Category Archives: Chemen Lavi Miyo

After 15 Months in Pouli

Gislaine lives with her partner Jonel and their two small children in Wòch Pab, a small community just south of the main road the stretches out from downtown Laskawobas towards Pouli. The side road to Wòch Pab is a narrow, rocky path that crosses a small river. Motorcycles can make the trip if their driver is willing to ford the water.

Before the couple joined the program, Jonel was the family’s primary support. With almost no resources to work with, he made what he could by hauling rocks out of the river, crushing them into gravel with a small hammer, and selling the gravel by the truckload. It might take a month to produce a load he could sell for five or six thousand gourds. When their money ran out, Gislaine would start buying groceries on credit. Merchants were willing to sell to her because they saw they way Jonel would work, so they believed they would be paid eventually.

Her first contact with the CLM team was when staff came through during the selection process announcing that they were undertaking a campaign to vaccinate local livestock free of charge. It is a ploy the team sometimes uses to identify who owns the livestock in an area. Gislaine remembers how unhappy she was to have to say that she didn’t own any. “We didn’t have anything. Not even a chicken.” It embarrassed her. “That night I told Jonel how it made me feel. He just said that that’s how it is.”

When she joined the program, she asked for goats and a pig. She received two goats, and one had a kid, which made three. She was then able to buy a fourth goat, which also had a kid, so now she has five. She also received a pig, a small sow, and it had two healthy boars. The sow is pregnant again, and she is fattening up the boars, getting them ready for sale to a butcher.

But she also wanted to get into small commerce. “The CLM team kept talking about how important it was to have commerce.” She had experience already. She used to purchase a sack of passion fruit in the market and then sell it in small, single serving piles. But she had long run out of the money she needed to keep that business going.

As a member of the savings group that Fonkoze established for CLM members in her community, she was entitled to borrow up to three times what she had saved, so she took out a 7,500-gourd loan, and went back into business. She does not focus only on passion fruit. She buys whatever she can find. She makes her purchase when she arrives at the market first thing in the morning, and she tries to sell out the same day. She works at two markets, the one in Laskawobas and the one at Kwafè.

She’s earned enough from the business to repay her loan, ensure that her weekly contributions to her savings club continue, manage her children’s lives, and buy her fourth goat. Jonel still works hard making gravel, but she is the primary earner now. She added to the business with a second loan of 15,000 gourds, which she also repaid. When the group’s one-year cycle ended and everyone collected their savings, she withdrew 25,500 gourds. She added it to other money she had available, and she bought a cow for 65,000 gourds.

The source of that extra money is also interesting. CLM members receive construction materials to repair their home or build a new one. But the home that she and Jonel shared already met the program’s minimum requirements. She thought about using the funds to improve it. She could have covered the dirt floor with cement. But the land it sits on does not belong to them. It is rented. She did not want to invest in a home which, in a sense, would never be hers. So she arranged with the CLM team to give her the equivalent in cash instead, and that’s how she bought her cow.

Her further plan is clear. She dreams that she and Jonel will someday buy their own land. That is why buying a cow seemed like a good idea to her. “If someone around here wants to sell some land, they will see my cow and ask whether I am interested because the cow shows that I have means.”

Lorimène lives farther down the main road from downtown, in Pouli. She and her husband Daniel live with their young boy, but also with Lorimène’s daughter from a previous relationship and the daughter’s two young kids.

Lorimène is not from the area. She comes from Sivòl, a mountainous part of Boukankare near the border that separates the Central Plateau from the Artibonit. She left that area to live with a cousin when her first partner died. The man’s family took their four older children. The cousin eventually came to Laskawobas, and Lorimène met Daniel, whom she recently married.

They were living on very little when they first got together. Daniel would sell his labor working in other families’ fields. Occasionally, Lorimène would earn something doing lighter work, like shelling peanuts. “We didn’t have anything. We were living badly.”

When she joined CLM, she asked the program to buy her goats, and she received two. At first things went poorly. One of the goats had a kid, but both it and the kid quickly became sick. The kid died, and she rushed to sell the nanny, even taking a loss, before it died too. Her other goat never became pregnant. It never even went into heat. Figuring that something was wrong with it, she sold it too. She used the money from the sale to buy another goat, and this third goat has prospered. It has already had consecutive litters of two kids each, and the first two kids are now also pregnant.

Like Gislaine, she also wanted to establish a business. She borrowed 7,000 gourds from her savings group, and started to sell friend snacks in front of the church that sits between her home and the main road.

She sells sweet potatoes, hotdogs, pressed breadfruit, and the small balls of seasoned fried dough called “marinad.” She is a little bit discouraged these days, though. Prices are high, and people have less money to spend, so the business is not really prospering. She cannot yet decide whether she wants to continue. She was able to start a small second business selling used clothes. After she and Daniel were married, one of his children gave her a first load of merchandise so she could start. “Even if I just earn coffee money, it is worth it.”

She and her family are now in a new home. “My husband has older children, and some of his land is really theirs, but he said my boy can have this plot, and that’s where we built our new house.”

She knows she’s made some progress. She feels blessed to have a healthy, productive goat. But she wants to make more. Yet she says that she “doesn’t see the path” yet. She is not even sure how to define the progress she wants to make. She will need more help from her case manager in the coming weeks and months to help her build her vision.

With her daughter, her young son, and a grandchild.

After Three Months in Gwomòn

Valencia has been part of the CLM for three months. She has a five-year-old boy. The two of them live with her grandmother, her uncle, and her uncle’s child. Her boy’s father lives in Pòtoprens, and does not support either her or their son.

Before she joined the program, she really struggled. She learned cosmetology when she lived in Pòtoprens, and she likes to braid hair and do manicures. But there are no beauty parlors in her neighborhood, and when neighbors engage her to do their hair or their hands, they tend to imagine that she’s just doing a friendly favor. They rarely pay her anything. Her uncle gets occasional work as a mason, and if he puts food in the house, she and her boy usually get something to eat. “But my uncle has his own child,” Valencia explains. Sometimes she and hers go hungry.

When CLM members first join the program, they receive 500 gourds every week. They receive this small stipend for 24 weeks. That’s less than $4, but some do a lot with such a small sum, and Valencia has managed hers well. She once learned to make shampoo and liquid soap out of ingredients that are readily available in Haiti’s towns, and she set aside money from her stipend to put herself into business. She can make a gallon and a half of shampoo with 500 gourds worth of ingredients, She can then sell the shampoo in smaller bottles for 1,750. It is a nice profit. Liquid soap is more expensive to make, but she has managed to add that to her business.

Even as she has done so, she has been making sure that she has money to save in her savings and loan association. She likes being a part of the association. “It gives me a way to save some money every week. And I can take out a loan if I have a problem.”

She asked for the program to give her goats, and she received two. She’s started to take care of them. But the cost of the two goats — about 12,500 gourds, or just under $100 — is only about half of what she will receive, and she plans to invest the rest in business.

She has a clear plan. She wants to construct a small beauty parlor in front of her home. She’ll do hair and nails, and sell cosmetics. She thinks that if she has a more formal structure, her neighbors will see that she views what she is doing as her profession, and they will be willing to pay her. There’s no similar business in the neighborhood, so she’s hopeful.

Getting it set up with limited resources will be challenging. But she is willing to start small, and she can divert some of the home repair materials that Fonkoze will provide her as a CLM member by planning a smaller home for herself and her boy.

Patricia Smith lives in the same neighborhood of Gwomòn as Valencia. It is called Figawo. She and her eight-year-old son, Wensley, live in the house that Wensley’s father inherited from his parents. The man himself has moved in with another woman, so Patricia and Wensley are alone. The man has been paying for Wensley to go to school, but it is September, and Patricia as heard nothing about it for this year.

Before she joined CLM, Patricia managed by doing laundry. She would go off to downtown Gwomòn a couple of times a week, and could earn as much as $10 for a day’s work. Since she joined the program, however, she has stopped doing laundry for other families. “It’s really hard work. When you finish, you whole body hurts.”

She used savings from her weekly stipend to start a business. She borrowed a wooden tray — called a “bak” — from one friend and a small thermos box from another, and she began selling snacks and cold drinks. She sells cookies, crackers, and candy out of her bak during the day, but in the evenings uses her day’s earning to buy hotdogs, which she grills and sells in front of her home. She makes enough to take care of Wensley and also to make weekly deposits into her savings and loan association.

The CLM program gave her two small goats as the first part of her asset transfer. She has decided to invest the rest of it into her small commerce. She wants to use the extra money to add more products to her business. As a first step, she’ll add laundry products, like bleach, detergent, and laundry soap.

She hopes to save up as much as she can in her association, because her larger objective is clear. She has talked to Wensley’s father about her building a new house on his land, and he’s agreed to it. She thinks that, for the time being, it is her best option. But she worries about depending completely on a man who left her. She’d like to buy her own small piece of land. that would allow her to build a house away from the man if she decides that that is what she wants to do. And, even more importantly, it gives her something she can leave for Wensley when she’s gone.

After Eleven Months in Lascawobas

Rosemicia lives with her partner and her little boy in a small house off the road that passes through Pouli, in eastern Laskawobas. Her partner farms, but her main source of income is her small business. She’s a candy-maker. She cooks down local sugar and mixes it with peanuts or coconut. She sells it in two forms, either cut into chunks like fudge or in small, harder disks called “tablèt.”

She buys her ingredients at the Laskawobas market, and she walks there almost every day. On the way to the market, she calls out her wares, selling as she goes. She then sells whatever remains by strolling around downtown Laskawobas. Once she’s sold out, she buys ingredients for the next batch and walks back home.

She had this business even before she joined the CLM program. It enabled her to keep herself afloat, but she could not do more. She and her boy’s father had started work on a house they lived in, but they couldn’t make any progress because they could never earn enough. That man has since left her.

She started to move forward using the weekly stipend that she received for her first six months in the program. She used as much as possible to make sure she’d be able to buy shares in her savings and loan association every week. Making those weekly contributions made her eligible for a loan, and she borrowed 10,000 gourds, almost all of which went to paying off debts she had incurred throughout her neighborhood before she joined the program. She mainly owed money for food, but that wasn’t all. “I hadn’t paid for the sheets I needed when I moved into my home.” Once all her debt was in just one place, she was able to start eliminating it methodically, and just one repayment remains.

As she looks ahead, she has a single clear vision. She doesn’t really want to grow her business. “I don’t want a big commerce. There isn’t really anything that sells.” Her candy business works, so she plans to continue it, especially since her family is still small.

But she has goats that the program gave her, which are slowly increasing in value. She received two, and one died but the other one had a healthy kid. She bought two more with money that was left over because she was completing a house she had already started so she required less material than the program budgeted for her. One of those goats died as well, but she now has three healthy goats. She also has savings accumulating in her savings and loan association that she will receive as a pay-out this summer.

She has a plan for her pay-out. She will take it from the association and deposit it into a local savings institution. That savings deposit will serve her as collateral for a loan. She plans to use the loan to buy her own land. She is happy that CLM helped her finish the house she’s in, “but I would like my own house, made of blocks, not palm-wood, on my own plot of land.”

Roseline lives close to Rosemicia, but she hasn’t lived there long. She was initially staying on land belonging to one of the area’s larger landowners. He had given her permission to live in a shack on a small corner of it, and had even agreed to let her install her latrine there. He seems to have been full of good will.

But he travels for extended periods, and while he was away other members of his family, who were unhappy with his kindness towards Roseline, decided to make things hard for her. She felt that she couldn’t stay any longer.

She initially moved in with one of her sisters. But she had another sister who had built a small house on a plot of land that she leased for five years. That other sister, like Roseline, had trouble with a neighbor. In her case, a conflict that started when a child was hurt slightly while playing with another child turned into something of a feud. She started working on another house on another piece of land just to get away from the neighbor.

When Roseline and her case manager suggested that Roseline could just buy the house, the sister was delighted at the chance. Roseline thus used money from the funds Fonkoze had available for her home construction to buy the house her sister had already built along with the three years remaining on the lease. Her case manager, Rony, believes that the man whose land she was driven from will be willing to pay for her to install a latrine. His family is, apparently, using the one he let Roseline and CLM install on his land.

Before she was in the program, Roseline had been getting by on small commerce. “I never let one business keep me. I would sell anything.” She would sell groceries or used clothing or produce. But she didn’t have her own money. She depended on her sisters to lend her what they could each day she went out to sell. But she couldn’t sustain the business, much less make it grow. “When you don’t have your own means, you can’t keep your business going. They give you money in the morning, and you have to pay it back at night.”

Roseline asked Fonkoze to give her goats and a pig. Her case manager bought her two goats first, but by the time he did, there was too little money remaining to buy the pig. They bought three chickens instead. Buying a pig remains one of her goals.

Her goats have been flourishing. One had three kids — though one of the three died — and the other had one. The one that had just one is now pregnant again. She wants to take good care of the goats and of whatever other animals she can accumulate because she sees them as her best way to buy land, or at least to make an acceptable downpayment, by the time the lease she took over from her sister has run out.

Hercimene lives with her partner, Yonel, and their three children in a house in Wòch Pab, a small community just across the river that runs south of the main route through Pouli. A daughter whom Yonel had with another woman lives with them as well. Hermicene has four older children no longer live at home. Two are adults, and two live with other members of the family.

The family lives by farming, though they themselves have too little to make much of. Instead, both Hermicene and Yonel work as day laborers in neighbors’ fields. “If we each make 250 gourds in a day, we spend 250 and save the other 250.” Hermicene used to be able to make more by taking full-time work as a maid, but CLM has made that impossible. “I have to be available for my visit every week and I have to go to my VSLA. Women won’t hire you if you can only work three days.

The couple’s ability to save money has been especially important since they joined CLM. It enabled them to finish their new home before any other of the members in their neighborhood. It cost them a lot. They bought palm wood planks for 15,000 gourds. The hardwood for windows and doors and to give the roofer something to nail their tin to cost 10,000 more. That is a lot of money to spend while feeding their children and sending them to school.

The couple is taking care of the goats they received, but haven’t had much luck so far. The received three initially, but two died before they were vaccinated. The program has replaced one, and there are plans to replace the other. Hermicene sees the goats as important, because selling one occasionally might be the best way to ensure her kids can stay in school. “You take care of them and take care of their young. If one gives you a billy-goat, you can sell it and buy another female, so they can keep increasing.”

Renette: Still Struggling after Eight Months

Renette lives in Wòch Pab, on the southern edge of Pouli, just below the ridge that rises and separates Laskawobas from Savanèt. She and two older daughters joined the program in July of 2022.

She has been working hard in the program, but she does not feel as though she has made much progress so far. She received two goats, but they have not yet produced offspring, though both are pregnant.

She had originally hoped to receive goats and capital for small commerce from the team, but the significant increase in the cost of goats meant that by the time she had received the two that she and her case manager planned for her, there was very little money left to start a business.

But she didn’t give up. She knew she needed some way to earn money for her household. Her partner farms in the mountains above their home. He can be away for days at a time. And while he will usually return home with something from the garden, she cannot count on it, and it is just not enough. “He might bring some plantains, but even if he does, can I really ask the kids to eat nothing but plantains at every meal?”

She started selling kerosene. It is something she has sold often over the years. Many rural households depend on kerosene for light. But the business has changed in the last year or so. The crisis in gasoline and diesel distribution has impacted kerosene as well. Kerosene has been harder to find and much more expensive. Partly that means that she doesn’t always have access to merchandise. Partly it means that rural families are more likely to buy candles or just tolerate the darkness.

When she saw that her kerosene business wasn’t really working, she tried something else. She makes dous, a traditional Haitian sweet. It can be made with brown sugar and cashews, coconut, or sesame seeds. She generally makes hers with peanuts. She can produce it at home, and carry it around the neighborhood in a small bucket, calling out her wares and selling as she goes.

But her dous didn’t sell well, so she gave up on that business, at least for now. She remains determined to start again, however. “Things are hard, but chita pi mal.” That means sitting is worse. As difficult as things are, doing nothing is not an option.

She would like to sell beans. She’d buy them in the mountains above her home, either directly from farmers or at the small, remote markets up in the hills, and could sell them at the downtown market in Laskawobas, which is not far. But right now she does not have enough money to get started.

She would borrow the money she needs from her savings group. She has been good about saving. But she already has a loan out and cannot borrow again until she repays what she owes. She borrowed 15,000 gourds. Half of it went to pay school bills. Three of her children are in school. The other half went into the kerosene business, but that did not go well. She has made her first repayment, but is struggling to figure out how she will repay the balance.

A friend has offered to start selling her kerosene on credit, and she hopes to start this week. She will pay for it after it is sold. But a business like that will not make a lot of money. The prices these days are too high. And she will need income from that same small business to feed her family, pay the balance of her kids’ school bill, and complete work on her new home.

With her youngest child and her daughter Djeffeline, who is also a CLM member, and Djeffeline’s son.

After 14 Months in Kaledan

Bettie Faustin returned to Kaledan, a community on the road through Savanèt, after the Pòtoprens earthquake in 2010. She had been a successful merchant in the capital, selling mainly clothing. But the earthquake destroyed what she had — “All my money disappeared under the rubble” — so she returned home.

She was able to start a small commerce immediately upon her return. She and some neighbors organized a sòl, or a savings club. Each week, they all contribute to a pot, and someone took the whole pot. The other women saw Bettie had nothing, so the let her have the first pay-out, and she used the money to buy bread, kasav, which is a Haitian flat bread, and peanuts. She made peanut butter, and sold peanut butter sandwiches along the road in Kaledan.

She and her partner worked hard. They knew that they could make more money from a bean harvest than from her very small commerce, so they would take money out of the business when planting season came around and invest it in a field of beans.

But their field was high up on the slope. That’s typical for poorer families. So, it was entirely dependent on rainfall. One year, they got no rain when they needed it. They lost the whole field. And, so, Betty lost her commerce as well.

The couple struggled, but through it all, they made one commitment to their children. They made sure they always sent them to school. Bettie remember how her mother made the then-unusual sacrifices to send her to school. “Even if you have nothing to eat, you always have to send them. That’s the inheritance you can give them.” When things were really difficult, she sent her oldest, who is now in his early 20s, to live with her sister in Pòtoprens. From there, he fled to the Dominican Republic, in search of work. Her four younger kids live with her and her partner and all are in school.

Bettie asked the program to give her goats and small commerce, and she receive two small goats. One had a kid, and she bought a fourth goat with income from the business she established. She has a plan for her goats: She wants to sell some of them when she has enough so that she can buy a cow.

She started a commerce buying and selling poultry. And it was working. It enabled her to manage her household and also to buy the additional goat. But poultry disease swept through the area in February, and it killed twelve of her chickens, eliminating her commerce. Ever since, her family has been living off the remaining proceeds of her last bean harvest and her partner’s income. He makes money cutting down trees and turning them into planks for carpenters.

That money was enough for them to get by and for her to continue regular contributions to her savings group. Just this week, the year-long cycle ended, and Bettie received her pay-out. It was about 12,000 gourds.

She has a plan for this money, and it is an unusual one. She and her partner have decided to get married. Normally we would encourage a member to use her savings, or at least some of her savings, to generate income. Especially in a case like Bettie’s, who recently lost her small commerce.

But Bettie is determined to get married, which will involve some expense, and it is really up to her.

And she has another plan to get her business started again. A short time ago she lent a friend 6,000 gourds that she took from her business. The friend is ready to pay her back, but she has asked them to hold on to the money for the time being. She knows that if she takes it now, it will go into the wedding too, but if she takes it after the marriage, she’ll be able to use it to start buying poultry again.

Dieusanie St. Phil is a single mother of four, living just across the road from Bettie, on a small plot of land she bought in better times. “It wasn’t expensive back when I bought it.” She lives with her four children. She was only able to send two of the four to school this year. She just didn’t have the means to send the others. “They will all go to school in September,” she says.

For years she has supported them by selling day labor, mainly helping neighbors with their bean crops. “Sometimes they pay money, sometimes they send me home with some beans or some corn.” But she says she has stopped that sort of work since she joined CLM.

She asked the team for goats, and she received two. Each had a kid, but only one of the kids survived. She herself bought an additional goats with money she saved from her weekly stipend. The goats are important to her. “I will take care of them so I can use them to send my children to school.”

Her real progress has come through her small commerce. She borrowed 6,000 gourds from her savings and loan association, and began selling local rum and cigarettes. She used the profit to increase her investment, adding other products, like home-made snuff and coffee that she roasts and grinds.

Products like snuff and coffee — things that she produces — tend to have a higher margin than things one simply buys and sells, and they have become, together with the rum, the focus of Dieusanie’s business.

When she finished repaying her first loan, she took a second for 20,000, and threw all the money into her wall commerce. She had no trouble repaying that second loan. Most encouraging is that she has been able to maintain her business even while repaying the loan. Her repayments have come, in other words, mainly from profits.

She saved in the same savings and loan association that Bettie was a part of, and she too amassed about 12,000 gourds. She doesn’t feel that her commerce needs the additional capital right now, so she has decided to buy a pig as a new investment.

She is happy with the progress she’s made, but she knows she has father to go, and she expresses this clearly. “I wouldn’t say that I am well-off, but I have started my way along a path.”

Emmania After Almost a Year

Emmania lives in a small house in Woy with her partner, Jameson, and Jamesley, the couple’s four-year-old son. Their house is just a hundred yards or so off the main road that leads from downtown Savanèt to the Dominican border.

They haven’t lived there for long. When they first joined the CLM program, they were renting a room nearer to the downtown area. Their rent was 4,000 gourds per year. That’s about $25, and it may not sound like much, but the couple struggled to pay it. Emmania herself earned no income whatsoever. Jameson would borrow a motorcycle when he could and split the day’s receipts with the bike’s owner. He couldn’t make much, and he needed to manage both the rent and the 11,000 tuition at their boy’s school. “Sometimes we would just go hungry. We had to have a place to live and we had to send our boy to school.”

Their rent was about to come due. What’s worse, the house was falling apart. “Part of the wall had fallen. I used a sheet to cover the hole.” So, her case manager sprung into action.

Fonkoze’s team was not yet ready to transfer to members the materials they would need to repair their homes or build new ones. That takes some time because each member’s needs are different. But his 50 families had already received their materials for latrine construction. Those materials included a few sheets of roofing, and the case manager thought that Emmania’s potential homelessness was more important than the roofs of new latrines. So, he asked a few of the CLM members who would be Emmania’s new neighbors — she had access to land from her grandfather — to lend her their roofing. They agreed and Emmania’s house went up quickly. When the home repair materials were distributed, Emmania paid back the loans.

Emmania asked the program to give her goats and a pig, and she first received two goats. One died shortly after the team delivered it, so it will eventually have to be replaced, and the other had a miscarriage but is now pregnant again.

When it came time to buy the pig, Emmania had a change of heart. She saw that a lot of pigs in the area were getting sick and dying, so she asked her case manager to give her a small commerce instead.

They bought plastic sandals for 3,500 gourds, but it wasn’t working out. “People ask to buy on credit, and then they don’t pay.” So as she sold off her first supply of sandals, she put the money away and bought some cement to cover her new home’s dirt floor.

She also saved just enough of the sandal money to try another, smaller business. She put a basket with school supplies on the side of the road in front of her house. But the pencils, pens, and notebooks haven’t been selling well. “I just don’t have any luck with commerce,” she says.

She also uses proceeds from selling out her sandals to continue contributions to her savings club. She is part of a sòl, a common way of saving in Haiti in which members of a group make weekly contributions and one gets the entire pot every week. Her turn comes up last, and she has already decided to buy another goat with her money. For the moment, she doesn’t really know what she will use the goats for, but she likes having them in case she needs money to cover a sudden expense.

Virgina Eleven Months In

Virgina lives in eastern Savanèt, in a community called Woy, between downtown Savanèt and the Dominican border. She, her husband, and their three children live in her parents’ home..

Up until a few years ago, the family was doing fairly well.They made most of their income by farming their own land, but Virgina managed a small commerce as well. The couple saved their money and bought a motorcycle. Renting it to a taxi driver brought in additional weekly income.

But Virgina suddenly became sick. Something happened to her lower back, and she couldn’t really move. Her feet swelled and became useless. Her family thought the condition was something magical, as though a spell of some kind had been cast on her. Instead of taking her to a hospital, which would have been a long, hard trip from Woy in any case, they took her to see practitioners of traditional treatments.

It was expensive. It didn’t help, but it cost the couple everything they had: their land, the motorcycle, and everything in her business. When the CLM team met them last year, the family was often going hungry and the children were no longer in school. Virgina could barely get around the yard with the help of crutches.

Her case manager and his supervisor convinced her to try going to the University Hospital in Mibalè, a government hospital supported by Fonkoze’s long-time partner, Partners in Health. The CLM team provided the transportation she needed in one of the program’s vehicles. She made the first trip in the cab of the small truck it uses to move goats. She has made five trips to Mibalè so far, and she is a different woman. Through medication and physical therapy she is slowly regaining her ability to walk.

She asked the team to provide her with goats and a pig, even though when she first received them she couldn’t get around well enough to take care of them. She had to leave that work to her family. Thieves stole the larger of the two goats she received, but her husband and children have taken good care of the other one, and it now has two kids. The team also bought her a very small sow, and she has since added a second sow herself with savings from her weekly stipend.

She’s learning to write her name by copying from a model.

When she first started to be able to move around again, she bought some oil and some rice and began to sell from a small table on the road in front of her home. She managed the business carefully. It gave her the income she needed to contributed every week to her savings group and some money to take care of household expenses as well. She is able to feed both her sows, which is remarkable because taking care of them can be as expensive as taking care of kids. She took out a first loan from that savings group of 10,000 gourds — about $65 — when she was ready to expand her business. She began to sell a wider range of products. She repaid that loan on time and took out a second, this one for 15,000.

She realized that she wouldn’t be able to simply buy more groceries or even more types of groceries. She needed a second business. By now she was moving around more comfortably, so she went to market and bought up local corn. She rented a mule, and brought the corn for sale to Miguel, on the Dominican border. Dominican buyers come to buy Haitian products.

That is a good business, but with the change in seasons she plans a change in products. It is almost time for the next bean harvest, and she thinks that if she buys loads of 50-or-so measures of beans for 15,000 gourds she will be able to sell them in Miguel for about 23,000. It is a good profit, and she should be able to make several trips. “I’ll make enough to buy a little water,” she jokes.

In the meantime, the family’s life has changed. They eat everyday, and her children are back in school. The couple is working on building a new home of their own on the plot of land that they moved to when they sold their own.

She does not seem sure just yet what she will do with her growing wealth. Though she hopes eventually to be able to buy land once again.

Graduating Youth

Chitine and Julme live in Makari, an agricultural area in the mountains above Marigo, in Haiti’s Southeast. She’s twenty, and he’s nineteen. Both of them come from CLM families.

Chitine’s one of eight children. “We were all living in a one-room shack. CLM helped my mother build two more rooms, so we finally had some space.”

Her mother also struggled to keep the children fed and in school. Only three of the kids living under her roof could attend. She couldn’t afford to send them all. Julme and his siblings had the same problem. At 19, he is a fourth grader because his mother was not able to afford to send him to school every year. “We could not always go.” The CLM program invested in both of their mothers, helping them establish the sources of income they need to take care of their kids.

But the CLM program’s founding director, Gauthier Dieudonné, saw a problem. His program was succeeding at helping women establish livelihoods that they could grow, just as it helped the mothers of Chitine and Julme. And the women and the families were changing their lives in other ways as well.

One of the most important was that school attendance had increased for participants’ children. And that was proving to be a lasting change. Studies of the families that were done years after their graduation from the program showed that the children were still in school.

But Gauthier thought about members’ older children, kids in their late teens or even early twenties who were too old to go back to school easily or to get very far with standard education even if they did. Julme is in school this year, but though Chitine says she will go, it is February, and she has not started yet. Gauthier worried that they could easily slip into the poverty their mothers were just escaping from if no effort was made to help them establish a way to begin their own adult lives. He started to dream of establishing schools just for them, which would offer a strong, if minimal, academic grounding; education in life skills like healthy practices and personal finance; and training to help them start in a trade or another way to earn a living.

So for years he looked for a way to help such young people directly, and he and Fonkoze finally found a chance to do so as part of larger CLM implementation. We have not yet been able to implement Gauthier’s full vision, but we made a start. Older children from CLM families were invited to join clubs that the program set up in their neighborhoods. Children from other families, with similar profiles, were invited as well. The young people received training in life skills and in personal finance. They had the chance to learn a trade, such as cosmetology or ceramic tiling. They were organized into savings and loan associations, and learned farming techniques. They received funds to invest in new economic activities. Like their mothers, they had the chance to graduate after eighteen months.

When asked how the program helped them, Chitine and Julme point, first and foremost, to progress in their social lives. Julme says that he met new people and made new friends. “I got to know a bunch of people I couldn’t have hoped to meet.” Chitine talks about how comfortable she is now talking to people, even talking in front of people.

She also talks about her new profession. “I learned cosmetology. I was able to make money around the holidays doing people’s nails.”

They both also learned good farming techniques. And this is where things get interesting. Because they both planted gardens on land that belongs to their parents, and neither garden succeeded. Chitine explains. “We planted eggplants and peppers, but the plants just dried up.”

But they both looked carefully at what happened, and they both think they know what went wrong. Julme explains that the land itself wasn’t strong enough, and that they have begun strengthening it through composting techniques that they learned in their club.

So they are both ready to give their gardens another try. Thanks to their parents’ experiences in CLM, finding the resources they need to reinvest in their gardens won’t be difficult. Chitine says, “My parents are happy that I am farming, and they’ll help me with what I need to plant my field.”

After Six Months in Pouli

Ercilia lives in Wòch Pab, a farming community south of the road that cuts through Pouli. It is just below the mountain that separates Laskawobas from Savanèt. She is in her 40s, but has only been in Wòch Pab for a couple of years. She lives with four of her children, a grandchild, and her partner, Bertrand.

A few years ago, she and Bertrand bought the land they live on from his brother for 75,000 gourds. That’s about $500 now, but would have been more than twice that when they made the purchase. They sold a large pig and a crop of beans to put together a downpayment of 20,000 gourds. Not long after that, they sold another pig and paid another 10,000. So, they still owe 45,000, and her brother-in-law has been asking about the balance. Bertrand plans to leave so he can earn the money for another payment by working in the Dominican Republic. He and Ercilia do not see another option.

The couple farm together, and Ercilia has managed small commerce on and off over the years. They have not always been as poor as they were when they joined the program. “I had the means to live pretty well, but then I got sick, and that took everything.” She was pregnant, and she miscarried. She had to be rushed to the hospital. She and Bertrand sold their one cow to cover the mounting healthcare expenses.

She has ten children. She had the two oldest with her first partner, who passed away. She had five with a second man, but she felt so mistreated by him and his family that she finally decided to leave them. She rented a small room, where she lived with the two oldest kids, and that’s when she met Bertrand. They now have two young children. Bertrand is nice enough to her older children, but he is only truly committed to his own. “He know he owes my children food to eat, but I have to earn money to cover other expenses myself. I have always done commerce. If I can get my hands on 1,000 gourds, I can find a way to make something of it.” The kids are in school, but Ercilia has not yet been able to buy them books.

Ercilia asked the program to buy her goats, and she got two. One miscarried its first litter, but the other is pregnant. She expects it to give birth in March.

But the progress she’s made so far has little to do with goats. It has much more to do with the stipend she’s been receiving each week. She has gotten 500 gourds, or about $3.30. CLM members typically use the stipend to do lots of different things. They buy food for their family. In fact, we used to call the stipend a “food stipend.” Some buy poultry. Sometimes, members put it directly into purchase of merchandise they can sell.

Ercilia has been investing it all in her savings group. A share in the association costs 100 gourds, and the rules allow her to buy up to five shares a week. She is careful to buy the maximum every week. That investment made it possible for her to borrow the money she needed to buy a hardwood tree, which Bertrand turned into charcoal the she has been selling. She is on track to repay her loan, and has begun to see a difference in the money she has available to manage her expenses. Though her stipend has ceased, she is committed to continuing to buy five shares every week

At the end of a one-year cycle, her savings group will pay all its members the money they have invested along with whatever interest the group has earned through the interest on loans and various fees it charges. In all, Ercilia could have almost 30,000 gourds if she keeps buying five shares every week. She would like to use that money to buy a cow. She thinks of a cow as disaster insurance. “If I didn’t have the cow when I was sick, I could have died.”

Angela lives nearby, though she is from Savanèt, on the other side of the mountain, not from Laskawobas. She seems exhausted by life. “I don’t know anything anymore. I have been through too much. I was a big, strong woman, and this is what’s left of me.”

And it is not hard to understand her attitude. She’s had fourteen children, and only six survive. The first nine she had with her husband, who passed away. By the time he died, the couple had lost their home in a fire. Everything went up in flames. Neighbors gave them the few sheets and old clothes that they needed.

She then met a widower, and had five more children with him, but they eventually separated. She lives in a home on land they purchased together. Her five youngest children now live with her, along with five of her six grandchildren and her current partner. Two of her daughters are now also members of the program.

The household gets by principally through farming. The family eats most of what they grow, but Angela will sometimes sell a large bunch of plantains or a couple of yams when they need cash. She and her partner also earn cash through day labor in neighbors’ fields, but she won’t let her children do so. “I don’t want them to experience that misery.”

She asked the CLM program to buy her goats, and she received two. They are healthy and growing. She and her family appear to take good care of them. They haven’t had young yet, but one is pregnant. The program budgets a certain amount of money for each member to use as a business investment. After her case manager bought her goats, Angela had some money left over, and she she decided to buy pig feed. She had a small pig before she entered the program, and has been struggling to keep it fed during the current dry season.

Like Ercilia, Angela was disciplined about investing her stipend in her savings group, but she isn’t sure what she wants to do with it. She already took out one loan, but she turned the money over to one of her children, who lives and and manages by trading near the Dominican border. She is about to miss her first repayment, so she’ll be charged a small penalty, but she is confident that her child will return the money and that she’ll be able to repay it.

She’s frustrated, though, because she can’t take out another loan until she’s repaid the first one, and she would like to start a business selling pig feed. She could make a little money, but also keep her own pig fed.

She has been struggling to learn to write her name. Her parents didn’t send her to school, and her focus has always been on her children’s education, not on her own. But she’s starting to make progress. Her girls are happy to tease her for her efforts, but they are clearly happy to see her progress, too.

Laskawobas: After Five Months

I spoke to Roseline Jean a little over a month ago. (See: here.) She was struggling. Her children’s father passed away, and her new partner is off working in the Dominican Republic. He accepts her three children, but she isn’t sure how motivated he is to really help them. A sick baby led to expenses and to days of missed work that only made things harder, and one of the two goats that she received fro the program died shortly after she received it.

She has made good progress in the short time since we spoke. Her focus now is on her commerce. She still sells fried snacks in front of her home in the afternoons. It’s a small, but steady income. She was previously buying produce by the sack as a second activity and selling it in smaller quantities, but she gave that up because prices became too unpredictable. And, especially as main harvest season passed, it was hard to count on profit.

So she tried something else. For many Haitian families, Sunday dinner is something special. It is the one day of the week on which even poorer families try to eat meat. She buys chicken meat in Laskawobas every Saturday and delivers it to her clients late in the afternoon so that they can prepare it for their Sunday meal. She sells on credit, and goes around to collect on the following Saturday morning, before she goes to buy again. Clients appreciate the service, and the business is growing. It provides a nice additional lap of income each week.

There is, of course, risk involved in selling for credit. Clients might not pay. But unlike a lot of CLM members, Roseline is comfortably literate, and she keeps careful track of what folks owe her in a notebook.

She tracks the debts in dollars because, like many Haitians, she thinks of money in terms of Haitian dollars, not gourds. A Haitian dollar is five gourds. It is a holdover from the Duvalier dictatorship, under which the gourd’s value was fixed at five to the dollar. She has a similar list for her snack business, and says that she hasn’t had trouble collecting what she is owed so far.

Though forage for her surviving goat has been in short supply since the weather has turned drier, she and her children have been fighting to keep it healthy by bringing food to it. “We collect leaves from the trees around here and bring it to our yard. We make sure that it has a lot to eat.”

The goat is pregnant, and means a lot to Roseline. She says that eventually she’d like to buy more of them. “Raising goats can leading you to raising a cow, and raising a cow can enable you to buy land.”

Katiana Joseph lives in the same small neighborhood. She seems much younger than Roseline. She and her partner, Raulner, live with their child in his mother’s house.That house is home to quite a crowd. About ten in all are cramped into the small space.

Raulner is the home’s main earner. He works as a taxi driver, with a motorcycle that he rents from an older brother. Between what he earns and the contributions that other household members make, the family usually has something to eat.

Katiana received two goats, and one is pregnant. They are healthy and growing. She is hopeful. She would like to start a small commerce, but she isn’t really sure how she should go about it. She will need a lot of help from her case manager to establish the direction she was to take.

She is happy, however, that her family now has a latrine. “Everyone has to have a latrine. If you don’t have one, everyone can see you.” Raulner worked hard so that the family would be able to use what the CLM program was offering. Raulner himself dug the pit. He then had to carry all the cement and other materials they would need. They live some ways off the main road.

They haven’t been able to enclose the latrine yet. For now they are using sheets, but they are hoping to buy and prepare palm wood planks to wall it in.