Jean: Two Years After Graduating

Jean Tanisma lives with his mother in Fon Ibo, a densely populated area not far from downtown Gwomòn. The CLM team was searching for new program members in Fon Ibo in early 2017, and they were lucky to come across Jean. He hadn’t been mentioned by his neighbors at the community meeting that opens the selection process. But Gissaint César, who was then the brand new supervisor in change of CLM in Gwomòn, was interviewing Jean’s niece, who was a potential program participant. He saw Jean and started asking about him.

Fonkoze rarely takes men in the program, and it rarely takes anyone who has no dependent children. But since 2016, it has included individuals with disabilities, as long as they are poor enough to qualify, and Jean clearly was. He went blind as a teenager. At the time he joined the program, he was 32 and entirely dependent on his mother, who was herself very poor. He had no economic activity of his own. The two sometimes went an day without a meal.

Like many of the members in Fon Ibo, Jean chose goats and a pig as his economic activities, and the program bought him two goats and a pig. But the goats did poorly. He couldn’t keep them healthy, so they didn’t reproduce. He finally gave up on them, selling them off to buy a sheep, but the sheep didn’t do much better.

Fon Ibo turned out to be a bad place to raise animals that graze. It’s densely populated, and the small spaces that aren’t covered with houses and their surrounding yards are thickly planted. The area is also fertile, and folks are very reasonably sensitive about their gardens. Few of the families in the neighborhood who chose goats made much progress with them. The couple of exceptions involved exceptional circumstances, like an unusually large yard or a partner willing to lead the goats to distant plots he was farming every day.

Jean’s pig was another story. He gave it careful attention, raising it and successive litters of piglets in a back corner of his mother’s yard. Because it was right in his yard, he was able to take care of it himself, rather than depending on helpers who were willing, but not always reliable. He bought the feed it needed. It was a lot of work, but he was happy to have something useful to do. When each litter was ready, he sold it off and deposited the money in his account at Fonkoze.

But earning money in occasional lumps when he sold some pigs would present challenges that Gissaint helped Jean see. Like all the CLM members who joined with him, Jean was part of a Village Savings and Loan Association, and membership required him to have at least 100 gourds to buy shares with at weekly meetings That might not seem like much. At the time is was just about $1.50. But it was more than Jean could count on having every week.

Gissaint told Jean that the best thing he could do would be to establish a small commerce. Even a very small one could help him make his weekly contributions, even if his pigs remained his principal source of income. So Jean decided he would take the advice, and started thinking about what he might sell.

The idea he came up with was very good. He took some money out of his bank account, and bought pig feed. And he has kept up that business ever since. He buys it by the sack, and sells it by the cup or can. It’s not very profitable, but it makes him enough to contribute to his savings group, and allows him to keep his own pigs fed as well. He also can give his mother the money she needs to feed herself and him.

He can’t make sales without help. He can’t see well enough to distinguish denominations of bills. But finding people to help him out has never been his problem. Others simply act as his cashiers.

From Jean’s perspective, the change in his life has been monumental. “It makes me so proud when I reach into my own pocket to buy something I want. And to know that if I need 5,000 or 10,000 gourds, I can lay my hands on it.”

Jean has a plan for the current litter of piglets. He plans to sell all but one female. That will give him two sows, which will double the size of his operation. He’ll put the rest of the money in his Fonkoze account. He’s saving to buy a cow. He’s not sure what he will do with the cow, but he sees it as the next step forward. “When you start at the bottom, you have to think bigger and bigger, one step at a time.”

Roseline Charite: Five Months In

Roseline lives with her husband and their five children in Seresit, an area of Woch Milat, the southern part of a valley in central Laskawobas along the southern bank of the Artibonit River. Their house is unusually isolated, standing a short walk along a serpentine path from the main trail through the area. No other houses are within a stone’s throw of theirs.

The CLM team is lucky to have found the family. Perhaps because of their isolation, the leaders of their community failed to mention them during the open meeting that launched the CLM selection process. CLM staff is trained to look for forgotten households. It happens often enough. But Roseline’s is too hidden for us to have come across it.

The CLM supervisor for the area, Wesnel Charles, was interviewing one of her neighbors to evaluate her for inclusion, and the woman asked him whether he had spoken to Roseline. We do not explain the purpose of these interviews, but this woman told Wesnel that the questions he was asking made her think that he was looking for especially poor families and that if she did not tell him about Roseline, it would be a sin. She showed Wesnel how to find Roseline’s home, and he went off to meet her.

The family’s need was obvious. They were crowded into a collapsing, one-room hut made of sticks and palm-seed pods. They had no livestock, not even a chicken. They had lived in the past from farming, planting mainly manioc and sweet potatoes. They do have access to the plot of land they live on. But her husband, Mickes, had been sick for months, and hadn’t planted anything. It was early afternoon, and they had not yet had anything to eat, nor did they know what or whether they might eat the rest of the day.

The family has begun to make small, but clear progress, though their two steps forward have not been coming to them without a step back. Roseline used the transportation stipend she received at her first training workshop to buy a hen, and was excited to see it hatch its first brood of chicks. But the chicks all died. The hen remains, and seems healthy, and Roseline continues to hope that it will reproduce.

She chose goats and turkeys as the assets for the program to transfer to her, and she received two female goats and a pair of turkeys as well, and all of her animals appear to be thriving. Her turkey hen had nine chicks, and while animals killed five of them, the other four are growing well. The family is keeping a close eye on them. If all four survive, they will represent a major windfall. The couple’s dream is to raise the animals until they have enough value to be able to sell some and buy a small cow and then raise the cow until they can use it to buy more land.

For the time being, they are living on the charcoal Mickes can make. He cuts down trees or thins branches and converts them. Either he or Roseline then bring a sack of it to market in Laskawobas. This involves the long hike out of the valley and down the road to downtown, all off it done with a sack of charcoal on their head, but it is the only income they have, other than their very small CLM stipend. And the stipend lasts just six months. It will run out soon.

But one sign of hope is how seriously they are taking the tasks that CLM sets before them. They received most of the materials they needed to install a pit latrine, and CLM sent a mason to make and install the platform and seat. But the couple themselves was responsible for enclosing it. Case managers can have a lot of trouble convincing families to do that extra work. Just surviving is so hard. But Roseline and Mickes walled theirs in quickly and well, even though they didn’t have much in the way of material to work with. It is clear evidence that they are willing to work.

Using a Cash Stipend: Rosena Jean Baptiste

Rosena Jean Baptiste lives in Wo Anana — or Upper Pineapple — with her partner and their three children. When she joined the program a little over a year ago, the couple was really struggling. “There were days when I had laundry to wash but I couldn’t afford a little piece of soap.”

They got by by working in their neighbors’ fields and hiring themselves out to turn their neighbors’ trees into charcoal. They would buy a tree for a preset number of sacks of charcoal. They’d then cut down and burn the tree. They would sell any charcoal above the agreed-upon amount to the same neighbor, who could then sell it to a wholesaler.

Rosena chose goats and agriculture as her two enterprises, and she has done well with both. But the real key to the transformation in her life has been her use of the cash stipend she received from Fonkoze. For their first 24 weeks in the program, CLM give members 350 gourds each week. That’s worth a little more than $4.60 these days, and it’s instructive to see what Rosena has done with it.

Of the 350 gourds, she actually received 200 each week. The other 150 went into her sòl, her savings club. She and the other members of her sòl take turns collecting the whole pot.

She sometimes spent the 200 or a part of it on food for her family or other necessities, but she wasn’t willing to spend all of it that way. “There are things I used to see in other people’s hands, and I wanted my own.” So she used as much as she could to buy chickens. She eventually bought twelve, and has been keeping them in her yard with success.

Rosena, with her partner, Gagnier, on her right and her case manager, Manno, on her left.

Early on, she and her case manager, Manno, had a serious conversation. She told him that she had always wanted to have her own small commerce, but she couldn’t because she didn’t have enough money. Commerce, she said, takes a lot of money. “Manno told me that commerce starts small and becomes big.”

So the first time it was her turn to take the money from her savings group, she used the 1750 gourds to buy bread, crackers, and sugar. The second time her turn came around, she added another 1750 gourds to her investment. She now has almost 8000 in her business, selling out of her home and at two local markets. She sees the difference it makes in her family’s life now that she has activity in the market twice each week. “Now I can buy all the soap and detergent I need, and we eat well every day.”

For Rosena, the regular cash has been important. When she hears people say that 350 gourds is not enough money to be useful, she says, “Maybe they don’t know how to manage money.”

But she doesn’t think it’s only the money. She doesn’t think she would have succeeded without Manno’s advice. “I can make more progress with Manno because he explains things that I didn’t understand. I didn’t know anything about running a commerce.”

She and her partner have also kept up their other activities. They still make charcoal, and the investment from CLM has increased their farming. They’ve been able to use these activities, together with Rosena’s commerce, to buy a horse and to complete the construction of their new home. They hope that their spring harvest, combined with the payout from Rosena’s savings and loan association, will enable them to buy a cow by May.

Rosena’s older house is on the left, and the one she’s constructed during CLM is on the right.

CLM in the City: Marie Yslène at Graduation

By Samuel Gilbert, translated and edit by Steven Werlin

              Marie Yslène Delarge lived in Lapwent, a neighborhood of urban Jeremi, though she moved to another, called Karakoli, while in the CLM program. Her journey through CLM was challenging, but she was finally able to change her life. She participated in the first group of inner-city CLM members and graduated from the program in February 2021.

            Her family was not initially one of the 200 selected for the pilot of CLM adapted for urban settings, but another family chose to abandon the program, and Marie Yslène was able to replace them. She was living with a man who’d been sick for more than two months, their two girls, and her mother-in-law. At the time, things were so bad that she depended on a neighbor for the little bit of food she fed the family. The chance to join the CLM program became her one hope. 

            One of the first important questions her original case manager asked Marie Yslène was how much money she’d need to go into business. She said that she’d need 30,000 gourds to start one that could support her family. That was about $325 at the time. Her case manager talked to her about another woman who’d started a business with only 250 gourds selling chanmchanm, a Haitian snack made of corn ground together with sugar and peanuts. Marie Yslène decided to give it a try. She asked her neighbor to lend her 250 gourds, added 75 gourds of her own, and bought the ingredients she needed to make chanmchanm. She sold her chanmchanm in small bags, for five gourds each. She sold a large cupful for 150 gourds. 

            Within a week, she had 750 gourds. She decided to buy the flour and other ingredients she’d need to make ponkèt, a kind of muffin, and kokiyòl, which is like a donut. She had learned both baking and sewing, and could make the snacks well. She brought the 250 gourds back to her neighbor, but the woman told her it hadn’t been intended as a loan, but a gift, so Marie Yslène threw the extra money into her business, and was able to invest 1000 gourds. 

            She took a new step when she saw a woman pass in front of her home, selling charcoal. Marie Yslène bought her sack for 700 gourds. Unfortunately, the charcoal was wet, and it had been broken up so much in route that she couldn’t sell it all. She was only able to make back her investment. There was no profit. But she still had her chanmchanm, her ponkèt, and her kokiyòl, and she wasn’t ready to give up on charcoal.

            Her first real setback occurred when she was still selling her different snacks. She made a batch of kokiyòl for 1750 gourds, and she gave it to a sister-in-law to sell for her.  But the whole bag was ruined. The donuts were in the bag too long, and they became mushy and unsaleable. But she still had her main capital, so she was able to continue selling both the snacks she made and cooking charcoal. By this point, she was starting to feed her family with profits from her business. 

            The first cash she received from the program was a 4500-gourd deposit that was made into her Fonkoze savings account. She took 2000 gourds and made a payment to one of her children’s schools. The tuition bill was 8000, so 2000 was a good-sized payment. She used 800 gourds to buy four large bunches of sugarcane, which she was able to sell off as another snack in individual packets. She spent 1200 gourds on family expenses and left 500 in savings.

             Each time Marie Yslène thought of taking a new step with her business, she would be sure to speak about it with her case manager. She wanted to be sure that she was making good decisions. She began saving money in a little lockbox, starting with 200 gourds. She also joined a sòl, a common sort of savings club in Haiti. 

            It was hard work, but she eventually had made enough profit to be able to invest in groceries, like rice, flour, oil, cornmeal, spaghetti, etc. She started that new business with 5000 gourds, and stopped selling her snacks. When the program finally was ready to transfer money for small commerce to her, she used the money to buy three sacks of charcoal along with fresh seasonings – like onions, parsley, and peppers – that sell well with standard groceries. 

            By early 2020, Marie Yslène felt that her business was still too small. She made a plan with her case manager to borrow 7500 for three months from her savings and loan association. She was the first CLM member to borrow money and pay it back. It was hard. With her commerce in her home, she couldn’t really walk around to make sales anymore, which had been a key to her initial success. And because her partner was no longer working, the entire responsibility for the family fell on her.

            She hasn’t yet been able to realize one of her plans. As a tailor, and she’d like to buy a sewing machine. But rent payments made it hard to afford one. Even so, she was able to take 20,000 gourds out of her savings to pay for a wedding. She married the man she’d been living with.

            She’s a different person now. Her children are in school, and they eat three meals a day. And she has plans. She wants to save her money so that, by the end of the year, she’ll have 100,000 gourds and be able to buy a small piece of land to build a house on. She wants to eliminate her need to pay rent. 

Mimose: Six Years After Not Graduating

I went to Mazonbi today to see Mimose. She was part of a cohort of 350 CLM families who completed their eighteen months in the program in December 2014. I have written about her before. Like about 4% of the families who complete the program, Mimose was unable to graduate. In her case, the total value of her business assets was below the minimum value for graduates. Her goats died just before she was to be evaluated.

But not graduating didn’t seem to affect Mimose and her family too badly. After graduation, she and her husband Wozen kept working hard. They bought a cow, and sold it off eventually to buy a large piece of farmland to add to their holdings. More recently, they sold that new piece of farmland, and used the money to buy another one, closer to home, that became available when Wozen’s mother passed away and his father wanted to sell off land to pay for the funeral.

Though Mimose manages a small commerce on and off, the family depends mainly on their earnings from farming. They farm their own land, and Wozen works for other farmers as well. She was proud to tell me that all her children are in school, and she made it clear that her crops are the reason. She said that harvests have been poor this year. Actually, she said, “There was no pigeon-pea harvest at all. None at all.” But, it turns out she was able to sell some part of “none at all” to pay 10,000 gourds in school fees for her children, buy their uniforms, and make sure they have the other little things they’d need.

And she’s had an even bigger problem to deal with in the last months, too. In the early fall, her home was destroyed by a storm. Heavy wind and rain sent a small church sliding down a steep incline. It fell into her house, ripping the house apart. She was inside at the time, but was unhurt. The kids were out playing in the rain. She quickly cleared out the rubble and improvised new walls as well as she could with sheets.

It could have been a terrible moment for Mimose and Wozen. She consistently names her house as the most important, life-change success from her time in the program. But the couple just looked at the fallen home, figured out what it needed, and spent what they had to spend to rebuild it immediately.

Between the cost of repairing her home and the cost of the children’s school, Mimose used up the money in her commerce. All she can do right now is take some of whatever they have in the garden each week — lately it has been sweet potatoes — and sell it at the small mountain market in Dalon. It is just enough to keep the kids fed, though she jokes that her growing boys are starting to eat a lot.

Recently she considered going off to Pòtoprens to work for a few months as a maid. It is one way she could save up some cash to go back into business. But she finally decided against it. “When I thought about the way my girl is growing, I didn’t want to leave her alone in the house with the little ones.. Their father is off farming, sometimes for days at a time.”

Women in Kapab: Four Months into the Program

Louna Lamandier is a young woman who lives with her husband and their little girl at the entrance to Kapab, on the ridge that separates the neighborhood from Lonsi and the road to downtown Laskawobas. The yard in front of her home offers broad views of the Artibonit River below.

She was a school girl, and she reached the fifth grade, but had to drop out when her father became ill and could no longer send her. She started a small business selling used clothes, but gave it up when she had her baby, and never had the money to get it started again. The couple has been living on the odd jobs that her husband Wala could find. He generally works as a mason’s helper.

When she joined the program, she asked to receive goats, and her case manager gave her two. She and Wala have been taking good care of them for the most part, though they missed the first anti-parasite campaign. Their case manager will have to bring the medications to their home now, and it’s urgent. One of their goats seems to have some sort of internal bug. She bought a third goat with savings from her weekly stipend. When Wala finally received some long-due money from a job he had done, they bought a fourth. That one was already pregnant, and the couple now has five, including its small kid.

The program also gave her money to go back into business, and things are going well. She started with 4000 gourds. She buys a pile of used clothes in Mibalè or in Laskawobas, and then sells it, either in smaller piles or in individual pieces. “I take the best pieces and I walk around downtown, selling them one by one.” Her original investment has doubled. She last bought for 8000 gourds. And she’s already used some of its profit to buy chickens as well.

Like all members of CLM, Louna is in a VSLA, a Village Savings and Loans Association. But when she saw how it worked, she stopped participating. This is very unusual. Almost all CLM members are pleased with the chance that VSLAs offer to save money and to take out small loans.

And Louna likes the idea as well, but VSLA members can buy between one and five shares in the association at each weekly meeting. In Louna’s VSLA, share’s cost 50 gourds. These meetings are open, organized to foster transparency. But that means that all your fellow members know how many shares you buy each week, and Louna doesn’t want that. She would not want her neighbors to know if she only had enough to buy one or two shares. She says she will join next year, when they start a new cycle and she feels able to buy five shares every week.

Mariciane Céus is a lively, 49-year-old women. She has seven children, and five of them live with her and her husband, Frankel. Their home is on a small, bare hill, down close to the riverside.

She and Frankel have managed for years by counting one their harvests. Mariciane also would sell fish, going to the river to meet fishermen at two or three in the morning, and carrying their catch to Laskawobas for sale. But she stopped. “It is too early. It’s too much to carry. I’m not young any more. I can’t do it.”

They have always worked to send their children to school, though at the start of this year they only were able to send two . And even those two have been sitting at home since the beginning of their winter vacation. They can’t return to school, because neither has a usable book bag.

With her weekly cash stipend, this would be an easy problem to solve, but Mariciane has had another expense to worry about. She’s throwing everything she can save into building materials for her new home. She and Frankel want a big house. The one they are planning will be nearly twice as big as what the support the CLM program provides is designed for.

But Mariciane is determined. “I can’t build a small house. I have to have space for visitors. I can’t promise them a comfortable place to sleep, but they have to have a spot where they can lie down.” Just last week she was visited by a child’s godmother, he husband, and children, and Mariciane was unhappy about the arrangements she could make.

She asked for goats and turkeys as her enterprises, and they are doing well, though they haven’t had offspring yet. It is challenging, however. Kapab might seem green, but their is a curious lack of grass for goats to eat. One has to constantly scavenge leaves from the trees in the area.

She has plans for her animals. As they increase in value, her first goal is to set one aside for her oldest daughter, who is struggling to get by in the Dominican Republic. “She and her husband have trouble finding work over there. I want her to know that if she comes back, she’ll have at least something that’s hers that she can get started with.”

After that, she hopes to be able to buy a mule. She doesn’t feel up to carrying heavy loads anymore, so getting a pack animal is the key to getting herself back into business, selling her own produce and what she can buy in the area at the local market. Her plan is to use the money she’ll have saved in a year of her VSLA. It won’t be enough, but she may be able to complete what she needs by selling a harvest.

Darline is one of Mariciane’s daughters. She’s 21, and she has two young children, ages one and three. Neither father helps her support his child. Everything is up to her. She used to have a small business, selling in the market in Laskawobas, but, when she became pregnant, the money ran out. She and her kids have been dependent on her parents ever since.

Like her mother, she chose goats and turkeys as her enterprises, so the yard around their house is full of animals. Her older son and his uncle, her mother’s youngest boys, spend much of their time running around with the turkeys. One of Darline’s has already has four chicks behind it. If all four grow to maturity, they will give Darline a good start.

She doesn’t share her mother’s ambitious plan to build a large, new home. Darline is aiming for just one small room. Even that may be challenging without a partner to help her accumulate the materials she needs. She’s started to buy lumber with her weekly stipend, however, and she remains hopeful. They have already purchased some of the extra sheets of roofing tin they will need, and they think that they’ll be able to get the rest by taking the few good sheets left on their current house.

She would like to get back into business, and thinks she should be able to do so either with savings from her stipend of with a loan from her VSLA. But she’s limited. “I should sell in the local market, but unless I have someone to leave my children with, I can’t. I’ll probably start my business right here, selling in front of my home.”

Natacha Antoine lives across the main path from Mariciane and Darline, closer down towards the river. She’s nineteen, and both she and her younger sister are in the program. She and her husband have a young girl. The younger sister has two children already.

She chose goats and a pig, and she hasn’t had much luck with livestock so far. When her pig started to look sick, she sold it right away to be butchered. She only got 2000 gourds, but it was a lot better than getting nothing. She wasn’t able to get anything at all out of the goat that died.

With the encouragement of her case manager, she started a small business in front of her home. She sells snacks, like crackers, friend dumplings, and akasan, a beverage made from corn that’s popular for breakfast. The business is going well. She began with 1000 gourds that her husband gave her from his farming income, and it’s already worth double that much.

She and her husband are working on preparing the materials to build a home. Right now, Natacha lives with her parents, and her husband lives with his. But, like Mariciane, they want a big house, or at least Natacha’s husband does. His reasoning is not the same as Mariciane’s, though. He wants space in the house that can serve as a storage shed for his farming tools and also for his harvests. Natacha is willing to go along with him, even though she knows that it will mean extra investment and, so, extra work for them both.

She is very excited to be part of a VSLA. She made it to the ninth grade, so she is more than capable of being one of its secretaries. She hopes to have the discipline to save 13,000 gourds in the first year. That’s the most she could possibly save. And she already knows that she wants to use the money to buy a horse. It won’t be enough, but if her business continues to grow and some of her livestock starts to succeed, she should be able to find the rest of what she will need.

Starting in Dezam

Dieumène Thélusma is a grandmother with five dependent grandchildren. They live in Ti Sitwon, a hillside community above the road leading into Dezam from Mibalè in the east and Ponsonde in the west. Her grandchildren have been with her ever since their father, one of Dieumène’s two children, passed away. Though they sometimes go to see their mother, they really depend on Dieumène. They used to depend on her husband, their grandfather, as well, but he has been sick. He now depends on Dieumène as much as they do.

One of their granddaughters, Louinèse, has her own two small children. She was away giving birth when the CLM went through the selection process in the neighborhood, so the team missed her, though she herself easily qualifies for the program. Fortunately for her, however, one of the families who was initially thought to qualify turned out to have been lying to the team. They were removed from the list, and that left a spot open, which was immediately offered to Louinèse. She is not excited to get to started.

Dieumène has been really struggling, especially since her husband became unable to help out. She’s been cutting up the trees on her husband’s land, turning them into charcoal

Dieumène and one of her granddaughters, in front of wood ready to be turned into cooking charcoal.

She’s unhappy because her house is falling apart. “I have no one to help me.”

She and the children don’t even always have enough to eat. “If I have nothing to give them, they go to bed without. They just lie down like that to sleep.”

She’s asked the program to give her goats and small commerce, and she has ideas about each. About small commerce, Dieumène says that, “As long as I have a business in my hands, my kids won’t go hungry.” Though she doesn’t yet know what kind of business would suit her best, she is sure that she can begin to make money if she is able to start going to the downtown market with some cash in her hands.

About the goats, she says “I’ll keep them tied where they find plenty to eat, I’ll give them water, and someday I’ll sell some to buy a cow.”

Marimène Jean lives closer to the road, in a home with her husband and their five sons. Her husband helps her support the kids by farming. The couple doesn’t have their own land, so they farm as sharecroppers.

She used to earn income with small commerce. She’d sell laundry detergent and bleach by the cupful, but her business was built upon borrowed money. She never had capital of her own. She was always owing someone. Her last pregnancy made it impossible for her to sell at all, and her merchandise ran out before she was even able to pay everything she owed. She still has some debt, and she has been hoping for a way to get started again ever since.

The couple’s older children are all in school now, though only one was in school before Marimène joined CLM. Her fourth boy has a godmother who sends him to school. Marimène began sending the others just this year. “People were telling me that now that I’m in a program, I have to send my kids to school.” She sends them to the local public school. It’s inexpensive, but she’s not sure where the little money it cost will come from.

Unlike Dieumène, Marimène doesn’t even have a home to call her own. She’s been living in a house that belongs to one of her husband’s relatives. Things are looking up, however. When a local leader heard that she and her husband would have the chance to build their own home, she agreed to sell them an inexpensive plot of land to build on on credit. They can pay her as they have it. Marimène is thrilled. She and her husband have already had the pit for their latrine dug on the new plot of land.

She’s asked the program for goats, and she’s interested in poultry for her other asset. But she doesn’t want chicken as long as she and her family are where they are right now. They are too easily stolen. She’d rather have turkeys, which are easy enough for her case manager to provide.

Her plan for the goats is simple. She wants to take care of them until she has enough to buy a small cow, or, even better, a small plot of farm land. Someday she hopes that she and her husband will be able to stop sharecropping and farm their own land instead.

Mimose: After Twelve Months

Mimose and her husband Dieulifaite live in Gad Mamon with their six young children. Manno, their CLM case manager, has been working with them closely for a year. I have written about the family before. (See: here.)

All CLM families are living with ultra-poverty when they enter the program, and Mimose and her family were especially poor. They lacked the assets they would need to earn income. They had no livestock of their own, for example. Most importantly, they were feeling pressure to leave land they had no claim to. Having been tolerated as squatters for a time by the land’s owner, he had decided make them leave. Manno’s first job was to help them lease the land so they would know where they stood. He negotiated a five-year lease at a very low price, and they were able to pay thanks to help from a visitor who met them.

Mimose has seen some success. The two goats that CLM gave her are now six, and two of the six are pregnant. She could have eight or even ten within weeks. Though her first pig died shortly after she received it, the program was able to help her replace it by helping her collect the money she was owed by those who bought the meat and then providing enough additional funds to make the purchase. That new sow is now pregnant, which could mean a windfall soon. She started raising guinea fowl, and now has eight of them. They sell well, especially around Easter.

So Mimose has started to accumulate a modicum of wealth. She’s worked hard to do so. Manno, however, has been continually frustrated by his sense that Dieukifaite wasn’t pulling his weight, that Mimose was doing all the work. So he finally had a serious conversation with the man. On one hand, he let Dieukifaite understand his sense that the man was simply letting his wife do everything. He does not help much with either farming or animal care. On the other, he made sure to leave an opening, asking Dieukifaite questions about ways in which he’s earned money in the past.

And Dieukifaite started talking proudly about his trade. He used to make pots, he explained. Pots of various sizes, but with one standard shape, are produced in Haiti out of cast aluminum. Small roadside shops use intense charcoal fires to melt old car or motorcycle parts. Pieces from the motor itself are especially sought after. The molten metal is then poured into molds made of tightly-packed soil.

Manno asked him why he wasn’t making pots. Mimose would be excited to sell them for him. Dieukifaite explained that he didn’t have the money he’d need to get started, and a short conversation led Manno to reach in his own pocket and pull out 1000 gourds, just under $15. Dieukifaite had established a workshop within a week.

But the family still has a long way to go. Their new house is far from finished, they haven’t yet assembled the lumber they will need. And though the kids were in school before the new year, they haven’t returned since the end of vacation. And Mimose recently went to see a doctor about persistent heartburn, but came back discouraged when she didn’t have the money to pay for the medication he prescribed.

The thing is that she does have that money. Or at least she could have it. She’d just have to sell a chicken or one of her guinea hens. She could afford to send the kids to school as well. That would probably take a goat. But that’s why she’s raising livestock. So she can use the livestock as a resource to improve her life. She takes good care of her animals, but she doesn’t yet see what they can do, what they already should be doing, for her. She still thinks of herself as a desperately poor woman with no means at all.

Manno will have a lot of work to do to help her see herself in a new way. The first step is a plan to help her meet with the principal of her children’s school. Manno is convinced that the principal will be willing to agree to a payment plan that Mimose is capable of respecting.

Manno also wants to encourage her to show more grit as she struggles to learn to write her name. She’s not been been inclined to really try. She hasn’t even be willing to keep her notebook orderly and clean. Manno risks speaking more forcefully than he might otherwise want to speak with an adult, letting Mimose that he will be unhappy with her if she doesn’t do her homework by his next visit. There’s a carrot, too. He promises her older two children a reward if they make sure to help her.

He invests the energy into what might seem trivial because he wants Mimose to see her own success. The prouder she can be of her own accomplishments, the more capable she’ll feel of reaching further goals.

Rose Marie: At Twelve Months

Rose Marie and her husband Sonèl live with their four children in Gad Mamon, a small rural area on the border between Tomond and Ench. Before they joined the CLM program, they got by through hard work. Rose Marie did laundry for wealthier families in Tomond and Mamon, and Jonel worked in local sugar mills, boiling down sugar cane juice to make molasses, which is sold by the barrel to makers of rum.

Rose Marie chose goats and a pig as assets for the CLM program to give her, and she is doing well with both. She now has four goats, and, thanks to her sow’s first litter, she has four pigs as well.And the original sow is once again pregnant.

The couple’s progress is otherwise clear to see as well. Their large three-room house stands right in front of their previous home, and the difference is striking.

When Rose Marie told her case manager Manno that she wanted to build a large, three-room house with a front patio, he was skeptical. Many CLM members want their new homes to be bigger than they can really manage. Though CLM helps them with home repair or construction, they have invest a lot themselves. And the larger the home, the more the CLM family will have to spend. Families can leave themselves unable to finish the job before graduation. Or they can end up spending money that they really needed for other things.

But Rose Marie and Sonèl were determined, and their success is nearly complete. What is interesting is that they have not sold off any assets to manage the expenses they’ve incurred. They sold no livestock, and Rose Marie has added a small new business, not cashed out of one. She now goes to Ench early every Saturday morning and buys 2500 gourds-worth of frozen chicken meat, which she sells the same day in their neighborhood. She makes 500-700 gourds per week.

Rose Marie explains that they have built the new house using the same earnings that they’ve always depended on: namely, her laundry and his work at sugar mills. That part of their lives — their principal sources of income — has not changed. And that begs a question: If they were able to build such a nice house with their own resources, the same that they’ve always had, why were they living in such a wretched shack before they joined CLM? The couple was really struggling. Rose Marie especially talks about the cost of sending children to school. “Sending the kids to school is expensive,” she explains. “You have to pay the school, buy uniforms, give the kids something to eat.”

The did have income, but everything they earned passed right through their hands. They couldn’t get ahead. They even moved backward. Shortly before they entered the program, their youngest child fell awkwardly, hurting his knee. He ended up spending a week in the hospital in Ench. Sonèl had to borrow a pig from his brother, which he sold to cover the medical expenses. Then he had to work hard just to replace the pig.

Rose Marie says that the program’s push mobilized them. Every week, with every bit they earned, they focused on saving as much as they could to invest in the house. And her father decided to help out as well. When he saw the opportunity that CLM was offering his daughter, he decided to give her much of the lumber she would need. That made the undertaking much less expensive than it otherwise would have been. It is something he could have done years before, but he didn’t.

Rose Marie has visions of further progress. She wants to buy a cow. When asked whether she will sell off livestock to do so, as most CLM members do, her answer is surprising. She wants to keep all the livestock she has. She and Sonèl would rather continue to manage the earnings from the hard work they have always done than sell what they’ve come to own.

Four pigs is already a lot to handle. Pigs can demand a lot of attention and some expense as well. But Rose Marie wants more. She explains they when they get to be too much for her, she’ll start giving them to neighbors to take care of. Profit earned from a pig in someone else’s keep, whether it comes through new litters or through simple growth, must be shared with the animal’s keeper. But it could still get to be a lot. And Rose wants to continue to accumulate pigs and goats, and eventually cows, until she can sell them to buy land.

If Rose Marie’s progress sounds remarkable, that’s because it is. And one key is the excellent, supportive relationship she has with Sonèl. Their priorities seem aligned, and they both seem willing to work hard. But we’ve noticed the relationship in another way as well.

Manno has been teaching Rose Marie to write her name. She never went to school. “When my father heard he’d have to buy two books and two notebooks, he said it was too much.” She’s made some progress, but last week Manno noticed something curious. Rose Marie was writing “Marie” in cursive letters.

CLM case managers do not teach cursive. They teach printing. It is generally so much easier. Manno’s first guess was that she actually had been to school, even if only briefly, and was starting to remember what she had learned. We’ve seen cases like that before. But that wasn’t it. It turns out the Sonèl saw his wife’s efforts, and he decided to help. Without training, he simply showed her to write “Marie” in the only way he knew, which was cursive. And he’s been working on it with her ever since.

Phicianie Loristin – Ready to Graduate

Phicianie lives with her partner and their six children in Vadens, a rural area outside of Gwomòn. The years before she joined the program were difficult. Her house burned down in a fire caused by a kerosene lamp that turned over. She spent four months sleeping with her children under the thatch roof covering the cauldron used at a sugar mill to boil the cane juice down to syrup. The roof had no walls. The floor was a mixture of molasses, straw, and mud.

She would go to Gwomòn a couple of times a week to make a few gourds. For 50 gourds – less than a dollar – she could buy little bags of water. When she sold out, she’d have 25 gourds of profit. If, that is, she didn’t get hungry or thirsty enough to need something herself.  Her partner would work day-labor in their neighbors’ fields. “We couldn’t keep the kids fed, we couldn’t send them to school, and we couldn’t buy sandals for their feet.”

When she joined CLM, she asked the team for a goat, a pig, and small commerce. Even a year earlier, a request like that would have been hard to fulfill. Until recently, members received two different kinds of assets, not three. But the CLM changed the way it helps members make these choices. Rather than presenting a fixed menu of two-asset combinations, it talks to members about the amount that they can spend. Each member figures out what she would like do with the money by talking it over with her case manager. 

Phicianie took 2000 gourds worth of commerce. She sells limes or sour oranges, the citrus that Haitian cooks use to prepare meat. She goes to market, where she buys as much as she can with the money she has, and she divides it into smaller piles, which she sells to the people who will consume the fruit. The simple business works, and it brings in a small but steady stream of income.

The team also gave her a single, small nanny-goat. After two litters, that one goat is now five. She used savings from her cash stipend and some earnings from her business to buy a second goat, and it too is now five. In all, she has ten goats now.

Finally, the team gave her a sow. After two litters, she has ten pigs too, but she will start to sell some of them off soon. She wants to put the money together to buy a cow.

And Phicianie hasn’t just gotten wealthier. Her life and her family’s life has gotten better. They have their own house now. “My children go to school, and I feed them well.”