Category Archives: Chemen Lavi Miyo

Nearing Graduation in Verèt.

Annia lives in Maren, an area of Verèt, a large commune that sits along the Artibonit River in Central Haiti. She shares a small house with her two daughters, ages eleven and four. The girls’ father does not help them. “I am their mother and their father now.”

Before Annia joined the CLM program, she struggled to support her girls. She would sometimes do laundry for a neighbor or various other chores she could find to do, like shucking peanuts or beating dried beans out of their pods. “I might not always get paid with money, but at least they would give me food I could bring home.”

She also managed a small commerce. A friend of hers taught her how, at least during the right times of the year, she could by millet or corn with credit from farmers, take it to be milled, and sell the milled product for a small profit. The rest of the year, she would buy small piles of used clothing on credit, and sell individual pieces, either sitting in a spot in the market or strolling around with them in her hands and on her head.

When she joined the program, she initially decided to invest in a pig and small commerce with the funds Fonkoze would make available. But she began to feel as though the opportunities to engage in trading were disappearing because of the way gang control of the communes just west of Verèt eliminated access to the larger markets there, and so she bought goats with the money she would have used for her commerce. She ended up buying three. The purchase left her enough to buy a chicken as well.

She soon added a fourth goat. She bought it herself when she it was her turn to receive the funds from a savings club she joined using the cash stipend she was receiving for the program’s first months. It was only a very small goat. It cost just 4,000 gourds. But she’s been taking good care of it, and it is growing. One of the other ones miscarried, but another one is in the last stages of pregnancy, so she should have an additional goat or two soon.

Her pig grew quickly, but it died before she could realize all the profit from it. She was able to sell the meat, however, and she bought two very small piglets with the money from the sale. Those two pigs are now doing well.

She participates actively in her savings and loan association. At the end of the first cycle, she had accumulated more than 20,000 gourds, and she really needed the money at the time. She used most of it to pay her children’s school fees and to eliminate some old debts. She did not hesitate to continue in the association for its second cycle. She buys shares every week. She does not know yet what she will do with her savings at the end of the next cycle, but she has time to plan.

She has no doubt about her longer-term plan. “I still live on family land. I want to use the animals I am raising to buy land of my own that I can leave to my girls”

When asked about what she’s accomplished in the program so far, she is just as clear. “I used to wake up some days without any hope. I had nothing to feed my girls and no idea where I might get something. The girls would tell me that they were hungry, and there’d be nothing I could say to them. I don’t have that problem any more.”

Fabienne with her daughter, Nadeline

Annia’s next-door neighbor is her sister, Fabienne. She lives in a small house with her husband, Jean Wisly, and their two daughters. She is also a CLM member, but she joined as part of a newer program, one for families not quite as poor. Rather than the whole package of accompaniments that Annia is receiving, Fabienne received only funds to invest in earning income, the chance to participate in a savings and loan association, and monthly visits from a member of the CLM staff.

It would be easy to imagine that the difference in the treatment the sisters have received could become a source of jealousy, but Fabienne says she hasn’t felt that at all. “I don’t need to feel jealous. Not everyone is at the same level.”

And her situation was different from the one her sister was facing. Her husband is a devoted father. Sometimes he goes to work in the Dominican Republic, but at home he farms as a sharecropper. “He’s not afraid to do what he has too. He’ll even sell a day of labor when that’s all he can find.” She would bring in money as well, trading in the nearby markets in Dezam and central Verèt. She had no steady commerce, but would go to the market with whatever money she had, look for something she could buy, and try to set it at a profit.

When Fonkoze offered her funds to invest to make her business grow, she chose to go in a different direction. It might have seemed natural for Fabienne just to invest in the kind of trading she was already doing, but larger trading activities in her region used to start with merchants who would buy at the important regional market in Ponsonde or even in nearby cities like Senmak or Gonayiv. But passage to all those areas has become dangerous because of a gang which has occupied Ponsonde. Commerce is difficult, so Fabienne decided to invest in livestock instead. She bought three goats with funds from Fonkoze, and used the change to purchase poultry. She eventually bought an additional goat with money that she and Jean Wisly were able to save out of what they brought in.Two of the four goats are now pregnant, so she may have more goats soon.

Like Annia, she likes saving money in her savings and loan association, and she is happy to say why. “When I save in my VSLA, the box isn’t in my hands and neither is the key. I can’t get my hands on the money, and so I can save.” She used the money she received at the end of the first cycle to do several things, including buying a pig, and she shares Annia vision for the future. “We’re living on our family’s land. My husband and I want to buy land of our own. I’ll sell all the animals I own if I have to.”

Fania is a single mother of three who lives just down a dirt path from Annia and Fabienne. Like Annia, she is a member of the program for families in the deepest poverty.

Just two of her three children live with her. Her middle child lives with the child’s grandmother. “He was the only child the man had, and when we broke up his family asked for him, so I let them take him.” She now lives alone with her two other children in a house that belonged to her late mother.

She used to support her kids with a business selling housewares. She would borrow money from her aunt, and buy her merchandise in Senmak or Ponsonde. But she gave that business up when the trip came to seem too dangerous. It got to the point that there were days when she could not feed her kids at all.

She asked the CLM team to help her buy some goats with the money it could make available to her. She bought two, and now she has six.

But she also has been able to start a new business. She lives right behind a school, and when it is in session, she sits out front making and selling fried snacks, “fritay.” Schoolchildren eat them before and after school and during recess. When the school is not in session — like now, when summer vacation has begun — she sells fried egg sandwiches. The sandwiches, called “pen a ze,” are a popular street food.

Much of the money to start the commerce came into her hands when she received pay-out at the end of her savings and loan association’s first cycle, even though much of that money went towards overdue school bills and food for the household as well. But she is excited about the second cycle. Her group is a couple of months into their one-year cycle. This time she wants to buy a cow.

Getting Started in Gwo Moulen

Gwo Moulen is an agricultural community along the north side of the ridge that separates Laskawobas from Savanèt in Central Haiti. It is a long way from downtown Laskawobas, a long way even from Pouli, the closest that any kind of road comes to the place. Getting to Gwo Moulen means a hard uphill hike that takes a couple of hours.

Roseline was born in the area, but she moved down to Pouli as a young girl. After meeting her husband Simon, she moved back to Gwo Moulen to be with him. They now live in a small home with their two young children, ages seven and four, on land that belongs to Simon’s family. They have not yet been able to send the kids to school. They can’t afford to. But, what is worse, there are days when they don’t have anything to feed them.

The couple are farmers, and they earn what they need to farm their own small plot by working in their neighbors’ fields. They can sell a hard day’s work for 200-250 gourds, which is less than $2.

Roseline was excited right away by the training she participated in at the very beginning of the program. She was especially struck by what she learned about farming peppers, something she’s never tried to grow. “They said I can just put the seeds in water to see whether they are good. Good seeds don’t float.” She wants to start growing peppers right away. It does not take much to plant a small garden, and she can sell what she grows at the market.

She plans to use the resources that the program will make available to invest more in her garden and to start raising livestock. She thinks that if she takes good care of goats, they will multiply. Eventually she’ll be able to sell of some goats to buy a cow and then, farther down the road, maybe some land.

Maude and her husband Brunel live in Gwo Moulen as well. She moved there when she and Brunel first got together about six years ago. They are in a house on land that belongs to her father-in-law. She’s originally from Do Bwa Wouj, a market community located about an hour’s hike eastward along the ridge.

The couple has three children. They were able to send the two older ones to school this year, but there’s a catch. They bought the uniforms and the supplies, but they were not able to save up the school fees. Recently, the principal sent the children home until their tuition has been paid.

She and Brunel support the family as day-laborers. They sell a day’s work in their neighbors’ fields for just under $2 each. “It’s enough to feed us,” Maude explains, at least when the folks who hire them pay. Sometimes, however, days can go by. And she adds, “On days when we can’t find work, we have nothing to eat.”

She’s been thinking about how to use the funds the program will provide her for investment, and she feels sure of one thing. She cannot try small commerce. If she tries to sell something in Gwo Moulen, people will expect to buy on credit and then they won’t pay. So she’d rather get livestock. “M ka chanje bèt.” That means that she can take care of animals: goats, pigs, even chickens. She hopes that the animals will eventually make it possible for her to buy some farmland so that she and Brunel can work their own land rather than their neighbors’.

Ready to Graduate in Eastern Savanèt

Germanie Antoine lives just off the road that leads from Savanèt eastward towards the Dominican border. When she and her husband, Jeangard, joined the program, they were just getting by. The family of four lived in a single small room that they rented. Its roof was no good. The family and everything they owned would be soaked by every rain.

Things were a little better during the annual avocado season. She had neighbors willing to sell her their harvest on credit. “They knew me and they knew my father. If I didn’t pay them, they knew where to go.” She’d haul the avocados away for sale down the dirt road that passes through her neighborhood, at the Dominican border, and then return home to pay what she owed.

But the rest of the year, she, Jeangard, and their two young children lived mainly off whatever he could earn as a day-laborer, helping skilled construction workers by mixing or hauling cement. “I had nothing. No livestock. I didn’t have a chicken. I didn’t have even a single chicken feather to clean out my ears.”

When she joined the CLM program, she asked for goats and small commerce, but she did not make much progress with her goat. The program gave her one, and it had a first litter of two, a buck and a doe. When it was time to register her boys for school, she sold the buck to pay their tuition. The young doe was stolen shortly after that. The first goat became pregnant again, but died suddenly, just before it should have given birth.

Her case manager encouraged her to think about the small commerce she’d like to establish, and they came up with a plan. “You could have a suitcase of money at home and not know what to do with it. The CLM team gives you advice. Even if you have nothing, they can help you succeed.”

The business model they came up with was straightforward. Germanie would buy groceries on Thursdays at the large market in downtown Savanèt. “I put them on display at the market, and sell what I can there. I bring home whatever’s left, and sell it from my house the rest of the week.”

She started with the money that the team transferred to her for small commerce, but she soon added to the business with credit from her savings and loan association. She now has about 20,000 gourds in the business. “I cannot buy for all that money every week, but, when I am short, people sell me the rest on credit. They know I can pay.”

The business took off. It helped her manage her household expenses, and did much more. She repaid the loan easily. She used her income to make weekly contributions to a sòl, a traditional Haitian savings club, and to her association as well. She bought another goat, which has already produced offspring twice, three small goats in total.

When she, her husband, and her case manager saw that her husband was not getting any work, they came up with a plan for him as well. They took proceeds from her business so that he could start a business of his own. He buys Dominican plantains at the border, and he brings them back for sale to Savanèt. His customers are mainly wholesalers, who bring them for sale to Mibalè.

With them both now bringing in steady income, they have been able to accomplish a lot. First, they bought a very small parcel of land close to the room they had been renting. Then, they managed all they they had to do to build a home on it. By this time, each had family in the DR, and they got help from her brother and others who were anxious to know that they had moved into their own home.

And their income is growing. When her turn came to receive the money from her sòl, Germanie added to it with a new loan from her savings and loan association, and the couple bought a used motorcycle. They rent it to a taxi driver, who pays them a fixed sum every week.

Johanna Josue joined the CLM program as part of the same group that Germanie was part of. The two women are just about a month from graduating.

Johanna and her husband had been living in the Dominican Republic with their sons, but she had no legal status, so she was always at risk. She and her husband decided she’d return to Savanèt with their boys. He sent money for her to rent an apartment, but he found another woman shortly after that and then stopped sending support Johanna and the children. When Johanna no longer heard from him at all, she asked folks whom they new back in the DR, and she heard that he had moved on to Brazil.

Initially, Johanna struggled. She supported the boys as best she could as a day laborer. She would look for work in her neighbors’ fields or doing someone’s laundry. For the most part, she was able to keep them fed. When she joined the program, she reported that they occasionally went a day or more without a meal, but only rarely. But she could send just one of her three boys to school. She didn’t have the money to send the other two.

Like Germanie, Johanna asked her case manager to provide goats and small commerce. She, however, took two goats, rather than one, and left less of her transfer for commerce. But shortly after one of the goats had its first offspring, thieves took all three.

Like Germanie, however, her small commerce is what has really helped her succeed. She tried several businesses — school supplies, laundry soap, cosmetics — looking for what worked best. She eventually found a body lotion that sells very well. She buys it in large quantities in Laskawobas, then brings it home for sale. Most days, she sells it from a small stand on the side of the road, but on Saturdays she walks around the area, selling it from a basket she carries on her head. “It sells much better when I walk around with it.”

Her business model is odd. She travels to Lascawobas only every couple of months and buys her merchandise. It then takes her two months to sell out. She would like to have a commerce that turns over more quickly, but, she says, “you have to do what you’re comfortable with.”

She earns enough to manage her household expenses, to buy shares each week in her savings and loan association, and to contribute to her sòl. She contributes 2,500 gourds to the latter every week. The sòl is important. She uses its pay-out to buy the merchandise, so as long as she contributes consistently, she can spend the rest of what she earns.

Like Germanie, Johanna too needed a place to live. Thanks to conversations between her, her case manager, and a member of the committee of leaders who support the program in her neighborhood, she had the chance to buy a small piece of land. The committee member was willing to sell it for just 75,000 gourds, and he and his wife agreed that Johanna could build on it and then move in right away, rather than having to wait until she finished paying. Johanna’s sister lives in the Dominican Republic. She saw that Johanna had managed to build a small house that she shares not only with her boys, but with the two women’s mother, too. She paid Johanna to add another room to the home that she can stay in during her occasional visits. Johanna eventually added a third room herself, too.

Johanna wants to do more. She has been accumulating livestock. The program helped her replace the goats that were stolen with two more. One of these has had a kid, and the other is pregnant. She has also been purchasing poultry. Eventually, she would like to build a room out of block to add to her new home.

Jocelyne Right after Graduation

Jocelyne has been a widow since 2019. She lives with her six kids and her mother along a dirt road that leads into downtown Laskawobas from the east. Until recently, only her three younger children lived with her and her mother, who is showing signs of dementia.

The three older ones lived in the Pòtoprens area, with her sister. There they went to school there with her sister’s help. Jocelyne couldn’t afford to send them. But her sister lives in central Kwadeboukè, in an area controlled by one of the many gangs who dominate much of the Pòtoprens area now. Her kids felt unsafe, and she was scared to have them there, so she made them come home. Seven dependents is a lot for her to manage, but she did not feel she had a choice.

Before she joined the program, she fed her family with a small business on the road in front of her home. She made pate, a fried pastry popular as a snack food in Haiti. They are usually filled — with meat or eggs — before they are fried. But Jocelyne filled them with neither. “I couldn’t afford to buy meat or eggs. I just put a little dried herring in mine.” She took care of a pig, but it didn’t belong to her. It was, however, a reason for hope, because those who take care of livestock for others a generally paid in kind. Jocelyne had a chance at owning her own pig whenever the sow in her care might have a litter.

She asked the CLM team to buy her goats. She received two, but one died. When her case manager was ready to replace it for her, she asked whether she could have money to start a business instead. Her case manager agreed, and she started selling cold soft drinks.

That business worked well, but there was a problem. The drinks sold well whenever there was a public gathering, like a cock fight or a wake. But in her neighborhood, there were too many days with nothing going on.

So she came up with another idea. The Dominican border is not far from her home. She began buying basic groceries in Elias Piña, in the DR. A lot of goods are cheaper there than in most places in Haiti.

And she came up with a unique way to sell them. She goes door-to-door offering her wares. Her clients do not pay her right away. She makes a second visit to collect what the owe the day before she is to go back to Elias Piña. She says that her clients pay on time. “I don’t really give them a lot,” she explains. So her new business keeps the cash she needs coming in. When there is an event in the neighborhood, she can still buy soft drinks for the occasion.

But though the business helps her with a steady income stream, it is not her principal success. When she was evaluated for graduation, she had 105,000 gourds in assets. That’s over $800. The program had given her business assets worth just 18,000 gourds.

Her spectacular growth depends on livestock. With profit from her business, she bought a sow. She bought another with a loan from her savings and loan association. She now has four sows, one of which has a litter of eight piglets trailing behind it.

She serves as the president of the association, and she opened two accounts in it. That means she can save twice as much each week as most of her fellow members. “I had been in an association before, though it hadn’t really worked. I thought that with my case manager there I could use it as a good way to save.”

Her first priority with the money she saves was to make sure she can always pay for her children’s school. It gets to be a lot. That’s how she used most of her savings at the end of the association’s first 12-month cycle. But she should have enough money when the next cycle ends to buy a cow, an important goal. “My house belongs to me, but I rent the land it’s on. A cow could help me buy my own land.”

Yvrose, Right after Graduation

Yvrose graduated from the CLM program at the end of January. In December, when she was evaluated for graduation, she had accumulated 82,000 gourds of wealth, over $630. That is a lot for a woman who had reported owning nothing less than 18 months earlier.

When she joined the program, she, her husband Jean Gaby, and their three kids had been living in the kitchen of a church that had been built on her family’s land. Seeing her situation, the church’s pastor eventually threw up a shack for the family, built of old roofing tin and wooden planks that no one wanted.

Her case manager, Figaro, told her that she’d have to have a dry, secure home to graduate from the program and that the program would help her. She answered that there was no way that she and her husband would be able to do so, even with CLM’s help. She now looks back at Figaro’s response with a smile. “What do you want me to do?” she says he asked, “Kick you out of the program because you can’t build a house?”

“If you start, you’ll finish,” he added. “Just start.”

Figaro was right. Few families have succeeded more dramatically in their effort to build a new home than Yvrose and Jean Gaby did. Typical CLM members’ homes are two rooms, built of palm wood planks or rocks and dirt, but Yvrose now has a solid three-room home of cinder blocks. Jean Gaby brought down the cost somewhat by collected the sand they’d need to make the blocks for construction from the local riverbed, bucket by bucket. But the home still required a lot of expense. It involved taking out and then repaying three loans from her savings and loan association, worth a total of 45,000 gourds in all.

The results of her efforts are clear for anyone to see.

The new house on the left, the old one on the right.

But 45,000 gourds was a lot of money to borrow and repay, and Yvrose had to start generating income to repay those loans. The CLM team gave her two goats and a small package of poultry, and she succeeded to a degree with both, but neither would help her manage those construction costs or, for that matter, her family’s daily expenses.

So she also borrowed money from her savings and loan association for commerce. She took a loan of 15,000 gourds — about $115 — and started buying plantains and other produce from farmers and others bringing them to market. Her home is right along an important dirt road that leads to downtown Laskawobas from farming areas to the east and south. She would just wait for sellers to pass by. Many were happy for the chance to sell to her. They carry their merchandise to market themselves, balancing it on the head, and are happy if they can get rid of their load early.

She would sell the produce to wholesalers, who would bring it for sale to Pòtoprens. “I try to avoid having to bring it to Laskawobas myself, too, so I won’t have to pay a motorcycle.” She waits for buyers coming up the road just as she waits for sellers coming down it. She makes her money by being in a good spot and by negotiating prices skillfully.

But the unrest in Haiti has made it almost impossible for buyers to reach her from Pòtoprens. She had to give up that business.

Fortunately, she had another option prepared. The CLM team tested a new kind of training workshop for her group, and Yvrose was excited to participate. She learned to make different snack foods out of plantains, peanuts, and coconut and to package them for sale. It is a way to make higher-mark-up items out of commonly available ingredients, and it can be more profitable than mere trading is. By then, Yvrose had built her business capital up to 30,000 gourds, and she put all that money into her new snack business. The business is now growing. Her products are popular. More and more people hear about it. They come to her home to buy.

And Yvrose has a plan for her next steps. She wants to add another room to her house to give her children more space, and she wants to build up her assets though investments in livestock so they she and Jean Gaby can buy more land.

Yvrose and Jean Gaby

Woodia after Graduation

Woodia graduated from the CLM program late last year. We have written of her before. When she joined the program, she and her three children were living with her parents. She depended on them for almost everything. Her only income was money she made by selling a few snacks from a small table next to her mother’s shop. Her mother encouraged her to sell for herself even as she sat in the shop, selling for her mom.

Woodia asked for goats, but hasn’t really succeeded with them. She also asked for small commerce, and with it her success has been remarkable. She started with just 15,000 gourds’ worth of merchandise, about $115. But she took what she learned from her mother, and made the business grow. It is now worth over 125,000 gourds. She sells at the Savanèt market. She was selling from a small booth within the market, but she outgrew it. She now lays out her merchandise on a neighboring field, with other larger merchants.

Successful program members have always used the program to build dry, secure homes as well, but Woodia had to do something different. “Building on the land I had would have been too expensive.” The only plot she had available was what her parents could give her, and it was sleepy sloped. She would have had to pay a team to cut a flat space into it to build on, and she didn’t think it made any sense.

So she rented an apartment in downtown Savanèt instead. It costs 25,000 gourds for a year. It was expensive, but she thought it was important. “Now I am close to the market. I don’t have to walk back and forth to my mother’s house anymore.”

She has been saving 2,000 gourds each week in her savings club. The club’s rules allow members to buy just five shares each week, and the share purchase price is 200 gourds. So, to increase her ability to save, Woodia opened a second account. She buys five shares each week for each account.

When the cycle comes to a close, she knows exactly what she wants to do. She plans to buy a piece of land she can build a home on. She does not want to keep paying rent forever.

When asked how her mother, who first taught her business, feels about her success, Woodia smiles. “She’s really proud. And I am too. She knows that if she needs anything — food to make dinner or money to buy merchandise for her business — she can just send me word. I can take care of it.”

Vernette after Graduation

Vernette and her husband Rodrigue live with their two small children just east of downtown Savanèt on the dirt road that winds all the way to the Dominican border. Before their family joined the CLM program, they really struggled. Rodrigue got work when he could as a mason’s assistant, mixing cement with a shovel or lugging blocks or buckets of cement for skilled builders. Vernette would occasionally do laundry for neighbors.

Vernette asked the program to give her goats and small commerce, but she’s been able to do very little with them. The very small plot of land they live on gives them very little space for goats to graze. She received two and she chose to buy a third, but they haven’t reproduced. She started buying poultry, but her luck with that has been even worse. Most of what she’s acquired simply died.

But she had no trouble qualifying for graduation, because she built up a small grocery business that she runs out of her home, and it is succeeding well.

To say that she runs it out of her home is misleading, however. In fact, she and Rodrigue built a a separate one-room shack next to the two-room house she built as a member of the program for her business. And the construction of the two buildings is an interesting story.

When she joined CLM she was living in a home, but not a shelter. The walls of her then-home were falling apart. Its roof was in ruins. It could not keep her and the family even minimally dry. She could not establish a business, because she had no way to secure her merchandise. Or anything else. She would complain to Rodrigue, but he had no interest in helping her build a new home. “He would always say that many women had it worse than I did.”

Faced with the chance to receive the program’s support, she decided she had to act. She started pulling out the rotted wood planks from their home’s walls, making their situation worse. She wanted to bring Rodrigue to recognize and grow ashamed of their circumstances. She started talking to neighbors, friends, and anyone who would listen about Rodrigue’s unwillingness to do anything.

It worked. As Vernette says, “He was embarrassed. So when he saw the 22 sheets of roofing that the program gave me, he got to work, collecting the lumber we needed. Before long, the family had a dry, secure home. Rodrigue realized he had done the right thing on the first rainy night. “He was so happy that we were dry.”

With a secure home, she was able to start to grow her business. But there was a problem. With just two small rooms for her family and her merchandise, there was not enough space. She and her case manager talked about it, and they talked with Rodrigue. By this point, his attitude had changed. He was ready to help however he could. And he used income from his labor to buy what they needed — roofing material, lumber, and cement — to build a second small structure in their yard. That second building is now her shop.

And Vernette has bigger plans. She cannot sell her goats right now, because they are not in good shape. But Rodrigue has agreed to help her nurse them back to health. He takes them with him into the fields when he does his farming. She hopes that when her savings club ends its next one-year cycle, she be able to take her payout along with whatever she can get from selling the goats to buy a cow. Owning a cow will put her and Rodrigue on their way to achieving their larger goal. They want to buy more land.

Roselène at Graduation

Roselène graduated from the CLM program on December 18, 2023. She and her husband live with three of their children in Lagwas, a small area of western Savanèt, close to Haiti’s border with the Dominican Republic.

The couple has five children, but two of them were sent to live with other families. Roselène and her partner Elinord could not afford to take care of them. Kenson, the one child living with them who was old enough for primary school, could not attend. His parents couldn’t send him. They lived in a rented room and earned what they could working in their neighbors’ fields.

But the pair joined the program, and they got to work. “We started saving 500 gourds every week in our VSLA.” At first, they used the stipend they received from the program to build their savings. Once they stopped receiving the stipend, they started setting aside money from what they could earn through field work. Before their VSLA’s first cycle was complete, Roselène had borrowed 45,000 gourds to make the downpayment on the land that she and Elinord needed to construct a house.

After paying back that first loan, the couple took out additional ones. Roselène has used them mainly to buy additional livestock. She now has four goats, a pig, some poultry, and a small cow. With each loan, she makes a new investment. She repays the loans with money that Elinord earns working in the DR.

All this forces a question: Elinord’s capacity to earn money in the DR was neither created nor even increased by CLM. Why was the pair unable to build any wealth before they joined the program?

Rosemène’s answer is simple. “We never saw what we could do. No one encouraged us.”

Their lives have changed. Kenson, their son, is now in school. They eat two meals a day. They have livestock worth almost 67,000 gourds, or over $515. And Roselène has a plan. In the next months, the second cycle of her VSLA will close, and she will receive what she has saved with interest. She plans to buy farmland so she can work for herself, and not always for others.

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.