserves both of the certificates that she earned. 

Even before graduation, her life began to change in important ways. She took up with a man. She had been living on rented landed, and moved with him and her children to a plot that belongs to his family. That is where she now lives. 

Then her daughters moved away. Her younger sister was living near the coast in Arkaye, and when she had twins she asked Simone for one daughter, Sheila. As a single mother, the sister needed a babysitter and promised to send Sheila to school. Sheila lived with her aunt and went to school for several years, helping take care of the twins. 

Simone sent her other child to live in Mibalè, so that the girl would be able to attend better schools than she had access to in Lachose. The girl stays with a neighbor who has a house in town, but Simone still supports her, sending money, food, and cooking fuel to the household regularly.

Sheila recently had to return to her mother’s home. Her aunt died, and a neighbor took her in together with the aunt’s twins. Sheila had a good relationship with the woman, but the woman’s husband began to flirt with her. Sheila says things got worse and worse until he tried to force himself on her, so she had to leave. 

Simone now is figuring when she will get Sheila into school and how she will pay for it. Until recently, she was managing most of her expenses with a business selling fried snacks at the intersection of dirt roads just in front of the cluster of homes where she lives, but the business depended on capital she borrows from a friend, and the friend needed her money back.

She is still part of Fonkoze’s loan programs. In fact, her latest loan was substantial, for 30,000 gourds. But she does not get to use that money. Her husband uses it to manage his business, a shop in the neighborhood that sells rum and crackers, mostly wholesale. Simone is getting increasingly frustrated with the arrangement. “I’m not really his wife. He has another woman. And he doesn’t really help me with his business. I’m going to leave him. He can take out his loans in someone else’s name. If I can just find a plot of land, I’ll manage to build a house. Then I just have to get Sheila back in school.”

Mariane

Mariane Florvil was part of the same cohort. She entered the program as a widowed mother of four, supporting her children on her own. They were all living in one little straw shack. 

She grew up with poverty similar to what she and her children were living with. She never knew her mother. The older woman had become pregnant immediately after giving birth to Mariane, and she died in childbirth. An aunt took Mariane in and raised her.

When part of the program, she established businesses raising goats and poultry. The poultry never worked out for her. CLM gave her local hens and a large, purebred rooster. But the hens died, and someone stole her rooster. But goat-rearing became an important part of her livelihood. She would have two or three females, and raise their kids, selling a few of the goats each year to send her children to school.

The regular need to sell one or two eventually took her to her limit. She sold her last goat this year to pay her children’s school fees. But she did it with a plan. She found a neighbor willing to let her take care of his goat. When the goat has a litter, she’ll be entitled to one as payment for her work, and that will help her get started again.

She did not use the goats to manage her day-to-day expenses. She did that through farming and small commerce. She would buy a rantor two of land. That’s the right to plant and harvest a plot of land for a single season. She still depends on her farming, planting okra as a cash crop. Normally, she can grow it in both wet and dry seasons near the river, and plants it in her own yard when there’s rain to water the plants. But the intense drought over the last year has hurt her badly. She says that the last rantshe purchased was a total loss. She plans to plant another crop when this year’s rains begin. She is making charcoal that she’ll sell to earn what she needs to invest.

She was also earning money selling cooking charcoal, buying it by the sack in the countryside and then transporting the sacks into town. But the work became impossible after she came down with shingles. The disease sapped her of much of her strength, and makes it painful for her to move around in the midday heat. 

She still uses the one-room house she built while a member of the CLM program, but it is not where she lives. It is now her kitchen. Her oldest daughter is a tailor and she’s helping her mother build a nicer, larger house next door. 

Marie Michel (on the right) with her son, Delikson.

Marie Marthe Michel, too, was part of the CLM pilot in 2007 and 2008. She and her husband were raising their seven children.

She and her husband worked day labor when they could find it, and she would occasionally do small amounts of laundry for wealthier neighbors. They rented a small plot of land to farm. Sometimes they’d have nothing to live on except small gifts they would receive from friends. Though four of their children were in school, the family would often go a day or more without a meal.

Joining the CLM program, she says, made a big difference right away. “Life just wasn’t the same. They gave us a stipend at the start and livestock we could take care of.” 

Marie Michel’s livestock – mainly goats – didn’t really take off. Now and then one would die. She found she couldn’t count on it as a source of income. But she also established a small commerce, selling groceries in the market and out of her home, like spices, bouillon cubes, oil, rice, and beans.

In 2009, her husband died. She sold out the rest of her livestock and all her business capital to pay for the funeral. She had to figure out how she would raise her children on her own.

But she was determined to succeed with them. “I always had hope. You can’t lose hope. You’re a woman.” She began to invest more time in her farming, but that hasn’t proven to be a good solution for her. “I’m getting older. I can’t keep working in the fields. I’m not strong enough.”

So, she borrowed 1000 gourds from a friend and started a small business. She makes and sells akasan, a Haitian beverage make from corn. It’s a popular street food, especially in the mornings. She sets up her stand directly across the river from the Nan Dal market, at one of the sites where the canoe-ferries load and unload.

Three of her children are still in school. The four older ones – kids in their late teens and 20s – stopped so that their mother could focus on the other three, and they are moving forward. Delikson is in Haiti school now. “I want him to finish and learn a profession. He wants to study agronomy.”

Boukankare: Eight Years After Graduation

Sonie Desir graduated from CLM in December 2010. She, nine children, and one grandchild live with her husband in Tijedi, a corner of east-central Boukankare.

She joined the program in 2009, shortly after Fonkoze completed its initial pilot. Before the family was part of CLM, she had really struggled. Though her husband would fish in the nearby river, she depended mostly on gifts of food and small amounts of cash from family and friends. They would eat when they could. “We couldn’t have a meal every day.”

It was similar to the poverty she had known growing up. She was raised by her mother without her father’s support. The older woman counted on selling day labor to feed Sonie and her brothers and sisters. If she was able to find work one day, her children would eat a meal the next.

When Sonie joined CLM things began to change. “They fed me when we were together for training, they gave me livestock, they help me build a house.” 

After she graduated, she joined Fonkoze credit, and she remained in it for three or four cycles. She doesn’t remember exactly how many. But she didn’t like the program, and she eventually dropped out. “I don’t like getting mixed up with the State.” She knows perfectly well that Fonkoze isn’t a government office, but for her — and for many rural Haitians — “the State” includes anything with the smell of officialdom. A structured office with computers and paperwork and official-looking staff is an uncomfortable place. It can feel as though it’s part of the same apparatus that includes courts, police, and even prisons. A structure that seems in place to take, rather than to support.

Her husband’s ability to contribute to the household has deteriorated over the years. Fishing was always a hard business, but according to Sonie it got much worse as groups of thieves learned to steal a fisherman’s catch while he is in the water, fishing for more. Her husband was earning less and less from his work until he finally gave up. He hasn’t taken down his net from where it hangs in the shrubs next to their home in a couple of years.

For several years after Sonie was part CLM, she ran a small business, actually a series of businesses. She tried several different ones, but her capital eventually dried up. She’s had trouble with her livestock as well. While she was in the program, she kept goats and poultry. She was able to increase, initially, the number of goats she owned, but some of them died and she sold the others off, one by one. They had become her principal way to pay for her children’s schooling as her husband’s fishing income and then her small commerce dried up. She now has just one. There is also a small pig in the yard. It belongs to one of her boys.

Her four younger children are still in school, but she’s only paid this year’s tuition for three of them, and she’s not sure how she’ll pay for the fourth. He’s in eight grade, and she owes 2,250 gourds, or just under $30. She’s afraid that he will lose the year. There is a much less expensive, public school nearby, but she has always wanted her children to be at a private school. “The public school teachers don’t always come to school because the government doesn’t pay them on time.” 

Her husband helps now and then by driving a motorcycle taxi. He doesn’t own one, so he looks for drivers who need to take a day off, so he can rent their motorcycle. He and Sonie also look for labor in neighbors’ fields. It can help them pay off the merchants that sell them groceries on credit.

Even in the face of daily struggles, the couple has achieved a lot since Sonie graduated. They were living in the one-room house that they built with help from CLM, but it was on a small plot of land that they rented. Paying rent every year was a drain on their resources. They finally were able to put a down payment on their own plot of land. It’s an eighth of a hectare, with plenty of space for their new, larger house. They’ve planted several rows of coconut trees. “We like coconuts, and they give you something you can sell at market to but food.” They’ve also begun planting plantains an other staples. They\ve paid 22,500 gourds so far, and they owe another 15,000.

Having lived with a latrine as part of the CL M program, Sonie and her husband decided to install one in their new yard, too. It was a nuisance. The land was too soft the first place they tried to dig one. The walls of the pit wouldn’t hold up. But the second one is fine. Sonie also continues to treat her family’s drinking water. “I was using tablets after my CLM filter broke, but the children’s school distributed filters.”

Andrémène and Jean Benoit

Just south of Sonie, over a couple of small hills, lives Andrémène Raphaël, a mother of five. Like Sonie, she has moved since she was a CLM member. As part of the program, she had built a one-room house on a rented plotted of land, but when her husband died, his family gave him a small piece of land for her to live on with the children. She built a slightly larger house on it with the family’s help, and that’s where she now lives. She no longer pays rent.

Only the three youngest children live there with her. Her oldest daughter is married and lives in Pòtoprens, and her second lives with an aunt in Mibalè. The girl moved to Mibalè in 2010, shortly after Andrémène’s husband died. The family thought that they would help out by taking one of the kids and sending her to school, but Andrémène goes to see her frequently.

When she first joined the CLM program in 2009, Andrémène was getting by as a sharecropper, farming land that was not theirs. “I had nothing. I didn’t have a goat, I didn’t have a chicken. My husband was crippled. He couldn’t work. All our needs fell on me.”

Her husband died during her last months with the program. After the funeral expenses, she struggled, depending on support from her family. In 2012, she took to managing expenses for her and her children with a small business selling basic groceries, but she just couldn’t sustain it. “All the little household expenses in a home without a father” were too much.

But as a CLM member, she learned to take care of goats, and she still has one nanny-goat. Her boy has one that a neighbor allows him to take care of. When that goat has offspring, the boy will get a kid as payment. Andrémène makes sure that both goats get attentive care. They are tied in a shady area near their home, and she and her boy bring food to them.

That still left Andrémène needing a steady income. She needed a way to keep the children fed and handle other smaller needs. So she sought and found families willing to hire her regularly as a laundress. Laundry in Haiti is hard and time-consuming work, and a family need not be especially wealthy to hire someone to do, or at least to help do, theirs. Andrémène’s clients are in Mibalè, the closest large town, and they generally hire her for large loads. She goes three days per week. Her pay typically depends on the amount of soap required, and her clients’ clothes usually need six to eight bars, plus powdered detergent. She earns from $18 per week to twice that. Of course, if she is sick or she has something else that keeps her from work, she earns nothing.

She’d like to get back into business again, though she doesn’t know what she would sell. And despite her steady income, she hasn’t been able to save. “I have to spend a lot. Sending the kids to school isn’t cheap. You have to give them something to eat before they leave in the morning, and then have to give them something when they get home. And they need 25 gourds every day for a snack. If I try to give them only 15 gourds, they aren’t happy. If I couldn’t manage my money, we wouldn’t be as well off as we are.”

Her dream is to keep sending her children to school. She wants them to graduate from high school and then learn a profession. When her oldest boy, Jean Benoit, is asked what he’d like to be, he says that he wants to be a doctor. “He always says that,” his mother adds. “He says that if I’m sick he wants to be the one to take care of me.”

Laumène François — One Year After Graduation

Laumène was born and raised in Bwa Lafit, a corner of Lasous, which is a farming area along the ridge that separates Savanèt commune, in the Central Plateau, from Kòniyon, to its south. Her parents lacked the land they would have needed to feed their children well, supporting the family mainly through day-labor. When Laumène looks back, she can only smile at how hard things were for them. “Nowadays, they pay you for half the day, but back then it was sunrise to sunset. If you had to sell a day’s work, you couldn’t do anything else.”

She was young when she met her first husband. Laumène and their two girls lived in a home on his parents’ land. She and her husband didn’t have resources to build a livelihood where they lived, so he would travel to the Dominican Republic and work there.

Shortly after his parents died, he went for the last time. Laumène says he was murdered. In any case, he died. She and her daughters thought they would stay where they were. The daughters, in particular, had a right to their share of their father’s inheritance. But her brother-in-law forced them off the land, and Laumène had to return with the girls to her own parents’ home. 

She couldn’t stay long. Her parents couldn’t help her. So, when a man offered her and her girls a home, she moved in with him, even though he was already married to another woman. 

She was still living in the shack that he built for her when she joined CLM. At the time, she described herself as living badly. She was supporting herself and the kids through farming, but she didn’t have the cash to invest enough to make it work. She had trouble feeding her children, and wasn’t sure how she might send them to school. The rickety structure just from her home that had been serving as an inexpensive school for neighborhood kids was closing. Too many parents were unable to pay. And she couldn’t imagine how she’d afford a more typical school down the hill on the main road. 

 Laumène made a strong start in the program. She received two goats and a pig, and established a strong rapport with her case manager. She took quick steps towards learning to sign her name, and integrated the lessons me presented each visit, like the one about the importance of treating drinking water, into her life. Her assets grew as she worked her way through the program’s eighteen months. By the end, she had diverse livestock holdings. Not just goats and her pig, but a range of poultry as well. 

She tried at various times to start a small commerce, but it never really worked out. The rum business she tried wasn’t sufficiently profitable to make it worth the time it took her to hike to the various venues, like wakes and cock fights, where the rum would sell best. She tried selling basic groceries out of her home, but she lives well off the main path up the mountain. Any customers would have to walk past various neighbors to get to her home. And some of their neighbors had their own similar businesses, and they’d work to draw off her clients before they got to her.

So, a year later, she is still struggling. But she’s managing. She is especially proud that all four of her younger children are in school. “I managed to get them into school when I was in the program, and I’d be ashamed if I couldn’t send them now.”

It wasn’t easy. The school her children were attending closed over the summer.  For the second time in two years, they were forced to change schools. She had to send them to one farther down the road. And what’s worst is that the new school has a different-colored uniform. She had to have new one made for every child. The new uniforms cost her more than twice what she paid in tuition, and she’s quick to point out that none of that includes shoes, socks, underwear, books, and supplies. And the whole weight falls on her. “Their father,” she says, “doesn’t help.”

Without a small commerce, she’s had to depend more and more on her farming for whatever cash she needs. And she needs cash for more than just school expenses. There are groceries like oil, rice, and seasonings that she doesn’t produce herself. 

She also needs cash because she is an active participant in the Villages Savings and Loan Association that the CLM team organized for her and the other program members who live near Gwo Labou. She buys between one and five 50-gourd shares in the Association each week. At the end of the twelve-month cycle, which is coming up in April, she’ll get everything she’s saved, along with interest the Association has earned by making interest-bearing loans to its members. She herself has taken a couple of loans.

She likes being part of the Association because she likes knowing where she can borrow money when she needs to. “When you need 1000 gourds, you could go to a neighbor to borrow it, but it would cause a lot of talk. As long as you attend your VSLA meetings, you can always get a loan.” When she needed 2000 gourds to take one of her younger daughters to see and eye specialist, she didn’t hesitate, even though she eventually had to sell a goat to repay the loan. So, she always buys shares – four or five when she can – even though it strains her resources. “I have to divide what I get in the garden. We eat some plantains, and sell some. We sell some beans. We sell some manioc. If we are a little bit hunger today, that doesn’t matter, because as long as you work hard, you’ll find something to throw in the pot.”

What is most striking about Laumène since she started the program is how she feels about herself. She talks about the difference it makes when you have your own good house with a latrine. “I don’t have people yelling at me when I try to go to the bathroom out in the open. I have my own latrine, so I do my business, wash my hands, and get on with things. And I can sleep and get up whenever I want to. No one can tell me that I’m in the way when I lie down in my own space.” 

And she’s happy about the way she can manage her family. One of her grown daughters recently went through a difficult pregnancy. Eventually, the younger women had to undergo a c-section. When she left the hospital, Laumène had her come to her home. She wanted to take care of her daughter herself. And while her son-in-law sent provisions to help her, Laumène used her yard of chickens to help her daughter rebuild her strength. “I killed three chickens while she was with me. I wanted to make sure she was eating well. And I sent one with her when she returned home. I wanted her husband’s family to see that she had been someplace serious.” 

Rosemitha Petit-Blanc — One Year After Graduation

Rosemitha grew up in Port au Prince. She was taken there by her aunt – her mother’s sister – when she was a little girl. She had been living with her grandfather, because her mother died when she was a baby. The older man’s wife was mistreating her. Apparently, she didn’t want Rosemitha around. She would threaten to kick her out of the house, sometimes even scattering the girl’s clothes around the yard outside their home. Her aunt never sent her to school, but she took care of her otherwise.

She had her first child while she was living at her aunt’s house. The child’s father wasn’t helping her, so she managed a small business selling rum and cigarettes to contribute to their support. When a friend heard that a nearby orphanage was looking to hire someone, she hurried to apply and was hired. She gave up her business to clean and help in the orphanage kitchen. The job lasted until she went to visit her aunt one day without getting permission from the pastor who ran the orphanage. He decided to fire her. By then, the orphanage had taken in her first child, so she went back to her struggle to support herself at her aunt’s house.

She returned to her home near Kaledan, in the first section of Savanèt commune, when her grandfather grew ill and needed care. While she was with her grandfather, she had another child. Once again, the child’s father left him in her care.  That’s when she met Patekwe. He too had a child when they got together, and the three of them lived with Patekwe’s mother. Patekwe would support the family by traveling to the Dominican Republic to work while his mother and his wife stayed at home with the kids. By the time they joined the CLM program, they also had a child together.

In their early months in the program, the family made good progress. The program gave Patekwe plenty to do. Rosemitha chose goats and small commerce, and he took care of Rosemitha’s livestock. In addition, he mobilized the resources they would need for home repair, and they used some of the money she received to invest in his farming. He decided he could stay in Haiti with Rosemitha, investing more of his time in farming locally.

Their goats prospered initially. The three she received from CLM became five, including a pregnant female. They also bought a small pig.

Rosemitha started a small commerce. She actually tried several different businesses while she was in the program. Her first attempt involved buying up plantains in the countryside for sale in the downtown markets in Mibalè or Laskawobas. The business was profitable. She started with 1500 gourds and had quickly grown it to 2000, even as she used profits to support the household as well. But she had a run of bad luck. She depended on the trucks that pass in front of her home as they descend along the road from Savanèt. On a couple of occasions, she was unable to find one when she needed it, and her plantains ripened. All she could do was sell individual bananas to local school children as a snack. It brought her business capital down to 750 gourds.

So, she shifted her business model, buying onions and tomatoes in Kolonbyè, which were in season at the time, and lugging them to Savanèt, where the prices were higher. But the model never worked consistently, since the prices turned out to be hard to predict. Sometimes she would make a profit, and sometimes she would take a loss. So, she made another switch. She started buying kerosene and cooking oil buy the gallon in Kolonbyè, and selling both in small quantities in Savanèt. The profits were small but consistent, and after her experience with the plantains she liked the fact that her merchandise couldn’t spoil.

Things changed dramatically for the worse as Rosemitha’s mother-in-law grew sick and then died. Her death meant that Rosemitha no longer had someone in the house to stay with the children if she wanted to go out to run her business unless Patekwe could take a day off from his work. And that was almost beside the point because the expenses of the sickness and the funeral drained all the money Rosemitha had to invest in merchandise. They also had to sell off their sow, most of their piglets, and a crop of beans they had just harvested.

But what was worse was the loss she felt. Rosemitha was deeply fond of the older woman.  “She was always the one that took care of me. When I had my child, she helped me and bathed me in the days afterwards until I could bathe myself.” She also seems to have given Rosemitha a supportive friend as she managed her relationship with Patekwe, the woman’s son. The loss left her feeling more alone.

Nevertheless, she graduated from the program. At the program’s end, the couple had five goats and pig with six piglets. She didn’t have a small commerce at the time, but the couple had some income from farming. At the time, she said that she and her husband “did good work, so we finished the program well.”

A year later, Rosemitha is less upbeat. “Before I joined the program, life was hard, and while we were in it, we felt some relief. But now our problems have returned.”

Only one of the children is now living with them. Patekwe sent his daughter to live with an aunt who lives near the hospital in Laskawobas where his mother died. The aunt asked for the child, and Patekwe felt that the girl would be better off where she can go to a better school. It is a long hike over the mountain that rises behind their home, but he tries to see her regularly. Rosemitha sent her boy to live with her father, who lives close by and was alone. She still sees him every day, before he goes to school.

Her goats have not continued to prosper. She has just one adult female now. The other, she says, was killed, along with its kid, by dogs. Her female has two small kids, and she tries get her husband to keep the three of them close to their home. Rosemitha told me that they recently decided to sell their last sow because it had never gotten pregnant. She wasn’t sure, though, what they will do with the money.

And that’s her core problem. Her husband. He sold the pig, and she doesn’t feel she can even ask him what he’s doing with the money. “He was already a grown-up when I met him.” That might sound like a simple statement of the obvious, but the way she put it in Creole means more. It was her way of saying that, since they first met, he has been making decisions on his own. He likes to gamble, she adds, and is worried that the money is going to just disappear to pay for his habit. When I asked him separately about the pig, he told me that it died.

Rosemitha would like to get her commerce started again. “When I was out and about, I didn’t need to worry about every little bit of cooking oil I needed.” But she doesn’t have the capital to get started right now. She used the last bit of cash that she had to plant four cans of beans on irrigated land that she rented, and she should be able to harvest it in March, but she isn’t sure what will happen with the money from that harvest. “I have to keep my eyes wide open to hold onto anything that’s mine.”

She’s an example of one category of women who have trouble sustaining success after the program goes away. Such women are able to make progress while their case manager is working with them. In some cases, they make much more progress than Rosemitha. But because they never develop the power to assert control of their own means, all further economic progress depends on the kind of partner they have. And it cannot be surprising that the men of CLM are a very mixed bag.

So Fonkoze is currently engaged with specialists in women’s empowerment in a thorough analysis of the program that is giving particular attention to gender relations. Its goal is to refocus the program on the full range of issues that affect women’s empowerment. Economic empowerment is, of course, part of the question. But we know we need to do better at psychological, social, and political empowerment as well. Only by facing our shortcomings squarely will we be able to strengthen our capacity to help women find and then remain on the path to a better life.

Idalia Bernadin — Ten Months after Graduation

Idalia Bernadin graduated from the CLM program in February 2018. At the time, she was living in Gwo Labou, a hillside community overlooking the river that cuts through Savanèt, a commune in the southeast corner of Haiti’s Central Plateau.

She and her husband, Villon, had moved to Gwo Labou at a low point in their lives. The second of their four sons had just been arrested, and they had felt forced to abandoned their home in Kadèt, in the valley across the mountain from Gwo Labou. Kadèt is in a hard-to-access corner of Kòniyon, the next commune to the south. Villon had been accused of theft. Neighbors said he stole a bunch of plantains out of a garden, and Idalia’s efforts to come to his defense only made things worse. So, they abandoned a home with a good tin roof, on land that Idalia had purchased by selling off some of her inheritance. They moved in with Villon’s sister and her husband.

When the CLM team met them shortly after the move, they were, thus, landless and homeless. They had nothing. Villon tried to continue to work their fields in and near Kadèt, but they are a long hike from Gwo Labou, and his reputation as a thief made it difficult for him to appear in the neighborhood. The couple didn’t have land in Gwo Labou, so they tried to get by working in their neighbors’ fields. 

The CLM team helped them gain access to a small plot of land, so they were able to build a house. Many CLM members work hard to make the biggest, nicest houses they can while they are in the program. Three- and even four-room houses are common, though the program only provides some of the materials for a small, two-room one. Members choose to make the extra expense to take advantage of the opportunity CLM offers them, even if doing so uses up capital that they could use in other important ways.

Idalia was different. She and Villon did as little as they could get away with. They built only one small room. In fact, they had to do so twice, because their first effort was so perfunctory that the CLM director responsible for the region wouldn’t accept it as a bona fidehome. As short as all the members of the family are, even they could barely stand up in that first construction. 

But as glad as Idalia and Villon were that the CLM program had found them, they didn’t want to live in Gwo Labou. Their plan was to remain in the area just long enough to graduate from the program, and then move back across the mountains to Kòniyon. They felt unwelcome in Gwo Labou. The man who made their plot of land available clearly wanted them off of it. He was planting his crops closer and closer to their front door. And they never really made friends there.

It took them a couple of months to prepare their move, but they were back in Kòniyon by June, just four months after graduation. They sold their house for 4000 gourds, or almost $60 at the time, and used most of the money to buy a goat. They sold their large pig as well. Getting it over the mountain to Kadèt would have been a challenge. When they returned to Kòniyon, they bought two smaller ones with the money. There is plenty of good forage where they now live, so Idalia is couting on pig-rearing as a main source of income.

Their new, temporary home.

They did not feel comfortable moving back to their old house in Kadèt. The accusations of theft still haunted Villon there. “That house is still ours.” Idalia explains, “We have four boys, and one of them can take it.” Villon had some land he inherited in Frijè, a neighborhood deeper in the valley than Kadèt, and they built a small shack on it, enough for the couple and their youngest son, Dalison, the only child still living with them. He’s in his mid-teens, and Idalia started sending him to school when she joined the program. He’s in school again this year, though he’s having to repeat first grade. His sickness last year made attendance to spotty.

When she moved to Frijè, Idalia decided that she needed to do something to earn a steady income. Her livestock could increase its value, but she would need much of that money at first to build her new house. She and Villon have farmland in both Frijè and Kadèt, and they would occasionally have harvest to sell, but only a few times each year. Villon works hard. He makes charcoal for neighbors and splits the proceeds with them, but that work is irregular. So, she decided to establish a small commerce.

She started it with 500 gourds from the sale of the house. She made bonbon dous, a kind of gingerbread. It sold well, but she sometimes sold on credit and had a hard time collecting the money that was owed her. “I’m not going to argue with someone about money.” 

As that first money evaporated, she knew she had to come up with a different business plan. So, she went to the market in Pòtino with 1000 gourds of the proceeds from the sale of a crop of beans. She bought basic provisions: rice, sugar, oil, seasonings, etc., and began selling them out of her home. She now makes the trip to Pòtino every Sunday to restock. She still has trouble collecting what people owe her sometimes, but she’s found a wholesaler in the market who will sell her on credit when she needs it, so she’s able to keep her business going. It’s enough to manage her household expenses, at least when it’s combined with their farming and other activities. Her poultry is starting to flourish, too. She just sold two small roosters to buy a cellphone.

She’s optimistic about her future. Her son was released from prison. He behaved so well while inside that one of the guards now pays for him to go to school. He’s now living in Pòtoprens with family so that he can take advantage of the opportunity. She’s focused on building a new house. She knows it will take some time, but one of her goats just had kids, and that’s just the sort of progress she needs to make.

There is one more piece of this story I should share that speaks to Idalia and her relation to our program. It is hard to express just how out-of-the-way Frijè is. I was in Mable, in the mountains near the border between Savanèt and Kòniyon, when I went to look for her. I knew she had family living near Mable, so I was able to get some information there about where I might find her new home. But it was a hike of more than three hours each way, and coming back was uphill. I found the home, but did not find her there. I had a long talk with Dalison, whom I know well from some time he spent in the hospital in Mibalè. I learned a lot about the family and the changes they had made since moving, but I didn’t get to talk with Idalia. She was at the Kourèt market, selling the roosters and buying her phone.

A few weeks later, Idalia came looking for me in Mibalè. It was a hard, four-hour hike for her to get to the taxi stand where she got a motorcycle to Mibalè. But she had heard that I had come to see her, and she was unhappy that she hadn’t been there. “If I had been home, you wouldn’t have hiked backed the same day you came. I would have made you spend the night.” And she added, “CLM did a lot for me. I have goats and pigs now, and a way to keep going on.”

Dalison