Solène feels as though she’s made a lot of progress since she first joined the CLM program. She talks about her house and her livestock. She talks about her new-found ability to save. And she summarizes her list of changes with encouraging words, “Now I have hope.”
Her children started school the year before she joined CLM. Their education is important to her. But she didn’t have the money to finish paying the fees, so they weren’t able to complete the year. The school principal eventually sent them home.
Her first year in CLM, then, was the first schoolyear her kids were able to complete. But Solène made an interesting decision. Both of the children passed their exams to enter second grade, but she decided she wanted them to repeat first grade nonetheless. “I just didn’t feel as though they’d learned enough.” She made the decision knowing that it means one more year of school she’ll have to pay for each child. Unlike many of the other CLM members, she had several years of schooling herself, so she feels competent to judge. In fact, she sometimes earns a little money on the side by tutoring some of her neighbors’ children.
Life is cheerful now in her lakou, the small yard on the top of a little hill where she built her house. The land belongs to her father-in-law, and he lives with her, her husband, and the kids. Solène says that he is as happy as she is about the house they have been able to build. They made the extra investment necessary to build four rooms, three more than the CLM program demands and two more than most families build. “My father-in-law’s in the house with us, and the kids will start to get big and I’ll want them out of my bedroom,” Solène explains. So, it took more time and more money than it had to take, but the family no longer worries about rain. The house still lacks some finishing touches: the shutters and the galatan, which is the ceiling that closes off the part of the roof that hangs over the front porch. And Solène still owes the builder 500 gourds – a little more than $8 – but she plans to hold on to the money until he does the rest of the work.
Solène and her husband continue to focus on their farming. She borrowed 8000 gourds from her Village Savings and Loan Association to plant beans, and the couple should see their harvest in a couple of months. She has fallen behind in her repayments, though. The Association’s rules require monthly payment of part of the capital along with some interest. But she has resigned herself to the penalty she’ll have to pay because she’ll wait until she sells her beans to repay the whole sum.
She could have started paying already, but she came across another opportunity. She found someone willing to sell her a calf in its mother’s womb. Because it’s still unborn, it will cost her only 6000 gourds, which is several thousand less than she would probably have to pay otherwise. The calf should be born in April, and she’ll have until then to come up with the 2000 gourds she still owes. She made a down payment of 4000 already.
Her other assets are increasing in value slowly. She had three goats, but one died. The other two, however, are getting big. Both are healthy and pregnant, and they should produce litters in December. She was able to sell meat from the one that died for 3000 gourds, but rural Haitians who buy meat from a deceased animal do so on credit. Her buyers won’t pay her until November, when she expects to use the money to replace the lost goat. She did better with her pig. She took care of the one we gave her, fattened it up and sold it. She used most of the money to rent farmland, but she also replaced the larger pig with a smaller one.
She continues to manages her small commerce, which she sees as an important investment. She had 2500 gourds in it, but school-related expenses at the beginning of the year ate into the total, and it’s down to only 1000 gourds. “I won’t let it getting any smaller, though. I need to buy shares in the Savings and Loan Association every week,” she explains.
The Association meets weekly, and each week its members can buy from one to five shares at a price the group determined together when it was established. The share price for her group is fifty gourds, and she counts on her commerce to provide at least that much each week, in addition to the contribution it makes towards managing her household. Solène values membership in the Association because it has enabled her to save about 5000 gourds already, though, as she says, “The poor don’t save.”