Approaching 15 Months

Mariane is a single mother of two boys who lives well off the main road that leads north from Gwomòn. Neither of the boys’ fathers help her with them. “I have to be everything,” she says.

When she joined the CLM program, she was supporting them with an interesting job. A wealthier neighbor had a severely handicapped teenager. The young man had been living in Pòtoprens, but his parents had trouble getting him the constant, comprehensive care he needed. He could not move on his own or even speak. So they moved him back to the countryside, and looked for a full-time caretaker. Mariane got the job. She would get to the young man’s home early every morning, get him up, bathe him, feed him, and care for him through the day. In the evening, she went back to her two little boys.

She had to give up her small commerce to take that job because it took up all her time. “I thought getting money every month would be better for me.” But the salary was small, just 4000 gourds per month. That’s less than $40. She struggled to pay her children’s school fees. And she had very little time to spend with them.

Things began to change when she joined the CLM program. She chose to receive capital for small commerce and goats, and has made progress with both. Her case manager bought two goats for her, and with the two kids they’ve had so far, that would have brought her to four. But she has come much farther than that. Profit from her business has enabled her to buy three more, some of which have also had young, so she now owns 11. She also purchased a small pig.

Her business is straightforward. The market in downtown Gwomòn is very active. There are three main market days each week. Mariane buys a large jug of cooking oil early in the morning on each of the days. She separates it into small soft-drink bottles, and walks around town, selling the small bottles of oil out of a tub that she carries on her head. The regular price for bottle of oil is 250 gourds, but she sells them for 225. She could sell for the higher price, but wouldn’t sell them as quickly. “I sell out at a single market, and make 500 gourds each day. At 250 gourds, it might take me two or even three markets to finish selling.”

She has clear plans. She expects to continue to manage her household with her commerce. Meanwhile, she’ll use her livestock to make other investments. She hopes to sell some goats soon to buy a cow. She hopes to raise the cow so that she’ll eventually be able to buy land. She is okay where she is right now. With the program’s help, she built a small new house for herself and her boys on her mother’s land. But she would like to buy land herself. “It is better when you have your own.”

Louirana lives in Zarat, close to the main road out of Gwomòn. She has two girls, and the girl’s father lives nearby, but they cannot count on him. “He found another woman.”

When the man was still with her, the family was making progress. Louirana had begun work on a house, buying materials with profit from her own business and her partner’s contributions. But by the time she joined CLM, work on her house hadn’t been progressing for a long time. She was struggling to support herself and her girls with a small commerce, selling used clothing, but had very little capital to work with, just a few hundred gourd she made now and again by selling one of the chickens she kept in her yard, all descendants of a hen a friend had given her.

The program gave her two goats, and she now has three. One of the two had a healthy kid. The other had twins, but they did not survive. She is also keeping a goat for a neighbor. When it has kids, she’ll be entitled to one as payment. She does not, however, have big plans for her animals. She seems to think of them as savings. She can sell one if she has a sudden need for money or to send her girls to school.

Her main focus, however, is her commerce. If you ask many CLM members what their commerce is, they won’t be able to tell you. They’ll say that they go to the market with their capital looking for something that they think they can sell, and then they buy it. They don’t have a fixed business.

But like Mariane, Louirana is different. She has found a very specific niche. She buys used sheets and blankets from used clothing merchants and sells them individually. She says that if she’s careful she can buy them for 500 gourds each and sell them for as much as 1000. It depends on her eye for the product and her knowledge of the market. She says that her business would have grown already if not for the money she’s had to take out of it to complete work on her home.

She credits her older sister for teaching her how to run a business. “Our mother died when I was young. I moved in with my sister, and she would take me to the market with her when I wasn’t in school.” She did not get very far in school, but learned a lot about buying and selling. And she is passing on her sister’s gift to her. Whenever her older daughter Loudjina, who’s ten, is out of school, she gives her some money to buy cookies and crackers, which Loudjina sells to children in the neighborhood. Louirana smiles as she explains that Loudjina doesn’t like sitting around. When asked to explain why she likes commerce, the girl’s answer is simple. “I like to make money.”

After Four Months in Kaledan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rose Martha chats with her case manager, Islande

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

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

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

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

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

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

Josianne Joseph: After One Year

Josianne and her partner, Bastien, live with their two young children in Lakòn, in northern Gwomòn. Unable to afford a place of her own, they lived at her mother’s. They got by on earnings from her husband’s day labor and the occasional sale of a bunch of plantains from their garden. “I wouldn’t waste all the money he earned, and we wouldn’t sell food from our garden just to buy other food.”

When she joined the program, she asked CLM to give her goats and small commerce. She received two young female goats, which became five as they had young.

But her real progress has come through small commerce. She initially used the funds the program made available to buy laundry products, like detergent, soap, and bleach. But she soon changed her business. “At our training they said that you shouldn’t stay in a business that doesn’t sell well. Detergent and soap didn’t sell quickly.”

So she came up with another idea. She began buying five-gallon buckets of cooking oil. She would sell gallons, half-gallons, or quarter-gallons to clients on Fridays. Some bought the oil for home use, but several were merchants who made and sold fried snacks at the side of the road. Josianne sells the oil and delivers it on Friday, and clients pay the following week.

The oil business only busied her one day each week, so she eventually added another. She brings cash to the market on Gwomòn’s three market days, and she buys what she finds. Anything she thinks she can turn over quickly. Often she buys in bulk, then selling what she’s purchased in small, retail-sized portions. But she also keeps her eyes open on the way to the market. She sometimes finds people willing to sell for a lower price to save themselves from having to carry their burden all the way. In exchange for the extra effort involved, she can make her trip to the market more profitable.

And she has already been able to buy two additional goats with profit from her businesses, even as she and Bastien were managing their household, investing in their home, and accumulating savings. They purchased the small piece of land that they built their new home on. “We bought it from my father, so it wasn’t expensive.”

She and Bastien have expanded their activities in other ways as well. They have begun buying sugarcane from farmers in their neighborhood. The rent a local mill, where they extract the juice and boil it down to molasses, which sells to producers of local rum. The profitability of this new activity has entered into Josianne’s broader planning. Her savings and loan association’s first annual pay-out is coming up, and she’s already decided that she will use her share to buy the largest male donkey she can afford. It will help her and Bastien move the cane they purchase.

And the couple have larger plans. By caring for their goats, Josianne hopes to eventually have enough that she can sell some of them off to buy a cow, and, once they have a cow, she thinks they can start think of buying more land, like a space to build a larger house on.

Marie Therèse Pierre: After Twelve Months

Marie Therèse is a single mother of four from Kamas, in northern Gwomòn. The children have a couple of different fathers, but none of them helps her support the kids. “I am their mother and their father.”

Before she joined the CLM program about a year ago, she had really been struggling. She had once been able to support the family by buying groceries on credit on Gwomòn’s three market days, and then selling them out of a basket on her head as she walked around town. She would pay the suppliers at the end of the day. But that business disappeared a couple of years ago because the merchants who would sell her on credit disappeared from the market.

When she joined the program, she was supporting the family as best she could by purchasing large bunches of plantains out of her neighbors’ gardens on credit, and then lugging the plantains for sale in downtown Gwomòn. It worked to some degree, but as her children grew and their school fees increased it became harder and harder. Her oldest child, a daughter, was ready for the second-to-last year of high school this year, but Marie Therèse had to explain she couldn’t send her. She just didn’t have the money. The girl was understanding, but Marie Therèse was heartbroken. “She was already so far behind. The children who started with her are almost finished with university. But I couldn’t always send her.”

When she joined CLM, she asked the team to give her goats and small commerce, and she received two young female goats and money to use as investment capital. One of her goats had a pair of kids, and the other is pregnant, so that part of her work is flourishing, but her commerce has really been the key for her.

She started with 5,000 gourds, and determined to do what is called “kase lote.” That means to break up and divide into lots. It refers to a kind of business in which someone goes to the market with cash, buys whatever seems desirable in bulk, and then sells in small quantities at the same market. She might buy sweet potatoes or okra or cooking charcoal. She’ll buy it by the sack and sell in handfuls or small piles or bags — however the product in question typically sells. Gwomòn has a major downtown market three days per week, so she could earn well.

But she began to feel as though the business she had chosen was too limiting, both because she wouldn’t always find good merchandise and because it only offered her three days of income each week. So she took some money out of it and bought two different kinds of powdered laundry detergent and two different kinds of laundry soap. It would give her something to sell out of her home on non-market days. “People always need to wash their clothes.”

Soon she was carrying her laundry products to market on market days as well. “You can’t help selling them. People stop you on the way to the market and buy before you get there, especially if you’re careful always to speak nicely to everyone.” She’s been adding to the range of products she sells at home, too. Her business now includes some basic groceries, like spaghetti and sugar.

She’s used profits to buy an additional goat, which is already pregnant, and a small pig. And she had already used savings from her cash stipend to buy a couple of turkeys, so she’s starting to accumulate quite a bit of livestock.

And she has a clear plan. When she has enough goats and turkeys, she wants to sell some off to buy a heifer, and when the cow has a calf she’ll sell the calf to buy a motorcycle that she can rent to a taxi driver. The income it earns, together with additional livestock, should enable her to buy more land.

In the meantime, she already has enough money in her savings and loan association to send her daughter back to school next year. And she keeps driving herself forward with a simple motivating thought: “If CLM gave me two, I have to be willing to work hard enough to make it four. I never want to go back to the way they found me.”

Ready to Graduate in Ramyè

Loulouse lives in Ramyè, a hilly rural community in central Laskawobas. It is cut off from the downtown area by an offshoot of the Artibonite River. Another offshoot separates it from Northern Laskawobas and the large open market in Kas.

When she joined CLM almost eighteen months ago, she and her partner were living with their child in a rented room. “We didn’t have our own house, and we didn’t imagine when we might have one.” They were supposed to pay 1,500 gourds rent per year. That’s less than $15, but they hadn’t yet been able to pay that year.

Her husband made the couple’s only income by fishing in the river and its many small inlets. “It is all luck. There are days when fishermen return with nothing.”

She asked Fonkoze to give her goats and a pig. She received two small nannies and a sow, but one of the goats got sick and died. Her other goat is pregnant now. Her pig had a small litter, just five piglets, but they all are thriving. They are about a month old, and she’ll have to figure out how to keep them out of her neighbors’ gardens for another couple of months before she can sell them.

Her real progress has come through membership in the Village Savings and Loan Association that the CLM team set up for her and her fellow members. The association meets once a week, and members bring money to save to each meeting. “It really encourages you to save, because you do not want to get a red mark in your booklet for a meeting because you didn’t come prepared.”

Toulouse initially used money from her weekly cash stipend to have something to save every week, but she and her husband, Revot, quickly understood the value of what they could do. “We agreed not to spend all of our money on food. We always put aside something to save.” When the stipend ran out, they would use money from his fishing or wages from day labor in the neighborhood’s many fields. When it was time for her neighbors to harvest their peanuts, she worked shelling them and invested what she earned in her VSLA.”

She borrowed money from the VSLA so that she and Revot could plant their own crops. They chose cash crops, mainly tomatoes and okra. A second loan helped them buy a cow that Loulouse’s father needed to sell. They have been able to start selling okra, which comes in a little at a time, and that helps them invest more in their VSLA. They eventually decided to join a second one. When the first ended its one-year cycle, they took their savings and bought another goat. They plan to use the payout of the second VSLA to rent additional farmland to increase their earnings. By the time the second cycle of her first VSLA is complete, Toulouse thinks she’ll be able to add the payout to money from her crops to buy a second cow.

And buying another cow would be useful. She and Revot were able to use the assistance that Fonkoze provided to build a small but comfortable house, but that house sits on rented land, and Loulouse wants eventually to buy the plot.

Enel lives just up the hill from Loulouse. I have written about him before. He took over as a CLM member when his wife, who was selected for the program, passed away, leaving their two small boys in his care.

Before the couple joined the program, they really struggled. “I couldn’t even live at home.” He couldn’t find a way to make money in their neighborhood, so he spent time with a brother-in-law in the suburbs north of Pòtoprens, helping with construction work. “I would earn what I could and send it home to help my wife.” He tried working in the Dominican Republic as well, where he found a job on a bean farm. But it meant staying there for months at a time. “When our second boy was born, I wasn’t even there.”

Even with those efforts, the couple didn’t have enough to get by. “When I couldn’t give her any money to take to shop at the market, she’d have to eat at her mother’s house. Or I sometimes went to my mother. She would give me stuff to take home that we could prepare.”

When his wife, Edeline, died, things became much harder. He wasn’t comfortable leaving any more because he didn’t want to leave his boys. He was able to find some local work, however. With the CLM team’s help, several of his neighbors were repairing their homes or building new ones. Though he is not a skilled builder, he does know how to cut down palm trees and turn their trunks into planks, and that was something all these neighbors needed.

He kept taking good care of the livestock the program gave him. His two goats were soon five, and one of the five is almost ready to give birth again. And his sow is growing well.

He also took his wife’s place in their savings and loan association. He had seen enough to understand how much he could accomplish by disciplined saving. When his association completed its one-year cycle, he withdrew more than 10,000 gourds. It was enough to clear off a number of small debts that had been hanging over him and to start a business that would help him manage the cost of raising two boys.

He has begun traveling to the local livestock markets. He goes to Kas on Monday, Mache Kana on Tuesday, Laskawobas on Wednesday and Saturday, Kwafè on Thursday, and Domon on Friday. He takes his business capital and buys livestock only to sell it again right away. It takes a good eye and strong negotiating skills, but he can generally turn over the animals he buys without even having to bring any home. He usually makes between 500 and 1,500 gourds at each market he visits. He takes losses some of the time, but his experience has been good so far. He’s been able to increase his capital from 10,000 to 11,000 even as he uses the business both to cover all his household expenses and to continue saving at his VSLA.

So his life has improved a lot. But he is still a long way from where he’d like to be. He still has a clear challenge ahead of him.

With the program’s help, he completed work on a house for his family. They were living previously in a room in his in-laws’ house. But the new house is on her family’s land. To their credit, they think of the land they gave her for the house as belonging to his children now, and are happy to have him stay.

But there’s a problem with that. He’s a young man, and he cannot imagine spend the rest of his life alone with his boys. He feels certain that he’ll never find another woman willing to move into a house that belongs to his late wife’s family.

He wants to buy land to build a new house on, and a friend has offered him land across the river, closer to downtown Laskawobas. It will be good for his boys because they’ll have access to better schools. But because of its location, it will be expensive. His friend offered it for 125,000 gourds, about $1,250, and he thinks he can negotiate his way down to 100,000. But that is still more than he has right now. He wants to talk to talk to the friend about a payment plan, but he isn’t ready to do so until he can offer more up front. If he can keep managing all his expenses through his livestock business, the animals he owns should increase their value, and they may make a reasonable downpayment possible.

Maricline was raised by neighbors. After her mother passed away, her father gave her to a family that was better-off than he was. “Even if I had been raised by a stepmother, she would have been family.”

When she was 16, she left them. She saw no future. They had never sent her to school or rewarded her for all the work she did around their house. “I had spent years taking care of their poultry, and they never gave me even a chicken.” She had no interest in remaining. “I was growing. I knew how to cross a street all by myself.”

She moved to Pòtoprens and found work as a maid, and she stayed there until she she met her first partner and returned to Laskawobas. When the man died, his family took their child. Maricline is now with her second husband, and they have two children together.

Before the program, the couple was surviving through day labor. They both worked in their neighbors’ fields whenever they could find a day’s work. They were living in a room in the old, deteriorating house that once belonged to her husband’s late father. “We didn’t even imagine having our own house, because we always thought we would have to get all the money at once, and a big sum of money never came our way.”

She asked Fonkoze for goats and a pig, and the two goats she received are now four. Her pig is pregnant.

But her real income now comes from farming. She used her weekly stipend to invest in her savings and loan association, and used loans from the association to rent farmland and plant cash crops. Initially it was tomatoes and okra, but her last crop was tobacco. She has repaid each loan with her husband’s help. They have made and sold charcoal to do so.

When her VSLA had its first payout, she was able to make the first payment on the small piece of land that her new home is built on. Though she and her husband were able to construct a the home with the program’s help, they had to rent the land they put it on. They will be able to complete the purchase when their VSLA pays out their savings year.

Roselène and her husband live with two children and one of her grandchildren in a house that belongs to her father-in-law. The older man lives with them as well. Roselène had three children with her first husband, but one is grown and has moved to the Dominican Republic, one lives with his father, and the third lives with Roselène’s mother because the older woman is otherwise alone. “I can’t let my mother live by herself, without anyone.”

Before they joined the program, they were caught in a downward spiral. Her father-in-law has land, and her husband is his only child, so he’s welcome to plant it. But they needed to borrow everything they needed to plant a crop, and when flood waters washed their crop away, they were left with nothing.

They needed to make charcoal to repay their loan, but without their own capital they were forced to buy the wood they would turn into charcoal on credit, and that limited the amount of wood landowners would sell them. They couldn’t earn enough to get out of debt, let alone move the family forward.

Joining the program changed that. Roselène asked Fonkoze to give her goats and capital for small commerce. She eventually realized that commerce wouldn’t work well because she was ready to give birth to her youngest child, so she asked for an investment the family’s farming instead.

Fonkoze provided the financing they needed to plant a crop of peanuts, but it too was washed away in a flood. She received two goats, but lost one of them when it wandered off from where she had left it to graze and a neighbor came across it, dead. It was pregnant at the time. She suspects someone led it off and killed it but she can’t be certain. Despite that setback, she now has five.

But by saving carefully in their savings and loan association, they had access to loans to invest in the farming and in their charcoal business. Because they can use their father-in-law’s land, they just needed the money for inputs. They’ve planted tomatoes, okra, and pumpkin, and with the okra starting to come in, they have the beginnings of a steady trickle of income. “I bring okra to market every Wednesday and every Saturday.” They can also now buy the wood they make charcoal from for cash, so they can buy more and produce more. Their earnings have this increased dramatically. They have already managed to buy both a pig and a cow with their income.

She’s still nursing, so a lot of the work depends on her husband, but that doesn’t worry her. “He goes out before six and doesn’t come back until after six again. He’s looks like a small man, but you should see how he works! And I help as much as I can.”

Katiana Elismé: Thirteen Months

Katiana lives in Janviye, a neighborhood in Dezam, the easternmost section of Verèt Commune, in central Haiti. She lives width her husband, the four-year-old, and Katianaś younger sister.

When they joined the program just over a year ago, they were in a bad state. Her husband is a hard-working laborer. “He’ll do any job he can find.” But he wasn’t finding work often enough. Whenever he did find work, Katiana would set aside a few gourds from his earnings to buy candy and crackers, which she’d sell in front of the local school. But the two together could not earn enough to make a reasonable living. They had no home, so they were sleeping in the corner of a neighbor willing to give them a little space, and they were unable to send their daughter to school.

Katiana chose goats and small commerce, and she received two small nannies and 5000 gourds to invest in commerce. She has not yet been able to increase her goats’ value very much. Each of the two she was given miscarried its first litter under her care. Both, however, are now pregnant. She used money from her savings club, or sòl, to buy a third goat.

Her commerce has been much more important to her. When she first received CLM’s investment, she just added to her business, but she soon realized that she had too much money to invest just in crackers and candy. She started making fritay, a generic term that includes a range of fried snacks. When she saw the New Year approaching, she took most of the money out of her various snack businesses and invested in the kind of new housewares that families like to by to start off a new year.

As her business prospered, she was able to invest in various ways. She and her husband worked together to finance completion of the home that the CLM program helped them with. It stands on a piece of land that belongs to her dad.

She started sending their girl to school, and plans to start sending her little sister as well next fall. She also bought turkeys and paid into her savings and loan association.

The savings and loan association investment has turned out to be important, though she was initially skeptical. “[The CLM team] said we all should join, so I decided to give it a try. I didn’t want to appear stubborn.”

When a neighbor needed some cash, he put a cow up for sale for 25,000 gourds. Katiana made the purchase by borrowing 15,000 from the association for a down-payment. She’s been making the scheduled reimbursements on time with her husband’s help, and when the association completes its one-year cycle, she will receive everything that she’s saved, and that money will allow her to pay the balance.

And the cow is important to her. “We used to live in someone else’s house. Now we have our own house, but it’s on my father’s land. We want to buy the land ourselves.”

“Since we joined the program, we feel good. We don’t take the chance lightly. We don’t waste what we have. I want to keep making progress even after it is over.”

Eltha Mervil: 13 Months

Eltha lives in Beke, a hillside neighborhood south of the main road that follows the Artibonit River through Verèt Commune, in central Haiti. She lives with her three children. The children’s father left her five years ago, though their youngest child is still just three. “I have to be mother and father to my kids.”

When Eltha first saw the CLM team walking around her neighborhood towards the end of 2020, she didn really give it a thought. “Other people have come through asking questions. They take your information, some even ask for your ID, but nothing ever comes of it. I went along with it anyway because they didn’t ask for my ID, so I had nothing to lose.”

She joined the program just over a year ago. At the time, she was really struggling. She and her kids lived in a room in her mother’s house. They had no place of their own. She supported her children by selling mabi, an herbal drink popular in Haiti. It was a good business for her in a sense, because it requires only a minimal investment — just a couple of dollars — which is all she had, and it earns small but reliable income. She could spend three days each week at the large markets in Ponsonde and Lestè, leaving the children with her mother and sister, and she managed to get by. “My children ate, but not the way they should have been eating.”

Joining the program, she took advantage of the flexibility it now offers members as to their choice of the businesses that want us to provide. She chose to receive only goats. In the past she would have been required to choose a mix of two different businesses. By choosing just goats, she was able to get three despite the increased price of them. Those three are now eight, even though she lost one to disease.

And she has plans for them. “If you take care of them, they can lead to bigger things, like a cow or even land. I built my new house on my mother’s land, but I’d like to have my own.

She and her case manager were comfortable with her taking only goats because she already had a plan for her small commerce. She was part of a sòl, a traditional Haitian savings club, with several of her fellow CLM members. When her turn came to receive the sòl‘s entire 1200-gourd pot, she invested it all in commerce.

But she saw that there was no point in putting all that money into mabi. It isn’t a business that can absorb much investment, at least not the way she knew how to manage it. So she took her money to the market to see what she could find. She decided to invest in over-the-counter medications. She would become a traveling pill merchant. She began with a small bucket, mostly containing generic pain killers, like ibuprofen and the like, and the business has steadily grown, from her small bucket to a washtub full of products that she carries around on her head. And she’s been able to make it grow it even while using it to support her family, to invest in building her new house and latrine, and buying a small pig as an additional investment.

She explains her success simply, and does so in a manner that shine a light on her further ambition. “If you are down in a hole and someone extend a pole to you, you need to use the pole to pull yourself out. CLM offered me the pole, so I have to pull myself out of the hole I was in. Someday I want to be able to offer a pole to someone else in that same hole.”

Halfway through the Process in Gwomon

Elizabeth lives in Nan Jozef, a hilly area well off the main road in northern Gwomon. When she joined the program, she was not as poor as some of its poorest members. She and her husband Jean had a chicken and a goat. They farmed, and Elizabeth bought fruit in the countryside, which she sold in Pòtoprens.

The couple and the two children still with them would occasionally spend a day without a meal, but not often. And both kids were attending a local community school. Two of her older children had already set out on their own, and her oldest daughter had taken one of her younger boys to live with her in Pòdpè, the coastal city north of Gwomòn.

But things were getting worse for the family. Elizabeth was sick all the time, and the couple found themselves spending all they could on remedies. Elizabeth went to various clinics in the area. but staff could not tell her what was wrong. She also went to see traditional healers, who would keep her on treatments for months, but nothing seemed to help. The expenses really added up. As Jean says, “Elizabeth was getting to the point that she couldn’t even buy herself underwear.”

In the first weeks that Elizabeth spent in the program, the CLM team did medical screening for all the members of each of the 200 families that were part of her cohort. Elizabeth saw one of the Haitian doctors whom CLM hired to do initial consultations, and he warned her to get screened for cervical cancer. He thought she showed worrying symptoms. She went to get tested a first time, and the results that came back from Pòtoprens a month later were uncertain. She was tested again, and after another month the test came back positive. The cancer was clear.

Elizabeth didn’t really know where she would find the help she needed or how she and Jean would pay for it, and that is where membership in CLM really helped. The CLM nurse in Gwomon made arrangements with the CLM team in Mibalè to receive Elizabeth there. Mibalè is home to a university hospital managed for the Haitian government by Zanmi Lasante, the Haitian affiliate of Partners in Health. Zanmi Lasante has worked in close partnership with Fonkoze since CLM was first established to provide healthcare to CLM families, and the hospital in Mibalè has an oncology department where Elizabeth could get care.

Like the CLM team in Gwomòn, the one in Mibalè has a nurse on staff who could help ensure that Elizabeth knows how to get through the processes she has to manage in the large and complex hospital, and when she visited Mibalè, Elizabeth could stay in the CLM office/residence there. She’dd know that she’d be among friends, and it would help the CLM ensure it was covering her expenses. Her second chemotherapy treatment is scheduled soon, and she is getting ready to travel to Mibalè for it.

Like all CLM members, Elizabeth is happy about the support she and her family are getting. She’s glad to have livestock, to have a latrine, and to been on her way to having a safer and more secure home. But when she talks about the difference that CLM is making in her life, she understandably mentions medical care first.

But it is not all she mentions. She is quick to talk about how happy she is that she can now sign her name.

“Even at the hospital, they ask me to sign my name. And now I can. Even my last name.”

Dieula and Mathurin: Months After Graduation

Dieula and her husband Mathurin live with their three children in Wodo, a small, very rural area in southeast Tomond. It sits well down a long dirt road that runs eastward from the main national route through the middle of the Central Plateau.

Before 2019, the couple was relatively prosperous. Dieula stayed at home, managing the household. Mathurin was a farmer, but his and the family’s main source of income was lumber. He prepared and sold wood, mostly for furniture. He would buy trees, and then hire an assistant to help him fell them and then cut them into planks. Then he’d sell the planks either at the large market in Ench or in Potoprens. “If CLM had come through the neighborhood back then,” he explains, “they wouldn’t even have spoken to us. They’d have walked by our house. We didn’t need them.”

Disaster stuck one day in May 2019 when he was setting up a large tree to be cut into planks. Haitian lumberjacks work in pairs, using a long saw with a handle at each end to slice trees’ trunks. They lift the log onto a frame they erect onsite. Then one man stands on the log, and the other stands below it as they saw. Mathurin’s frame collapsed, and the log fell on him, badly breaking his leg.

There is no good time for such a horrible accident, but the timing for this one could hardly have been worse. The big hospitals in the Central Plateau, the ones who might have been able to help Mathurin, depend for their medical staff on Pòtoprens. They commute from the capital on Mondays and return on Fridays. But the socio-political upheaval in Haiti meant that their trips to their places of work were uncertain. Roadblocks might interfere at any time. So the staffing for hospitals was uncertain as well. Mathurin was afraid that he would get to a hospital without its best doctors, and they’d just want to amputate.

So he joined his younger brother, who lives in the Dominican Republic, and went to a hospital there. He received care, but it was expensive. He sold his saw, the couple’s livestock, and finally their farmland. They sold everything of value except the small parcel of land their house was built on to pay his medical costs.

The leg was set with screws, but something went wrong, and it would not heal. Months went by, and Mathurin was still unable to walk, or to put even a small weight on his foot. He was in constant pain.

His income, of course, disappeared. Dieula managed to borrow a little money from a friend and start a small business. She carried groceries to nearby markets on her head, and sold as best she could. But when the CLM selection team passed through their neighborhood in late 2019, the family was really struggling.

When they joined the program, they chose goats and peanut-farming as their two enterprises. With no farmland left of their own, they had to find a plot to rent, but they managed to do so with savings from their cash stipend. Their garden prospered, as did their collection of goats. They now have nine, even though they have sold some of them to get their kids back into school.

Dieula also used savings from her cash stipend to invest in her business. Careful management has increased its value to about 7500 gourds, or about $75, even though she uses most of what she makes to feed her family and she also uses its revenue to buy shares each week at her Village Savings and Loan Association.

At the end of the association’s first one-year cycle, she used the payout to pay debts. She had been feeding her family by buying on credit from local merchants. She needed credit because her business was not big enough to feed the whole household. But she wasn’t able to repay the merchants who trusted her. She hopes to use the next payout to add to her livestock.

So the family was turning things around, but they were still limited because Mathurin wasn’t contributing at all. “My wife really does everything.” The team realized it needed to see whether it could help Mathurin with his leg, so it took him to see an orthopedist at the public hospital in Ench. The doctor was sorry to say that he couldn’t help. He could see Mathurin’s problem in the x-ray. The broken bones weren’t healing correctly. He suspected that another surgery would be necessary to reset the leg, but he explained that the type of screws that had had been used to set the leg were not the kind used at Haitian hospitals. He had no access to the special tool it would take to remove them. He said that Mathurin would need to go back to the DR.

This would be complicated. Though Dieula was building up her earnings, she didn’t have enough to pay for the care that Mathurin needed. The CLM program ensures its members and their families access to free medical care while they are in the program, but generally depends on Partners in Health. an important international organization the works closely with the Haitian ministry of health to provide it. There has been a three-way agreement between the ministry, PIH, and Fonkoze for over a decade. Because Mathurin needed to return to the DR, PIH’s free services would be unavailable.

That’s where the CLM emergency fund comes in. It is a small amount of money that the program sets aside for each family, design to protect them against the de-capitalization of their new wealth while they are in the program. Most often, it is used to help offset funeral expenses. We don’t want a sudden expense to wipe out the first steps of progress that CLM families make. The fund is less than $50 per family, but since most families don’t need it at all, it can usually cover even large expenses for the few families who need it to. Mathurin’s care would cost well over a thousand dollars. There is no way that he and Dieula could have paid for it, but the CLM program had the funds they needed.

But the couple had another problem. Graduation was scheduled for August, and by then Mathurin still had not been able to complete his treatment. A range of problems, including especially complication connected to gas shortages, political unrest, and COVID 19, delayed things. In addition, the treatment itself turned out to need time. Rather than another operation, the Dominican doctor treatment with medication over a series of weeks and months before deciding whether a new operation was even necessary.

Normally, work for a cohort of CLM families closes with graduation. Fonkoze completes expenses and sends a final financial report to its funding partner. But Opportunity International, the partner funding Dieula’s cohort, was happy to extend the deadline for expenses related to the cohort, so all Fonkoze needed to do was free Dieula’s case manager to continue to give the couple a small amount of guidance and get the funds they would need into Mathurin’s hands.

Thanks to Opportunity International’s flexibility and to the persistence of Dieula’s case manager, Manno, Mathurin did get the care he needed. His doctor decided against an operation. He was able to manipulate the leg by strapping Mathurin in place as he pulled and twisted.

As bad as that all might sound, the results have been encouraging. Mathurin now walks pain-free. He’s not ready to walk very far or to work the leg hard, but he’s happy with the progress he’s made. “I can walk again.” He is afraid to go back into the lumber business, but he already has another idea. Once he is strong enough for longer hikes, he plans to return to the market, this time as a livestock merchant.

He and Dieula are targeting purchase of a horse as their next goal. It will help Dieula get her merchandise to market and help Mathurin get around.

Laurène: Almost Six Months

Laumène is a mother of seven children with five different men. She lives in Dipwi, in northern Gwomòn, with the father of her two youngest children, their two kids, and two of the man’s children from a previous relationship. His young teenage daughter, Laurène’s stepdaughter, is now also Laurène’s makomè, the godmother to Laurène’s one-week-old baby.

Laurène is from Dipwi, but seventeen years ago she was living in Pòtoprens, supporting herself through small commerce. She sold used clothing and cosmetics. Then she became pregnant with her oldest child, and she moved back to Dipwi. The child’s father wanted her to move to his family’s home in Plezans to have the child, but she was unwilling. The five children who do not live with her are all living either with their father or their father’s family. She keeps track of them, and thinks they are all well.

She alternated through the years. When she had young children to manage, she sought help from a series of partners. As they grew, and she could leave them with other children, or on their own, she would try earning money herself. The father of her fourth and fifth children, who also lives in Dipwi, used to help her with her kids. He wasn’t willing to pay for school for the ones that weren’t his, but he gave her his harvest to sell, and he bought their own children what they needed.

That was, however, some time ago. She hasn’t had her own business in some time. She can’t right now, while she’s nursing her infant, but she plans to return to small commerce in about five months. “As soon as I can leave the baby with his godmother.” The young girl smiles when she hears Laumène mention her future responsibilities.

Laurène chose goats and a sheep as her two enterprises, and she’s excited to have them. “I have my little brother and my uncle. They can help me take care of them.”

She knows what she wants to do with them. Her objective is clear. “I own my house, but I don’t own the land it’s on. If the animals produce young, I want to use them to buy a small piece of land to build on.”

She explains her situation. The house stands on land that her grandparents left to her mother and her aunt. A couple of years ago, the aunt told her that the side of the plot that Laurène had built on belongs to her. Laurène had no idea. She didn’t think the grandparents had parceled-out the land specifically that way.

The aunt hasn’t been pushy about it, but she’s made it clear that she’d like Laurène to put her house elsewhere. Though Laurène knows that neither the aunt, who lives in Pòtoprens, nor her cousins, who are generally well-off, particularly need the land, the situation has become uncomfortable for her, and Laurène would like to move on.

In the meantime, she is managing things, even in her current state, so that her family keeps moving forward. Last time her case manager saw her, just a day before she had her child, he gave her a week to finally get her latrine enclosed. She agreed that she’d speak with her father and her brother. Here is the note the case manager left in her information book:

“You should speak with your father and your brother about enclosing your latrine so you can use it, because you will need it.”

When he arrived today, it was walled-in with new roofing tin. Quite an accomplishment for someone the week she gives birth.