After Four Months in Kaledan

Rose Martha is from Mache Kana, the area around what is, perhaps, Mibalè’s most important rural market. She and her mother were living with her grandmother. But the older woman died, and Rose Martha’s mother eventually hooked up with a man from the hills above Kaledan, in Savanèt commune. She moved there with Rose Martha, who lived on the side of the hill with her mother and stepfather until she found her partner, Examé, who was living in along the main road that traverses Savanèt east to west.

The couple’s life together started well. Examé was willing to work hard. Savanèt is on the Dominican border, and he’d cross over frequently, staying for weeks at a time, to earn what he could to support their family. Rose Marthe would buy produce in the hills above their home — plantains, sour oranges, or passion fruit — and sell it in Mibalè. She had 6,000 gourds or more in her business, back when that was more than enough for an activity like hers. They eventually had five children, and though they had to choose the least-expensive of the nearby schools, they were able to send them as they grew old enough to go. They had begun work on a four-room home.

Things changed when Examé grew sick. The couple spent what they had, seeking help from traditional practitioners, to save his life. He stopped going to the DR to earn, and Rose Martha burned through the money in her small commerce. By the time the CLM team passed through her neighborhood, it had been more than three years since she had had a business of her own. She, Examé, and the children were sharing a flimsy shack, getting by by raising their own crops and working their neighbors’ land. The foundation they had traced for a new home sat empty, with weeds growing in its wall-less, roof-less rooms.

Rose Martha chose goats and small commerce as the assets she’d receive from the CLM program. She hasn’t yet receive the goats, but her small commerce is off to a good start. She decided to go straight back into the business she knows well, buying produce for sale in Mibalè. She has already increased her capital from 5,000 gourds to 6,000, even though she has to spend some of her profits to manage her household and even though she’s been saving 250 gourds every week in her savings and loan association.

She is excited about membership in her association. It will help her save the money she needs to add to the livestock that the CLM program gives her even as it gives her access to small loans that will help her send her children to school in September and finish work on the home that she and Examé hope to build.

The support that the program provides to help her build a new home is especially important to her. “The five kids are stuck now in one small room.” But they are growing, and she wants them to have some space.

Rose Martha chats with her case manager, Islande

Lanise lives with her three children in one room of her parents’ house, just a few feet from Rose Martha’s home. Her younger sister lives in another room with her children, and a cousin lives in a third room. The parents themselves live in the fourth.

Her children’s father, Molière, is from the hill above Kaledan, but when the couple’s first child was born, he decided to move down the hill to be closer to Lanise. Since they do not yet have their own home, Molière lives with his sister, whose home is close by.

Like Rose Martha’s partner, Molière would travel now and again to the DR for farm work, and like Rose Martha Lanise would manage household expenses with a small commerce. But she had much less to work with than Rose Martha. She depended on a nice neighbor, who’d lend her 1,000 gourds at a time so she could buy bread and peanuts to make peanut butter, which she would sell as a snack in front of the local school.

Both she and Molière have been willing to work hard. “The kids didn’t ask to be born. You have to feed them and send them to school.” But with very limited resources, it has been hard to get anywhere. She still owes 3,000 gourds of the 7,000 she’s being charged to send her two older kids to school.

Her biggest hope for the CLM program is to get herself and Molière into a new house, and the couple has been working hard. They have been using savings from their weekly stipend and anything they can take from the income they earn to begin assembling the construction materials they’ll need. The program’s contribution is limited. But Lanise is willing to set a conservative goal for the time being in order to make it easier to achieve. The couple plans just a single room, which Lanise thinks will require 15 support posts and planks cut from four palm trees for the walls. They’ve already purchased eleven of the posts and two of the palm trees. They are anxious to move into their own place. “When you’re in your own home, you can get up when you want.”

Lanise chose goats and a pig as her two types of assets, but she changed her mind when she saw that there weren’t a lot of good pigs on the market. It was getting near planting season, so she took the money and bought beans, which she and Molière planted on his family’s land. The rains have been enough to give her hope, and she expects a harvest in July. Income from the harvest should be more than enough to help the couple finish their new home and pay the balance of her children’s school fees.