Itana — Twelve months into the program

Itana is excited about having finished building her new home. “It does me good. In my old house, when it rained, I didn’t know where to stand.”

The process was, however, expensive: 7500 gourds for planks, 1700 for nails, 2000 gourds of wooden posts. She agreed to pay the builder 9000 gourds, of which she’s only paid 4000 so far. That’s more than 20,000 gourds, or about $200, and Itana had almost nothing when she joined the program. A lot of that money, like what she owes the builder, is debt. Though the CLM team’s supervisor for Gwomòn still hopes to get the local village committee to convince the builder to reduce his charge, it’s a lot of money. Itala’s husband has been paying the builder 500 gourds at a time whenever he earns some money milling cane for someone the neighborhood, and for now Itana says that the builder seems satisfied.

All this begs an important question, however. Itala contributed more to the house than Fonkoze did — by quite a bit, actually — and she was able to access much of what she needed by taking on debt. She didn’t have to have the money in hand. So, why didn’t she do it years ago? Why did it take CLM to get her started?

Itala has an answer. “CLM pushed me. I never thought I would be able to build a house until they gave me the roofing tin.”

She finished at a good time. Her little family was joined by her nephew, her late sister’s 17-year-old. He had been living and working in the Dominican Republic. But he never got comfortable there, so he showed up at his aunt’s house and moved right in. He now lives in her old house. Itala is glad he came. She likes him and her kids seem to like him too. And having a teenager who is willing to pitch in around the house helps her a lot. When we strolled up on Tuesday, he was digging up the small patch on the slope behind Itana’s home with a pick. It would have been a lot harder for Itana or her little girls, and her husband’s not around very much.

She hasn’t had much luck so far with her goats. Her two goats had a total of three kids, but all three died shortly after their birth. Worse yet, one of the adult females died as well. The CLM program tries to replace livestock that dies in the first three months after it has transferred the animals to the CLM member, so Itana’s case manager helped her collect what she could from selling the meat of the goat that died, and he then used that money, plus program funds, to buy her another goat. Her sheep and her pig are doing reasonably well considering the challenging situation that the long drought presents.

Now that Itana has completed work on her home, she is anxious to begin a small commerce. “I want to sell laundry soap and detergent. Things like that.” But she thinks she needs about 3000 gourds to get started, and she doesn’t have that money lying around. She could easily borrow the money from the Village Savings and Loan Association that the program established for her and the other CLM members in the area, but she is reluctant to add to her debt.

While I am with Itana and her case manager, they work on writing her name. On her legal documents, the name is Serana, so that’s what she is learning to write. The problem is that S is the letter that CLM members find most difficult. The case manager, Enold, spent some time asking her to copy one, but she can’t seem to see its shape clearly. I try drawing a big one, covering about a quarter-page of her notebook, and she’s able to trace it and then copy it. Enold will have to continue to work with her, but coming to understand the shape of an S by making giant ones may give them a way to start.

I ask Enold why they are working on the first letter in her name 12 months into the program. It turns out that when he first started working with her, he would give her the entire name to copy. He then would return the next week to find her homework done and done well. But he never took the time to make her do it in front of him, and it turns out she was so intimidated by the process that she was letting her children do it for her. Once Enold figured that out, they were able to start once again from the beginning.

Clotude — About a year into the program

When we got to Clotude’s home Tuesday morning, eight young boys were sitting in the shade cast by the house. A couple of hoes and pick-axes were strewn on the ground next to them. Clotude was in her kitchen, a small straw shack next to her pre-CLM home. She rushed out for a moment to greet us and to explain.

She had hired the eight-boy team to work in her fields. The current rate for a day of an adult man’s field labor is 250 gourds, she said, or about $2.50. But boys work for 150. So by hiring the boys, she was saving $8. The boys had just come in from their morning shift, and they were waiting for Clotude to provide their meal. She would feed them large bowls of low-grade white rice with two sauces: one made of pigeon peas and the second a thin tomato sauce seasoned with leeks and garlic and enriched with spaghetti. Then, the boys would take a long midday break before heading back into the fields for the second half of their day’s work.

It’s a lot of money for Clotude, but she’s willing to spend it. Her part of Lawa recently had its first rain in six months, and there are signs that the rainy season is ready to start. Though Lawa just had one afternoon’s rain, neighboring areas had already had several. So Clotude is in a hurry. If she plants her crops too late, they could fail to develop in time to weather the next dry spell, which is usually in June or July, and that would mean a poor harvest.

And her farming has not been the only area of her life where she’s needed cash recently. She has completed construction of her new home, and it’s been expensive. Part of the reason that it has been so expensive is that the CLM team made procedural mistakes that affected her. Case managers are supposed to guide home-construction planning closely, and they are the ones who are supposed to negotiate agreements with local builders. But in Lawa, some families were left to negotiate on their own, and builders were able to charge relatively high fees. Clotude says she agreed to pay her builder 7500 gourds, or $75, and she still owes him $45.

The house she chose to build is also larger than the CLM program was designed to support. She still owes a balance on some of the construction materials she purchased: for rocks and lumber. And because she chose to have the house built with multiple windows and doors she incurred a lot of extra expense. Windows and doors require hardwood planks and then someone to make and install them.

Clotude has made some progress through her investment in livestock, but not much. The two goats that Fonkoze gave her are now three. She still has just one sheep. Its first lamb died. But it has grown some. She also has a pig, but it isn’t doing well. There has been too little grazing because of the drought. She has a small donkey, too, which is important because she can get any fruit she can harvest to market. Buy right now she hasn’t anything to sell. She cannot establish a small commerce because she lacks cash.

All this begs a question. Where is the cash she has coming from? She has some charcoal burning in her yard, across from her old house. She’ll be able to dig it out and sell it in the next days, but it isn’t much. Certainly not enough to pay her debts. When I ask her how she makes her weekly contributions to her savings and loan association — from 50 to 250 gourds, but Clotude says she usually contributes 100 or 200 — she says she depends on gifts from friends. It is all a little hard to believe. She may have things going on that we don’t know about. It is not clear that our team has earned her trust.

Clotude’s new house.

Jeanna — After almost a year.

Jeanna wasn’t home when we got to her yard on Tuesday morning. One of her older daughters was sitting in front of the house, holding the baby. She explained that her parents had gone off to their field to plant. It had rained in the past days for the first time in six months — an unusually long dry season — and Jeanna and Nelso didn’t feel they could wait to get they first crops planted.

The drought has been a problem in much of Haiti, and it’s been especially severe in the area around Gwomòn. It has become difficult to find grazing for livestock. Most of the wild plants that would normally make up the diets of goats and sheep have dried up. One of the principal advantages that goats and sheep hold over pigs is that they normally find their own food. This year, however, folks in some neighborhoods have resorted to buying pig feed for them. In others, they’ve just resigned themselves to the fact that their animals will be hungrier, and consequently less healthy, than they usually are. Livestock gains have been minimal so far for the women in Lawa, and though one cannot be certain that that is because of the drought, it is a natural assumption to make.

Jeanna’s case manager and I ended up meeting up with her towards the end of the day. We were ready to head back to downtown Gwomòn, and we passed by the meeting of the local Village Savings and Loan Association on our way. Jeanna was there. She had run from her home to get there early, having heard that she missed our visit to her home. She wanted to make sure she saw us before we left.

It is hard to convey how much effort it involved for her to hurry to meet with us. She left the hillside plot she and Nelso were planting when a neighbor yelled to her that her case manager and I were there. She then descended the slope, hiked up the steep ravine opposite it, hiked down into a second ravine, and then up to her home. She then retraced her steps, hiking up and then down a steep hill once more to come back towards the meeting, which was between their field and their home. And the hike was especially hard because, unfortunately, Jeanna is pregnant again.

She is a young woman, not yet 30, and she and Nelso have seven children already. They would have eighth, but they lost one. She was hoping that her current baby would be her last child, but during the CLM team’s early talks with her about family planning, she complained that the three-month shots that are commonly available to women in the area make her feel sick. We began speaking with her about other types of planning that she could use months ago, but she always put us off. Now we know why. She was pregnant already.

Her livestock has increased its value a little bit since she received it. Her sheep had a lamb, and one of her two goats had a kid. But her most important progress has been completion of her home. Nelso himself was able to do much of the work. That meant not only that she and he were able to avoid the debt that some of her neighbors have accumulated through expensive deals with builders but also that they themselves received the stipend that the program offers to the builders who work on members’ homes. They used that money to buy extra roofing tin, which enabled them to build a larger home — a fact of considerable importance for a family as large as theirs.

Jeanna’s plan had been to go into small commerce as soon as possible. She does not want to return to her old business, which involved spending months at a time in Senmak, away from her husband and children. But she also knows that any business she tries to run out of her home is likely to struggle with the expectation that she’ll sell to her neighbors on credit. She knows that that could easily kill any business she attempts. So her plan had been to set up a commerce that she could sell in the local markets. The market in nearby Moulen is once-a-week. The larger market in downtown Gwomòn is farther away, but is held several times a week. But at seven months pregnant, it will be a while before she starts hiking back and forth with a load of merchandise on her head.

With Jeanna lacking any sort of commerce, the couple’s opportunities for cash income are limited. And that’s important right now because the extended drought means that there is no harvest to count on. Their best-case scenario would be a good crop of corn in about three months. For now, they buy what they eat, and Nelso must find the cash to pay for it. Jeanna generally buys groceries on credit, and then the couple pays when Nelso earns some cash. He works some in neighbors’ fields, but he tries to earn his main income by selling natural remedies that he makes from local ingredients. He is a “medsen fèy,” or an herb doctor, though Jeanna says he’s not a very successful one yet.

Jeanna’s new home. The colored flags mark it as the home of an herb doctor.

Four Years Later

In 2015, Sonia Pierre joined the CLM pilot for persons with disabilities. I wrote about her and her neighbor, Mimose, in 2016. (See this link.) A stroke had left her partially paralyzed on her right side. Getting around was difficult for her. On entry into the program, she depended on her daughter and her neighbor for the food she ate. When she left the program, however, she had livestock, a small commerce, and a home in good repair. She had also learned to save.

But four years later, things aren’t going well. Her paralysis has gotten much worse. Both feet are now affected. She can’t walk farther than the area immediately surrounding her house, her right hand is now entirely useless, and even speech is now a struggle. For her adult daughter, the explanation is simple. “When my mother was part of CLM, she was going to the clinic regularly. They’d check her blood pressure, and give her medication.”

In the years following the program, however, getting to the clinic, though Partners in Health runs one only minutes away from her home, became more difficult. Eventually, Sonia stopped going at all.

Sonia’s increasing limitations meant she couldn’t take care of her livestock, and it all died. She couldn’t manage her small commerce either, and it disappeared. She still lives in the small house that CLM helped her repair with her daughter and granddaughter, but now her daughter is entirely responsible for the household. The younger woman supports herself, her mother, and her daughter with small commerce. She works the markets in Laskawobas, Mache Kana, and Kolonbyè as a machann kase lote. That means that she goes to the market with her capital, buys something in bulk, breaks it up (kase), and puts it into small piles (lote) for sale. She stays in the market until she sells out. Generally, she buys some kind of produce, like tomatoes, onions, sweet potatoes, okra, peppers: anything she thinks she can sell. For now, she is managing to take care of her mother, but the small savings Sonia had built up when she was active are gone, and the younger woman hasn’t been able to build savings.

Mimose Florvil is doing much better. “When CLM came, I had nothing at all. I was alone.” But Mimose established a business while in the program. She sold marinad, a seasoned fried dough popular in Haiti, by the side of the road that passes next to Sonia’s house. She would set up her stand in Sonia’s yard, and the two friends would spend the day chatting while Mimose sold her wares.

Four years later, the business is still going strong. She sells Monday through Saturday, though Wednesday and Saturday are the best days. “I sell more on market day, to people going to and from the market.”

She changed her product, though. The marinad always sold well, but she decided to give them up. “Oil got too expensive, and frying marinad takes a lot of oil.” Now she sells pate — small , stuffed turnovers — instead. Pate are fried too, but she explains that they don’t require as much oil as marinad do. “In downtown Laskawobas, they fill pate just with herring, but here we mix the herring with onions.” Like Sonia, Mimose lives with limited mobility. She gets around better than she did when she joined CLM, and much better than Sonia, but it is still a struggle. Getting to the market in Laskawobas would be a challenge, but Sonia’s daughter is willing to do all her shopping for her.

Mimose still keeps a small collection of livestock. She has goats, turkeys, and ducks. She hasn’t been able to increase her holdings, but it leaves her feeling as though she has a form of insurance in case something goes wrong,

Pierre Floral was in the program together with Sonia and Mimose. He’s a farmer, working land that belongs to his elderly father. He plants corn, beans, and pigeon peas. When he’s not too busy with his own crops, he’ll sell a day of work to another farmer. He walks with a heavy limp because a childhood accident permanently damaged one of his legs. One of his arms was also affected.

Of the three of them, Pierre is the one who insists most strongly that his life was improved through CLM, even though he has very little progress he can cite. When he is asked how the program helped him change his life, he points to just one thing. CLM helped him build his house. Before he joined the program, he was homeless, spending nights on porches in his neighborhood. “I had been living with my aunt, but she was always so mean to me. Eventually I left. I’d stay with other people, getting up and going to sleep whenever I had to. Now I have my own home.”

He wasn’t able to finish the home while he was a CLM member. At the end of 18 months, its roof and its walls were still unfinished. But he kept at it, and finally completed the work, down to all its windows and doors. He is happy to be able to lie down and get up whenever he wants. He never has to worry about being in anyone’s way.

He continues to save in the lockbox that he learned to use as part of CLM. The training he received around saving was based on an approach called “More than Budgets,” which was developed by Dawn Elliott, a professor at TCU. There’s no money in his box right now, but that’s only because he just invested his savings in his fields this spring. He won’t have enough income to save until harvest.

Yves Révot — Four Years Later

I wrote about Yves Révot at the end of 2016. (See here.) When he joined the CLM pilot program for persons with disabilities, he was often going hungry. He’s a farmer who lives in Pouli, an area along the river that eventually runs through downtown Laskawobas, but he has been blind for years due to untreated glaucoma. He was living alone in a deteriorating shack that belonged to his father. Though he was surrounded by his family, they did not see him as important. “When you have no hope, people don’t value you.”

Yves chose two kinds of livestock as the enterprises he would develop. Fonkoze gave him two goats and a pig. He saved as much as he could from his weekly cash stipend and invested it in his farming. For the first time, he could rent land and farm it himself, rather than just working for other people, and his hard work helped him prosper. His livestock holdings grew, he repaired the shack he lived in, and he rented additional land. When Yves completed the program, he easily met Fonkoze’s standard graduation criteria.

The last couple of years, however, have been challenging for Yves. His business model began to fail. He still owned no farmland of his own, and each year he would sell offspring from among his livestock to rent land. He’d work the land and use the crops both for his own nourishment and to bring in cash income. But his crops have failed the last two years because of drought.

His home region, in the valley that reaches from the Dominican border, across the Lower Central Plateau, and towards the sea, is one of the more fertile, less drought-stricken regions of Haiti. But the rains even there have become less and less predictable. When they come at all, they come at moments you would not expect them, too late or too early to do his crops any good. The investment he made in the standard crops of corn and beans were lost. “If I had least been able buy a chicken out of my profits, I’d wouldn’t have been so discouraged.”

At the same time, his success with livestock allowed him to take a major step forward. Last year, he sold a cow and a pig and bought his own plot of land, just downhill from the house he lives in. He’s been planting his new land, but not with corn or beans. Instead, he has planted viv. In Creole, that signifies a range of starches. Mostly roots, like yams, malanga, manioc, and sweet potatoes, but also plantain. He finds them less vulnerable to the irregular timing of rainfall.

So, Yves changed his strategy. “I am not going to sell livestock to rent land any more. “You sell a goat and you can’t be sure you’ll get anything back.” He’ll still rent land when he has the cash to do so. “I can rent, but the money will need to come out of what my farming earns.”

When he shows me his land, he also explains his plan for it. He points out where he’ll put the pig pen and the goat pen, which part he will continue to farm, and, very importantly, where he will build his house. He has made himself comfortable in the family house he repaired while he was in the CLM program. He once sold a pig to buy his first bed. But he eventually wants to move into a home of his own. He has two female goats that he will use to rebuild his stock. And he has a small sow that he hopes to use to build the house.

When you visit Yves, he does not seem much like the poor, isolated young man he was when he joined the program. There is a constant back and forth in his yard: his siblings and other family members start coming by to see him as soon as he returns from the fields. They are bringing him something or coming by to ask a favor. Or just to hang around. He has no trouble getting help from boys when he wants to offer me coconut water. He can climb the tree, but they collect the coconuts he throws down, and they open them with a machete. He now has a status in the lakou, the yard that includes the collection of houses his family lives in, that allows him to assign chores. He is an important part of the family in a way that he had never hoped to be.

Emania Sidues — After Four Months

Emania’s first four months in the CLM program have been eventful, almost disastrous.

One day in late February, her baby was sick and she arranged through the CLM nurse, Lavila, to take him to the hospital in Gwomòn, just down the road from where they live. Partners in Health does not have a facility in the area, and the local hospital charges fees for most services. Fonkoze will cover those fees if Lavila informs the hospital that the member’s visit is covered. The hospital then bills Fonkoze. The baby saw a doctor, received medication, and Emania took him home.

That evening, her mother was preparing a meal by the light of a kerosene lamp, and the baby fell backward into the lamp. He was badly burned. Emania rushed him to the hospital. The hospital staff then called Lavila, to confirm payment for services. Once Lavila confirmed payment, staff at the hospital could get to work, but they quickly saw that the case was beyond them anyway, so they referred the child to the larger hospital in Gonayiv, the much bigger city down the road.

But in Gonayiv, doctors had to say that they didn’t have the facilities to treat a serious burn either, so they put the baby and his mother in an ambulance and sent them to the Partners in Health hospital in Mibalè, a good three hours or more away. Even Mibalè, however, lacks a burn center, so after offering a little basic first aide staff there put the pair in another ambulance. This time they were sent to the Doctors without Borders burn center in Port au Prince.

Emania and the boy spent more than a month at the facility. He received a couple of skin grafts. But he also needed blood. With Emania’s most likely donors, her family, a long way off in Gwomòn, CLM staff travelled to the hospital from Mibalè to donate. The boy is now at home and recovering well.

And despite the interruption in her work, Emania is moving forward. She completed construction of her latrine and the repair of her home. This latter task was made easier by the fact that she merely fixed up her mother’s home, which was severely damaged in the earthquake of 2018. The two single women live together. “The walls had holes so big that you could have walked by and stolen one of the kids right through them.”

Her biggest challenge right now is building an income. She asked the program for two goats and a sheep, and has received the goats. But none of that livestock will bring in regular income anytime soon. And things are only going to get harder for her and her mom. Her sister recently moved into to a room in the house with her kids after splitting up with the children’s father. It isn’t yet clear to the CLM team what resources that other sister brings to the household, or whether she brings any.

And Emania presents challenges to her case manager, Pétion, and to the CLM team as well. He and the team did nothing for her that they would not have done for any CLM member. But Emania appears to believe that she is able to get special treatment by pursuing help vigorously. Pétion’s heard other CLM members say that she told them that they can get what they want from Pétion if they “fè l cho.” That means “if they make him hot,” which is a way of saying, “by nagging.” Emania is apparently telling CLM members to nag Pétion to get what they want.

The attitude is positive in the sense that it shows she credits herself for the help that she’s getting. We want CLM members to see themselves as agents. But it is hard to Pétion to find out that a member looks at him that way. Though perhaps he can take comfort in the attitude displayed by the members who told him what Emania has said.

Marie Joseph — Just Getting Started

Marie is a 35-year-old mother of two girls, age 18 and 16. They live in Tyera Miskadi with Marie’s husband, Honora, and the older daughter’s baby boy, who was abandoned by his father before he was born.

A cohort that included families from Tyera graduated in August of last year. And in a simpler world Marie and her family would have been part of that cohort. The CLM team’s plan, after all, is to pass from one community to another, always identifying everyone in the community who belongs in the program.

The reality, however, is more complex. Fonkoze depends on grant money to implement CLM, and grants always come with a number of families attached to them. We might receive funds to serve 50, 200, or even a thousand families at a time. But once we’ve selected the number we have funds for, we have to stop. Even if we are in the middle of a community. Tyera was the last community we entered during the prior cohort’s selection process, and we hit our limit before we completed work there. So Marie, her family, and other families as well were out of luck.

Neither Marie nor Honora are from the area. Marie is from Tomasik. She moved to Tyera with her mother when the older woman came to care for a grown daughter, Marie’s sister, who was sick. “My mother brought me along, and we just stayed.” Honora is from Senmichèl, a large town northwest of the Central Plateau. “He’s a field worker. He came to work in someone’s field, and he saw me.”

They have a house on a piece of land that they don’t own. “We stayed with various people for a while, but when you’re staying with people, now and again they make you feel ashamed. So someone said we could build our house on this piece of land.” The family doesn’t, however, live in the house any more. Its roof has deteriorated so badly that even the mildest rain gets through. So they took a single room in a nearby house. Its roof isn’t great either, but they are partly protected from at least the lighter rains.

Before they joined the CLM program, the couple really struggled to feed themselves and their kids. Honora earned all of their income. At first, he just did field work. Then he got a job substituting for the man who is supposed sweep the yard of the local school every day. That job would have paid very little, even in principle. But the school’s principal hasn’t been around for months, so Honora hasn’t been getting paid at all. He also takes care of someone’s cow, and the cow’s owner helps him occasionally. “When he sees we are going through a bad moment, he sometimes gives us something.”

The couple also takes care of three goats for their owners, who live in the Dominican Republic, and that should be a source of capital. Normally, the person caring for a female goat will be paid in offspring. But everything the couple has made through this arrangement has disappeared. “Some of the kids died, and some had to be sold to take care of our daughter.”

Their younger girl has a badly swollen foot, and it has been that way for years. Though they have taken her to see doctors, and spent a lot of money in the process, they’ve never found a solution.

Marie already sees possibilities in the program she’s entered. “I really liked the training. We learned a lot about keeping things clean. My daughters are still pretty lax, but I am keeping after them, and it’s starting to work.” She refused to spend the transportation stipend that the program provides during the initial training. Six days brought in 450 gourds — a little less than $5 — and she used the money to buy a pair of ducks. She thinks the female is ready to start laying eggs.

She chose goats and a pig as the enterprises for the program to transfer to her. She knows that small commerce could help her in ways that the livestock cannot. Only small commerce has a chance of providing steady income. But she doesn’t think that small commerce is possible right now. “There is no commerce these days.” She feels as though the local economy has slowed down so much in the last year or so that she’d have no way to make money.

Her ambition for her time in the program is straightforward. “I’d like to live differently.” But her explanation is unusual. Normally, new members talk of becoming wealthier, about acquiring things that they don’t have. Marie says nothing of the kind. “I want to apply what they said in the training and keep me and my daughters from being careless.”

Sophonie Duclaire — Almost Ready to Graduate

Sophonie Duclaire lives with her husband and three of their five children near the little market at the Palmis Tanpe intersection, where merchants sell seasonal fruit and charcoal to motorists passing along the national highway through Savanèt Kabral, in Tomond. Her two oldest kids were taken by members of her family when they reached secondary school and Sophonie could no longer afford school fees. The more advanced classes are more expensive, and Sophonie couldn’t hope to pay.

Sophonie had been sick, and she and her husband had sold everything to try to get her well again. When CLM staff members first met her, she was sitting in the yard in front of her shack, across from a pile of the filthy clothes and bedsheets that she had used during a short hospital stay. She couldn’t lay her hands on the ten gourds she needed to buy laundry soap to wash them. That’s less than 15 cents. And she had nothing to eat in the house. She couldn’t take her medications without food.

When she joined the program, she and her husband had nothing except a small garden on family land, but they supported the family as best they could. He would help out in neighbors’ fields whenever he could find the work. He’d get 100 gourds per day, just over a dollar right now. Sophonie did laundry for neighbors. They wouldn’t pay her, but they would give her food that she could take home to her family. “Back then, you wouldn’t have accepted a drink of water from me.” It is her way of saying that she was so downtrodden that nobody would have wanted to associate with her at all. “I was living in such a broken-down shack. I had to bend over to walk in, and everything we had was drenched by every rain. And we were, too.”

The couple continued to make an effort to keep the younger children in school, but just this year they were running out of ways to pay. Sophonie became part of a CLM savings club when she joined the program, but she had to receive her payout out of turn. The principal had already sent her children home because she hadn’t paid any of the tuition. She used her second turn at the savings-club pot to buy the lumber she needed for her home. “I’m not living under water anymore.”

She chose two goats and a pig as her enterprises, and she and her husband have been taking great care of them. The pig is growing and pregnant.

But the progress she’s made with her goats is remarkable. Her collection has gone from two to ten in just over a year. The original two both provided kids, so that brought her to four. But a couple of different neighbors offered her the chance to buy mature nanny-goats. That really showed how her life was changing. “Before, no one would have offered me the chance to buy a goat. They wouldn’t have thought of me.” Before long, each of those nannies had delivered a pair of kids.

She made the purchases by borrowing money from her Village Savings and Loan Association. She and her fellow members gather every week, and at each meeting every member buys from one to five shares. The association makes interest-bearing loans to its members out of the funds it collects, so the shares’ value grows.

Sophonie has quickly learned to use her association’s loans well. After paying back the money she used to buy the goats, she took another loan and used it to buy wood to make charcoal. She’s been selling 4-5 bags a week at the little market in nearby. At current prices, that’s almost 3000 gourds. She hasn’t yet been able to set enough aside to run her business without loans, but she’s made a lot of progress nonetheless.

She’s saving up as much of the profit as she can, though, because she has a plan. She’d like to use it along with money from the sale of a goat or two to buy a cow. “Things can happen — like a death in the family — that just a goat can’t help you with. When the CLM program leave us, I don’t want to be forced backward.”

Dieumercie Alexandre — Almost Ready to Graduate

Dieumercie lives in Palmarik, a small neighborhood within Kay Epen, a minor population center in a remote corner of southern Tomond. She’s lived in the area all her life, and now shares a home with her partner and their five children.

When she joined the CLM program, she had nothing. She describes regular seizures she suffered over the course of years and how she spent all her money on doctors and traditional practitioners, looking for a solution. She supported her children with the little bit of farming she could manage. Her husband was never much help. “Msye a mòl.” That means that the guy is lazy. She even left him for a time, returning to her mother’s home in frustration. But they have five children, so it’s hard to stay away for good.

When she joined the program, she chose two goats and a pig. But further conversation with her case manager, Ricot, led her to change her decision. At the time, disease was killing of many of the pigs in her neighborhood, and she didn’t want to acquire one just to watch it die. So she asked Ricot to buy a third goat instead. They agreed that when the epidemic had passed she would sell one of the goats to buy a pig.

But once she has resources in her hands, Dieumercie is good at managing them. Using savings from her weekly stipend, she bought a small pig without having to sell a goat. Meanwhile, the goats gave her two kids.

She took good care of her pig, but even so it began to show signs of sickness. So she sold it and a goat and used the money to buy a cow still in its mother’s womb. This way of buying a cow entails some risk, but it is much less expensive than buying a calf would be. When a healthy bull was born shortly after her purchase, Dieumercie knew that the risk had been worth it.

And she managed to save up to buy the pig even while she was contributing to her savings club, or sòl, every week. When her turn came, it paid out 2100 gourds, which she used to buy trees to make charcoal. She began a cycle of buying wood and selling charcoal that quickly increased the value of her investment. Before long, she sold out the business and bought a second unborn calf. When its mother gave birth, she had a small heifer to go with her bull. “It used to be that I couldn’t have gotten even a small loan if I needed one. Now plenty of people are ready to lend me money. They see I can pay it back.”

Though her status in the community has changed, however, and she has begun to accumulate valuable assets, other parts of her life are still a struggle. Her very status can worry her. Her calves aren’t ready to be weaned yet, but when they are she’ll have to figure out how to take care of them. She’s afraid to keep them in her neighborhood. “There’s a lot of jealousy. People hate to see you get ahead.”

She still depends largely on her farming to feed her children. The obvious alternative would be to get into small commerce. Her experience with charcoal at least suggests that she’d be good at it. But she’s hesitant. “It’s hard to maintain small commerce because the children require so many little expenses.” And school expenses are increasing. Not only do the prices rise every year, but each new, higher class is more expensive than the previous one. Her costs would thus be increasing even without inflation. “I’ll just have to keep seeing how I can handle it.”

And she’s not sure she wants to stay with her husband, who still isn’t helping out. She used the resources CLM provided to repair her mother’s house. That’s where she was staying at the time the repairs we made. And she made sure to turn the two-room house into a three-room one, so she would always have a place there. Her oldest boy is 15, and he is starting to understand the situation between his parents well. “He says he’ll support me whatever I decide.”

Despite her struggles, Dieumercie is now confident. “I’ve learned that I can take care of my children as long as I can stay healthy.”

Roselène Bernadine — Almost Ready to Graduate

When Roselène’s father died, her mother gave her up to be raised by an aunt and an uncle. She just couldn’t support all her children, so she let the couple take Roselène.

Roselène left them to make a life with a man when she was still young, and she and her first partner had five children. But she and her kids eventually left the man. His infidelities were bad enough. He took up with a series of women while he and Roselène were together. But worse than that was that he wouldn’t help her support the kids.

She met another man, and they had three children together. He, however, eventually left her. They had begun to build a small measure of wealth together, but the man took it all with him to move in with another woman. Roselène was left with nothing she could use to support her kids, so she had to let him take them, too.

By then, her first set of children were older. She was left with only the youngest boy, a teenager. The two lived together in a small shack, depending on occasional gifts from neighbors or from her three oldest children, who had left Haiti to work in the Dominican Republic. Without a regular source of income, the two were often hungry, and with hunger came humiliation. “I remember I had a couple of cups of kabesik” — that’s low-grade rice that Dominicans use as feed for livestock — “but I couldn’t prepare it because I had no oil or beans. I sent my boy to a neighbor’s to ask her for a couple of spoonfuls of oil, but she just sent him home. ‘What I have to eat, I’ve eaten. What’s left is for sale,’ she told him.”

That was shortly before Roselène joined CLM. She chose goats and poultry as the enterprises for the program to give her, and she received two goats and a range of birds. The larger of the two goats has been disappointing so far. It’s been pregnant twice with a total of three kids, by all three were stillborn. The smaller one, however, finally had its first litter, and its single kid is healthy.

Her poultry has struggled as well. Her turkeys and ducks have both laid eggs, but the young haven’t developed. She remains hopeful, however, about the ducks’ latest clutch of eggs.

She has, though, made good use of her savings club, or “sòl.” Each week, she and her nine fellow members make a contribution and one of them takes the whole pot. The first round, the contribution was 100 gourds, so the pot was 1000. She deposited the whole sum in her savings account. When the second round started, they decided to raise the weekly contribution to 200 gourds. When she received the 2000-gourd pot, it was enough for her to buy a small pig. And shortly after that, one of her older children sent her some money that she was able to use to buy a second pig. Keeping two pigs fed is a struggle. Pigs are demanding. “I buy feed when I can, but sometimes I just have to scavenge in my neighbors’ fields.” She is excited nonetheless about the potential for progress that they represent.

And her life has changed in other ways, too. Last year, she met a man. They fell in love and were married in December. She moved into a small, new house with her husband. He’s a hard-working older man. He makes the tubes out of palm-seed-pods that residents of Haiti’s Central Plateau use to package the unrefined brown sugar called rapadou,” which is popular in that part of the country. He is an older man, and the couple is agreed that they will not have children together.

She had to leave her teenage boy to stay in the house nearby that she built with the CLM program’s help. She lives quite close to him, and they see each other every day, but she wanted an adult to be with him all the time. So she rented one of the house’s two rooms to an older woman. “She keeps an eye on him for me.”