Valencia has been part of the CLM for three months. She has a five-year-old boy. The two of them live with her grandmother, her uncle, and her uncle’s child. Her boy’s father lives in Pòtoprens, and does not support either her or their son.
Before she joined the program, she really struggled. She learned cosmetology when she lived in Pòtoprens, and she likes to braid hair and do manicures. But there are no beauty parlors in her neighborhood, and when neighbors engage her to do their hair or their hands, they tend to imagine that she’s just doing a friendly favor. They rarely pay her anything. Her uncle gets occasional work as a mason, and if he puts food in the house, she and her boy usually get something to eat. “But my uncle has his own child,” Valencia explains. Sometimes she and hers go hungry.
When CLM members first join the program, they receive 500 gourds every week. They receive this small stipend for 24 weeks. That’s less than $4, but some do a lot with such a small sum, and Valencia has managed hers well. She once learned to make shampoo and liquid soap out of ingredients that are readily available in Haiti’s towns, and she set aside money from her stipend to put herself into business. She can make a gallon and a half of shampoo with 500 gourds worth of ingredients, She can then sell the shampoo in smaller bottles for 1,750. It is a nice profit. Liquid soap is more expensive to make, but she has managed to add that to her business.
Even as she has done so, she has been making sure that she has money to save in her savings and loan association. She likes being a part of the association. “It gives me a way to save some money every week. And I can take out a loan if I have a problem.”
She asked for the program to give her goats, and she received two. She’s started to take care of them. But the cost of the two goats — about 12,500 gourds, or just under $100 — is only about half of what she will receive, and she plans to invest the rest in business.
She has a clear plan. She wants to construct a small beauty parlor in front of her home. She’ll do hair and nails, and sell cosmetics. She thinks that if she has a more formal structure, her neighbors will see that she views what she is doing as her profession, and they will be willing to pay her. There’s no similar business in the neighborhood, so she’s hopeful.
Getting it set up with limited resources will be challenging. But she is willing to start small, and she can divert some of the home repair materials that Fonkoze will provide her as a CLM member by planning a smaller home for herself and her boy.
Patricia Smith lives in the same neighborhood of Gwomòn as Valencia. It is called Figawo. She and her eight-year-old son, Wensley, live in the house that Wensley’s father inherited from his parents. The man himself has moved in with another woman, so Patricia and Wensley are alone. The man has been paying for Wensley to go to school, but it is September, and Patricia as heard nothing about it for this year.
Before she joined CLM, Patricia managed by doing laundry. She would go off to downtown Gwomòn a couple of times a week, and could earn as much as $10 for a day’s work. Since she joined the program, however, she has stopped doing laundry for other families. “It’s really hard work. When you finish, you whole body hurts.”
She used savings from her weekly stipend to start a business. She borrowed a wooden tray — called a “bak” — from one friend and a small thermos box from another, and she began selling snacks and cold drinks. She sells cookies, crackers, and candy out of her bak during the day, but in the evenings uses her day’s earning to buy hotdogs, which she grills and sells in front of her home. She makes enough to take care of Wensley and also to make weekly deposits into her savings and loan association.
The CLM program gave her two small goats as the first part of her asset transfer. She has decided to invest the rest of it into her small commerce. She wants to use the extra money to add more products to her business. As a first step, she’ll add laundry products, like bleach, detergent, and laundry soap.
She hopes to save up as much as she can in her association, because her larger objective is clear. She has talked to Wensley’s father about her building a new house on his land, and he’s agreed to it. She thinks that, for the time being, it is her best option. But she worries about depending completely on a man who left her. She’d like to buy her own small piece of land. that would allow her to build a house away from the man if she decides that that is what she wants to do. And, even more importantly, it gives her something she can leave for Wensley when she’s gone.