Memène: More than Six Years after Graduation

Memène and her partner Chiver live in a small house on the side of the hill below the dirt road that leads from the Labasti market into Demare. It’s a farming area along the road south from downtown Mibalè towards Pòtoprens. They share the house with Memène’s daughter Lovemia and two of Chiver’s kids. Though they’ve been partners for years, they have no children together. They are, however, comfortable parenting each other’s children. I have written about the couple before, here and here.

Memène graduated from CLM in December 2014, when both Lovemia and Chiver’s older boy, Chivenaido, were very young. The family made great progress while they were in the program. Memène started earning money through her own small commerce. That small, regular income freed Chiver, who is a much-sought-after agricultural laborer, to focus on larger, better-paid jobs, rather than on the poorly-paid day labor he had to take as long as he needed income every day. They then could use his larger income to accumulate livestock, including cows.

They continued to make progress after graduation. They eventually bought their own land, which enabled them to move out of the shack on Chiver’s father’s land where they had been stuck. Living there had been difficult, both because they had very little space, especially as their kids grew, and because Memène didn’t always get along with Chiver’s sisters. They built a house on their new plot: still small, but larger than the one they had built while in CLM.

But the last few years had been hard. Chiver was sick for a while, then Chivenaido got sick. Much of their savings went to getting Chivenaido healthy again. Last fall, they didn’t have the money to send the kids to school. It was the first time that had happened since before they were in the CLM program. “I can’t say that it’s been as bad as it used to be. We have bad weeks. We might only eat once a day. But we don’t go two weeks that way. The next week we’ll eat two or three times. Chiver works really hard.”

Late last fall they joined a new kind of program. The CLM team has been organizing Village Savings and Loan Associations for all CLM members for several years. VSLAs help communities to organize a way for its members to save money and access small loans. VSLAs have been a popular addition to the CLM program.

But Memène and virtually all CLM graduates in Mibalè were part of the program before VSLAs were added to it. This new program was a return to Mibalè to establish VSLAs for 800 members who had graduated without them. CLM staff organized 32 VSLAs across southern Mibalè, timing them so they will complete their first cycle in time for members to use their savings to pay for their children’s school in the fall of 2021.

Memène is really happy about the new program. “It helps me save money. CLM taught me not to spend everything I have, but this gives me someplace to save. And the money will be ready for me when it’s time to pay for school. I already told Chiver that I am NOT keeping any children at home next year.”

Memène makes contributions to the VSLA in meetings every week, and she has already taken out two loans. “I repaid the first one, and have just one payment left on the second.”

She used the first loan to expand her small business. She sells the various things that Haitian cooks use to prepare meat: bouillon cubes, garlic, baking soda, etc. “I was buying these things in small amounts and reselling them. I couldn’t make any money, because I had to sell for the same prices as the women who buy enough to get better prices. Now I can get those prices, too.”

But her household expenses mean she doesn’t make enough to keep the business going on its own, so she invested the second loan into it as well. She has, however, made enough to reduce how much she needs Chiver to contribute, so the couple can save much of what he brings in, buying additional livestock. They now have four large nanny goats to go with the cow they’ve had for several years.

The new program is faced with challenges. Memène reports that any time CLM staff isn’t at their meeting, things are a little chaotic. And that’s not what the CLM team is hoping for. CLM cannot accompany the VSLAs forever, their members need to be ready to take them over themselves. In the next few months, the team will need to provide additional training to the leaders of the VSLAs, and those sessions are already planned for July.

Fonise: Four months after graduation

Fonise and her husband live with their kids in a small house that sits just across a small field from the national highway running north from Ench towards Okap. Their home is in Sanrafayèl, a few minutes from where the well-paved road from Pòtoprens ends, turning into a rough, dirt road that winds the rest of the way northward. I have written of her before.

When Fonise and her family joined the CLM program, they were really struggling. Fonise was earning what she could with a small grocery business. She would invest 1000-1500 gourds when she had them, but between customers who bought on credit and were slow to pay and the constant expense of running her home, the business would collapse frequently. Her husband, Thermidor, did day-labor in neighbors’ fields when he could get the work, but he might earn less then 100 gourds, which is now worth only about a dollar, and he couldn’t count on finding jobs every day.

Their 18 months in the program changed a lot for them. They chose goats and a pig, and have succeeded with both activities. The two young female goats Fonkoze gave them are now ten, four adult females and six kids. Only one of the kids is a female, and it is the only one that Fonise plans to raise. That will give her five adult females eventually, which should provide a strong income stream.

She just sold a litter of five piglets for 15,000 gourds. Pigs are risky, so she wanted to get rid of them as soon as practicable. She deposited the money in her savings account. When the five young billygoats are weaned, she’ll sell them, add that money to the money from the pigs, and buy a bull. She was able to buy a heifer before she graduated, but having a bull as well, especially if she can afford a large-ish one, can provide a new source of income because she can rent it to workers who plow farmers’ fields.

She has also become a successful businessperson. Rather than selling groceries at home, she sells goods in local markets. Her choice of goods depends on the season. “I sell whatever sells well.” Towards the end of last year, she was selling used clothing, which is always in demand in the period leading up to the New Year’s holiday. Since then she’s switched to vegetables, usually cabbage. She goes to market in Sanrafayèl on Thursdays and in Piyon on Saturdays, buys heads of cabbage by the dozen, and then sells them in smaller piles before she goes home for the day. Towards the end of the summer, she plans to shift to school supplies.

When she’s asked what the most important part of the CLM program washer her, she doesn’t hesitate. “It was the training. They teach you how to manage what you have. They could give you all kinds of stuff, but if you can’t manage it, it won’t help you. I used to waste what I had. I spent every 50 gourds that came into my hands. Now, I can’t earn 50 gourds without putting 25 gourds away, either into my bank account or into the lockbox I have at home.”

But she doesn’t think of the changes in her life just in terms of money. “I am a different person. I live a better life. It is my job to give the kids something to eat every morning and every afternoon, and now I can. That feels good. Sometimes they used to have to go without.”

And others in her neighborhood see her differently too. “When a goat gets loose around here, I am now the first person people think of. I’m the woman with all the goats. They come to me even if the goat isn’t mine.”

Nolita at Graduation

Nolita Sevil lives along the main road that leads north out of Gwomòn towards Pòdpè. She and her three teenagers share a home that sits on her mother’s land.

She was together with the children’s father for years. He had a job, and she managed a small commerce, and together they took care of their kids. But the man lost his job, and they decided he should go to Pòtoprens to look for work. He was always able to find things to do, but his visits gradually became less frequent and the support he was providing for the couple’s children decreased, too. 

Nolita struggled to provide for the three children on her own, but she became ill. She couldn’t manage her small commerce, and she needed medical care. When she contacted the kids’ father to help her see a doctor, he just told her family that they should take care of her. She was theirs. “That’s when I decided to leave him.”

She eventually got together with another man. He’s a baker, and because the couple had their own oven, they were able to do fairly well. The man was happy to help her send her children to school, and together they were able to keep the family fed. But when the earthquake that hit Gwomòn and much of northwestern Haiti in the fall of 2018 destroyed the oven, they were left to struggle. The capital they had available to buy flour and rent ovens from others started to dwindle. Nolita had already sold her last goat to pay for her kids’ school. The family was often going hungry.

Even so, Nolita almost lost her chance to join CLM when Fonkoze’s team passed through her neighborhood. She told her interviewer that she and her partner had a bread oven, so the interviewer assumed they were too wealthy to qualify. Fortunately for her, neighbors who heard that the team was not considering her for the program asked why. When they heard that it was because of the oven, they informed the team that the oven was unusable. Further follow-up led the team to invite her to join the program, and she did.

She chose goats and a pig as the assets for Fonkoze to give her, and though her pig has still not reproduced, her goats are flourishing. She started with just two, and she now has eight. She has a large yard around her house, and she’s decided to leave it unplanted, letting grasses and weeds grow so that her goats have plenty to eat. She is hoping soon to be able to buy a cow, too, and she could already buy one easily if she was willing to sell several of the goats, but she hasn’t been able to make up her mind to do so just yet. She thinks of them as the key to sending her kids to school.

More important than the livestock, however, is the way that she’s been able to get herself back in business. She started by using the small travel stipend that CLM provides to members when they attend training workshops. That stipend was originally supposed to pay members’ transportation, but few have ever used it that way. Most buy food for their family for the days they are in training, but some, like Nolita, find a way to invest it.

Nolita gave the money to her nephew, who went off to Gonayiv to buy a single gallon of gas. He brought it back to Nolita in Gwomòn. At the time, socio-political upheaval in the country had made the supply of gas irregular. Gas stations would open for a few days, then close for a few. While they were closed, merchants would sell gas out of barrels, gallon-jugs, or even small soft-drink bottles by the side of the road at highly inflated prices. Nolita made enough on her first sale of a gallon to buy two-and-a-half gallons the next time, and the business quickly grew. Soon an original investment of about 200 gourds was worth 4000.

But she didn’t want to stay in the gas business. It depended too much of the ups and downs of the political situation. So, she used the money to set up a small hotdog stand. There’s a club just down the road that is open on the weekends, and the owner is happy to have street merchants outside it catering to his customers. She sells grilled hotdogs with ketchup or mayonnaise for 25 gourds, or about a quarter. She can go through three-four cases on a good night, and can make 300 gourds on a case. It has enabled her to join a sòl, a Haitian savings club, where she deposits 500 gourds per week.

It has also helped her and her partner to get back into baking. She has used earnings from it to pay weekly contributions to a Village Savings and Loan Association, and she’s used credit from the association to invest in flour and the other things that bread-making requires. They still have to rent oven space, but now they can now work with enough flour to make the rental worthwhile.

By the time she had graduated May 20th, she was also on her way to her first loan from SFF, the Fonkoze Foundation’s commercial sister organization. That loan is for 10,000 gourds, and it is enabling her to expand her business even more. Her plan is to take out larger and larger loans. Eventually SFF can provide much larger ones than she could ever get from her association.

And she’ll be able to make good use of the money because repairs to the couple’s oven are almost complete. Baking bread in their own oven will allow them to grow their wealth even more quickly. Eventually, she wants to start travelling back-and-forth to Wanament, in far northeastern Haiti, along the Dominican border. She’ll buy flour wholesale there, for herself and to sell to other bakers, and she’ll also look for other merchandise she can purchase.

Larose: Just Getting Started

Larose and her partner live in Koray, a narrow, hilly corner of Gwomòn, north of the downtown area. The long, winding road that leads into Koray from the main road to the north crosses and recrosses the same river, over and over, making the area hard to reach after heavy rain.

They have five young children. The oldest is eleven. The two oldest go to school, but Larose worries that they have fallen behind. “They missed some years because we didn’t have money.”

The couple was never wealthy, but they used to manage more or less. They farmed their owned land and other plots that they would rent. They planted peanuts, beans, corn plantain, and cassava. Larose also managed a small grocery business, selling both at the local market and out of the couple’s home.

But all the means they once had at their disposal disappeared. Their third child, a five-year-old boy is severely disabled. He struggles just to sit and has trouble supporting the weight of his head with his neck. He can whisper a few indistinct words, but cannot say very much.

The couple took him anywhere they thought they might be able to find help for him, bringing him to several large clinics in Pòtoprens, but they got no help. Their last visit was to a clinic run by an American non-profit, where they received an estimate of over 160,000 gourds for a brace and the follow-up that would be required.

That’s about $2000. By then, however, the couple had nothing. Larose’s business was gone. They could not afford to rent farmland or even to plant their own land. Her partner would look for day-labor — 100 gourds or so — in the neighbors’ fields. It isn’t even enough to feed the children consistently. Sometimes Larose depends on gifts of food that neighbors send.

She is looking forward to the opportunity that the program is offering her. She’d like to receive money for small commerce and to plant their fields. She thinks the she and her partner will be able to support themselves and start saving in a local savings and loan association. Saving money is important, she says. “When I have some means at my disposal, I want to have somewhere that I can lay my hands on some money when I need to.”

In the long-tern, she’d like to move away from Koray. She wants to live in downtown Gwomòn because she thinks that she’ll have more opportunities there.

Elismène: After Six Months

Elismène lives in Ramye, a secluded corner of Laskawobas. Getting into the neighborhood is harder or easier, depending on the season. During the rainy season inlets of the nearby Artibonit River flood and the area is served by canoe ferries. During the dry season, however, the inlets shrink and one hikes through the gardens of beans, tobacco, vegetables, and rice planted throughout. There is only a small channel to ford.

She had eight children, but only four survived to adulthood. All are off on their own now, but she and her husband Michel have two of her grandchildren living with them. They live in a isolated, dilapidated shack in the back corner Ramye. The children’s parents send them to school, but Elismène and Michel are otherwise responsible for them.

The couple did various kinds of work to support themselves and the kids. Elismène would find small jobs to do for neighbors. Charcoal makers would have her help collect and bag their charcoal. During peanut harvest, she’d shell the nuts. Michel worked hard, too. He’d farm or he would make charcoal for her to sell in downtown Laskawobas. Now and again, one or the other would work a day in a neighbor’s field. Both the work and the income were irregular. There were days when she wouldn’t even start a fire. On better days, the morning might begin with no more than a small saucepan of tea. But they are both getting older and they cannot work as hard as they once did.

Elismène chose goats and a pig as her two enterprises. Both activities are doing okay so far, even though it has been a hard few months for both types of livestock in Ramye.

The dry season has left little greenery in the area for goats to graze on. Many of her fellow CLM members have seen their goats lose litters because of lack of feed. Elismène received two adult females and one already had an unweaned kid following behind it. So that when one of her nanny-goats died, she still had two females. Now the remaining adult has had its first kid, and the younger one is nearly mature.

Disease has taken a toll on pigs in the neighborhood, both those belonging to CLM members and those of their neighbors, but Elismène’s sow is healthy and growing. It’s still too young too mate, but Elismène and Michel are watching it carefully for the first signs.

She has plans for further progress. She and Michel squeeze something out of whatever they can bring in each week to contribute to her savings and loan association. “When I have money from charcoal, if I spend 60 gourds, I save 40.”

She hopes to have enough so that, by the end of the association’s year-long cycle, she’ll have enough saved that she will be able to take the money, add to it by selling a few goats, and buy a cow. The interest she expresses in a cow is different from the explanation one often hears from younger women. “I want a cow because my husband helped me a lot when I was raising my kids, but just one of them is his. If he dies, a cow will help me pay for his funeral.”

But she worries about making progress, too, because she worries about the jealousy it can lead to. “When folks see you have two or three animals, they try to kill them. My husband doesn’t really sleep anymore. He spends the night lying in the house, listening to make sure the goats are okay.”

Enel: Six Months into the Program

Edeline, her husband Enel, and their two small boys joined the CLM program last fall. They were living in Ramye, a small and secluded area between Wòch Milat and downtown Laskawobas.

The selection process missed them at first. At the time, they didn’t have their own home. They were staying in Edeline’s mother’s house, and no one mentioned Edeline, Enel, and the kids as a separate household at the CLM team’s community meeting. As the CLM team began to work in the neighborhood, however, the couple’s need became clear. Fortunately, Fonkoze was able to add 50 families to the 100 it initially selected in the area, so Edeline and Enel were able to join in.

They had been really struggling. Their main source of income was construction jobs that Enel would take in Pòtoprens. He has a brother-in-law who’s a builder, and he’s happy to take Enel onto his team as a laborer. That would mean leaving his wife and their boys for weeks at a time, but Enel was resigned to it. “Things are hard. If you can get a job, you take it.”

Early in 2020, Edeline got sick. Their second son was an infant, and Enel was really concerned. “I did everything I could.” He took her to two different Partners in Health hospitals, and she eventually recovered. But the expenses of getting her to and from the care ran through most of their money, even though the care itself was almost free of charge.

When they joined the CLM program, her health was much improved, but the improvement did not last. Edeline grew sicker and sicker until she passed away in February. Enel was left as a single father of boys two and three years old. The CLM team decided to continue to work with him in Edeline’s place.

By this point, Enel and Edeline had moved into their own small house, built with the program’s assistance, on a piece of land that Edeline’s mother gave them. Enel took care of the livestock that the program gave them. His close attention to their goats have kept them flourishing even as other goats in the neighborhood have suffered from a shortage of food during the dry season. Their pig got sick and died, and though they were able to sell it quickly to a butcher, all the money that came in from that sale passed through their hands to pay Edeline’s medical expenses. Burying his wife forced Enel to take on debt.

Since her death, Enel has continued to struggle. The only way he can think to earn income would be to go to Pòtoprens and work for his brother-in-law, but he doesn’t feel comfortable leaving the boys or, for that matter, his goats. Right now, he depends on irregular charity from his friends.

Recently his sister called him. Through her, his brother-in-law was offering him two weeks of work. He doesn’t see how he can refuse, but he wants to talk to his case manager before he decides. He thinks he can drop his younger boy off with his mother, who lives down the river from Ramye, near Bagas. The older boy is in school, so he will ask the sister-in-law, who lives next door, to look after him. A local teenager has been sleeping in his home with him and the boys since Edeline died, and that boy is willing to look after the goats.

A life mostly away for his boys, however, is not what Enel wants. He knows they need him. And he has an idea of a way to start a business that would allow him to live at home. He wants to buy and sell livestock. He would go to the market in the morning, buy low and sell high. It can be a lucrative business for someone who really knows animals and is a strong negotiator. He could start with chickens, work up to turkeys, and move on to goats when he has enough capital. If he’s careful about taking care of goats, he can also by sick, low-value goats, and care for them until they recover their value, and then sell them.

But even just getting started with chickens will take some capital, and after the funeral expenses, he just doesn’t have it. If he goes to work for his brother-in-law, he might make enough to begin in a small way. He is also saving money in the savings and loan association that Edeline joined when she entered the program, but he’s afraid to borrow money. “If something happens to money you borrow, it’s a problem.” And the association won’t pay out his savings until the end of the cycle, which is months away. This is something his case manager will have to help him figure out.

And his desire to start and build a business fits into a larger plan. On one hand, he is not comfortable living on land that belongs to his deceased wife’s parents. They have been unwilling so far to even talk about selling it to him. They want to him to think of it as his. They tell him that they owe it to their daughter’s kids. But he worries. He’s not yet even 30, and though his wife died only recently, he knows that he won’t want to live his life alone. He doesn’t think a woman will be willing to move into a house built on his first wife’s family’s land. And even before Edeline’s death, he always told his in-laws that he wanted to pay for the land. He thought and still thinks of buying the land that his family lives on as a man’s responsibility. So he wants to discuss a purchase with them, and they just won’t talk about it.

On the other hand, he doesn’t see himself living in Ramye forever. He doesn’t like how remote it is. He dreams of moving with the boys to a house closer to downtown Laskawobas. With its easy access to multiple large livestock markets, it would really help him build the business he hopes to establish, and it would also mean better schools for his boys.

Delène — 15 (or really 12) Months into CLM

Delène and her partner, Richard, live with the couple’s two girls in Mòn Tomond. The land they live on belongs to her mother-in-law, but Delène says that that’s okay because the older woman is happy to have them there. Delène’s oldest girl lives in Pòtoprens with the girl’s father. Delène doesn’t often talk with her, but she makes sure she gets news.

Back before their children were born, when Delène and Richard had more money, they bought a house, dismantled it, and had it re-constructed on the property. The roof already leaked back then, but it was all they could afford.

When she joined the program, Delène had a small business selling laundry products, such as detergent and soap. A bigger merchant would give her merchandise on credit, and she would pay after her sales, before she took more merchandise. She would generally buy for about 3000 gourds and could make as much as 500 gourds of profit. She eventually gave uptake business, however, because it didn’t seem worth it. “I was making less and less. There are too many merchants. Someone would put their stuff on sale, so I wouldn’t be able to sell mine.”

Her husband contributed and continues to contribute to the household by farming land that belongs to his mother and by working in neighbors’ fields. When there was no field work to be done, the couple would make and sell charcoal.

She should have 15 months in the program by now, but she joined three months late, when another member dropped out. This is not unusual. A small number of each of the groups that start in the program give it up for one reason or another. Almost all such cases involve someone deciding to leave the community she lives in. We try to replace the departing member if we can, especially if she leaves in the first six months or so. These new families may or may not have time to do all they need to do to qualify for graduation, but they can make a lot of progress.

Delène was living very close to other CLM members, so she should have been part of the cohort from the beginning, so it’s important to understand how the team missed her during the selection process. It wasn’t for lack of trying. Her name was on the list we used for preliminary selection, and staff visited her home, looking to talk with her, several times. They simply couldn’t find her. “I was never around. Either I was off with my business or doing my laundry. I’d hear that someone had come by, but they never came when I was here.”

It was frustrating to see some of her neighbors get help she thought she needed. “It hurt, but I just prayed.”

Once Delène joined CLM, she got to work. She asked for goats and a pig, and her goats in particular have done well. We gave her two, and now she has seven. She bought one of the seven with proceeds from the sale of meat from her pig, which had died.

She would have eight goats, but one of her goats died, as well. When animals die suddenly, rural Haitians will sometimes be willing to consume the meat. It depends on a number of factors. But they won’t usually pay cash for it. They’ll buy it on credit, setting a date by which they’ll pay. The seller doesn’t have much leverage. If they don’t sell the meat quickly, it will spoil, and they’ll get nothing. So, Delène expects 3250 gourds from the sale, but she won’t get it until May.

This money is important to her because she wants to get back into business. She just doesn’t want to return to buying laundry products on credit. She’d like to use her own capital, and she thinks the goat-money will give her what she needs. She doesn’t know what she wants to sell, though. She just know she wants to be back in business.

She has plans for the goats that are still alive, too. She is a part of a savings and loan association that will complete its cycle in May, and she’ll receive a pay-out of all she saved during the year, plus interest. “My case manager, Esther, says that she’ll take the money from the association, sell some of the goats, and buy me a cow with the money.”

This is, in a way, a perfectly good plan. A rural Haitian family like Delène’s can only take care of so many goats. Keeping a large number well-fed can be difficult. And she and Richard would like to have a cow. Owning a cow gives you a different status in a rural Haitian neighborhood, and income from the sale of calves can help you accumulate land.

But the way Delène frames the plan is troubling. She describes it as something her case manager will do for her. She’s excited about it, but she seems to view herself less as the principal agent of the plan and more as its beneficiary.

This is an important coaching point. As long as CLM members see themselves as beneficiaries, as interested spectators, in the program’s work, it is difficult to believe in the progress they make. Our team will be gone after 18 months, and the family will be on its own.

So Esther and the other staff members who work with Delène have some work to do. We need to help Delène recognize that she is the engine driving her success. She and Richard managed the rapid construction of a small, secure new home. She and Richard are taking care of their growing collection of goats. She and Richard handle their planting and plan how they will send both children to school in the fall. Even the plan to buy a cow, which she currently frames as Esther’s contribution, was really her own idea. She just needs the confidence to see it that way.

Delène with her youngest daughter, Anne Fedora

Ismelie: After 15 Months

Ismelie lives in Men Tomond, right along the rocky dirt road that reaches from National Route #3 near downtown Tomond to the large rural market in Kas. She shares her home with her partner and the younger four of their five children.

Before the family joined the CLM program, they lived in a small, thatched-roofed house. “I used to have to put my pots on the floor to collect water when it rained.” Her husband, Erinord, would farm while she managed a small commerce.

She and Erinord made home repair a priority, and they now live in a well-built, three-room house with a shiny tin roof. In their improved home one sees the real fruit of their efforts since they joined CLM. The new house is large enough that the couple had to buy almost as much roofing material as the program provided just to cover it, and that involved borrowing heavily. But Erinord found jobs in neighbors’ fields and in sugarcane mills, and he earned enough to pay off their debt.

Early in the morning on market days, Ismelie buys 1000 gourds of salt on credit and tries to sell it by the end of the day to pay her supplier. There are two big markets near her home, and she sells at both. She’s been doing it for years, ever since a friend convinced her to give it a try. “My friend was already selling salt. She came by one day when my husband was out, and she told me to come along with her. We could both sell.” The friend died, but Ismelie has stayed in the business. She can earn 300 gourds in each of the markets she works in every week. That’s about $3.75 in each market, or more than a dollar a day. It isn’t much, but it is more than many women have when they join the program. With no livestock or other assets, however, the family had nothing to fall back on.

She asked the program for two goats and a pig, and her livestock is doing well. Her two goats are now five. Each of the two she received had a first litter. While the pig is not yet ready even to be mated, it’s healthy and has been growing well. Pigs are a risky investment. They are vulnerable to disease. But Ismelie has been lucky so far. “My neighbors’ pigs mostly died, but mine is fine.”

She has a long-term plan for her livestock, too. She wants to be able to depend on it, especially on her goats, to send her children to school. Only one of the three school-age children who are living with her is in school this year, and she want to be able to send them all in September.

And she has hopes for her small business, too. She has continue to sell salt, just as she has for years, but has her eyes on other businesses: groceries or housewares or cleaning products. She’s not sure which. Right now, she doesn’t feel as though she can switch, however, because she depends on the wholesalers who sell her salt on credit. She doesn’t see any money of her own that she could invest.

This is where her story gets complicated. Because she has access to money, but she doesn’t seem very clear about the options available to her. She says that the kids are still too young to sell, which is fine, but she doesn’t show that she has considered selling a goat in a month or in two months to get herself started. She might feel as though it would be a bad idea, but she hasn’t even really even considered it as part of her plan.

And she is part of a savings and loan association that will end its cycle in May. The way these associations work, at the end of the year-long cycle, they pay out everything that members have saved throughout the year, along with any interest earned through the small loans members can take out. The interest can be as high as 15%, with payouts over 10% being common. She could plan to use her payout in May to start a business, but right now she’s thinking of buying another goat. That might be a good investment, but if she wants to get into a bigger business, as she says she does, she might want to consider this source.

She doesn’t have much money saved up, however, because she stopped attending the meetings and making her weekly contribution. She found that she couldn’t afford the 250 gourds she needed each week. “Everything I make through my business gets spent buying things for the kids.”

That’s understandable. Her commerce is small. But it appears to be based on a misunderstanding. She is not required to save 250 gourds each week. That’s how much she can save if she buys five shares when the association meets. But she is only required to buy one share, which costs just 50 gourds. She knows that she could afford that much, but she feels as though it isn’t worth her time if she cannot save the larger amount, even though at the end of the year it could dramatically affect what she could do.

She appears to lack vision. She doesn’t seem too clear about the options that are starting to open up for her. She has just three months left in the program, but she seems to need more coaching. We will need to work on that.

With her son, Jean Wilnor

Lucienne Lifaite: Two Years After Graduating

Lucienne lives along Ravin Gwomòn, a narrow channel running south and west of the town. It floods to become a river with every heavy rain. 

She entered the program with nothing. She would occasionally keep livestock for neighbors, but they always took them back before she could profit by it. She and her four children shared one of the rooms of a two-room house with a neighbor. The children’s father had passed away. The owner of the home just let them stay there. Lucienne would feed the children and herself by buying small quantities of produce on credit from farmers. She’d then break what she purchased into even smaller quantities for sale to consumers in downtown Gwomòn. She struggled to feed her children and to send them to school.

She asked for goats and small commerce. The commerce she chose was the same one she was used to. Haitians call it “kase lote,” which means break down and parcel out. Having joined the program, however, Lucienne could buy her merchandise with cash, which gave her more freedom to choose what to buy and how much. Her goats really prospered. By the time that she was ready to graduate, they had more than doubled in value.

She was happy to join a savings and loan association, and has remained an active member. “It helps you save, and you can borrow the cash you need at the beginning of the school year.”

She speaks clearly about how she thinks CLM helped her. “It put me on the right path. There was training. They taught how life is and how life isn’t. If they hadn’t yelled at me, I wouldn’t own all that I own.”

And she has started to own quite a bit. She began buying additional livestock with proceeds from her small commerce and from the farming she had started to do. She eventually bought six sheep. But she wasn’t especially attached to the animals, viewing them just as an investment. When she saw a chance to buy land already planted with sugarcane, she didn’t hesitate. She sold all the animals she had to in order to accumulate what she needed for the purchase. She sold the cane and bought more land, which she and her new partner have already planted. She plans to use their harvest to start buying livestock again.

She’s happy about the way the new partner is working with her. He contributed to the second land purchase, and he does much of the farm work. But she has no doubt about her own value. When I too-casually mentioned how impressed I was by how much land she and her partner have now accumulated, she was quick to interject that she bought the sugarcane land on her own. 

And she is determined to keep moving forward. “I was so poor. CLM helped me pull myself out. I have no right to go back. The humiliation that I used to feel keeps me from slipping.” 

She has a larger vision for herself as well. She wants to be able to help others. “If somebody comes to me with a problem, I have to be able to tell them that half of their problem is mine.”

Rosimène: Five Months In

Rosimène lives in Bagas, a neighborhood of Wòch Milat, in the valley enclosed by the Artibonit River and the ridge that runs to its south through much of Laskawobas. During the rainy season, the neighborhood is relatively accessible. Residents can take canoe taxis from various spots. But during the dry season, the principal route out is a long hike up and back down the ridge and then along the road to the downtown area.

Getting in and out of Bagas is especially hard for Rosimène. For over two years, she’s been unable to walk. She lost the use of her legs to some sort of sickness. When it first took her, she spent a month at the Partners in Health hospital in Kanj, and then another at the larger one in Mibalè. But nothing doctors could do for her helped. She lived for a while with a sister, in a more accessible area along the main highway that runs between Mibalè and Ench. But she began to feel like an unwelcome guest, so she decided to look for someplace else. An aunt offered her unlimited use of the house in Bagas where she lives now with two of her six children.

They cannot live in her own house, because she had to sell it to pay for the funeral when her husband passed away in 2009. The couple had always struggled, but he was a hard-working farmer and she managed a small grocery business, and they got by. His death and the consequent expenses left her unable to manage.

Eventually, one of her children went off on her own. She now has her own household, but she and her mother remain close. Two others were taken in by a family in Kanj, who sends them to school there. The youngest was taken in by his uncle. That leaves Rosimène directly responsible for the fourth and the fifth, who are 15 and 12, though the 15-year-old spends the week during the school year with his siblings in Kanj, where he attends school as well. The family gets by mainly through support from Rosimène’s neighbors and her daughter and the little they can earn from the 15-year-old’s farming of their last piece of farmland.

About five months ago, Rosimène joined the CLM program. She chose goats and a boar as her two enterprises, and she’s able to take care of them with her 12-year-old’s help. She provides the direction, and he does the work. She would like to raise the animals until she can sell them off to buy a cow, but she doesn’t yet have a clear sense of what she’d do with the cow, other than that it would be there in case she ran into a problem. She may be thinking about the devastation her husband’s funeral expenses once caused her. She would like to start a small grocery business again, but will have a lot to figure out, like how she will arrange her purchasing.

For now, lack of mobility is a major impediment for Rosimène. The CLM team is working to get her a walker from the Haitian government, and it could try to get her a wheelchair as well, if that is what it turns out that she needs, but neither will do much more than help her get around her own yard. The paths that lead through and around Bagas would be impossible for a wheelchair — they are narrow, winding, and uneven — and almost as difficult with a walker.