Category Archives: Chemen Lavi Miyo

Rose Marie: At Twelve Months

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phicianie Loristin – Ready to Graduate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Godfather: Evens, Almost Two Years After Graduation

Evens Victor is a young blind man. He lives in the countryside outside of downtown Gwomòn. He joined the CLM program in 2017 with the first cohort of families who went through the program there, and he graduated from it in January of 2019.

Before he joined CLM, he depended on his parents for everything. “If I wanted to have a few gourds in my pocket, I had to ask them for it.” But he joined the program, chose goats and poultry as his two assets, and got to work. He couldn’t take care of the livestock by himself, but his mother was willing to help him manage it.

The poultry didn’t do very well. He couldn’t keep an eye on them himself, and his mother was too busy with other things to give them all the attention they would have needed. But his goats flourished. The program gave Evens just two young females, but he soon had eight goats. That is as many as he really wants to have. He sells younger ones now and again, and he puts the money into one of his savings accounts.

That is an unusual decision. CLM members and graduates frequently sell livestock, but usually they do so to cover an expense or to make an investment. They might sell goats or pigs to buy a cow. They might sell an animal and use proceeds of the sale to buy merchandise for a small business or to invest in their farming. They might make a sale to cover school expenses for their kids. But they wouldn’t normally sell an animal just to put the money away. Savings are important, but they don’t grow the way a young pig or a turkey does. “Kòb sere pa fè pitit,” or “Money you put away doesn’t reproduce,” as they say.

But Evens knows what he’s doing. His mother has her own work to do, so there are only so many goats she can watch for him. He’s noticed that when they get to be too many, they sometimes go hungry and get sick. Their value decreases. Selling some of them to keep the numbers down might not earn him any profit, but it prevents losses. He uses some of the money to buy shares at the weekly meetings of his savings and loan association and he puts some in a savings account at Fonkoze.

He’s also started a new business. Another member of his church taught him to make liquid laundry detergent. He has a circle of regular customers in his neighborhood. They pay him when he’s ready to buy ingredients. He sells out each batch in about two weeks. The sales give him the kind of regular trickle of income that livestock cannot easily provide. He wants to learn macramé next. 

On Thursday, Evens came to downtown Gwomòn to attend the graduation of the second cohort of CLM families. One of the graduating members invited him to the festivities. She asked him to be her godfather. 

Haitians have various sorts of godparents: those who preside at an infant’s baptism or their presentation before a congregation and those who preside at a protestant baptism later in life. But there are godparents for weddings and for graduations, too. His goddaughter chose him as someone she felt she could count on for help. “She looked for someone who would be able to give her something,” Evens explains.

He’s delighted that she chose him. “It shows that people think of me as someone who’s able. I go by to see her often now, because it makes me so proud to hear her call me ‘godfather.’”

With his godchild, in the center, and her godmother.

Marie — Six Years After Graduation

Marie Tojou is not from Mibalè. She was born and spent all the early part of her life in Paredon, in northern Laskawobas, along the road that leads from the important market town of Kas southward to the Artibonit River. She split from her partner when she was in her 30s. They no longer had small children. Not knowing what else to do, she moved in with her sister, who was living in Niva, a farming community just south of downtown Mibalè. There she met Thomas, who also had older children already, and the couple moved in together onto his mother’s land. They quickly had a child together. By the time Marie joined the CLM program in 2013, she was in her mid-40s and they boy she had with Thomas was a young teen.

At the time, she and Thomas had very little. Thomas farmed land as a sharecropper, and they planted the steeply-incline plot of land leading from their hillside home down to the main road. Thomas would also buy trees from neighbors on credit and turn them into cooking charcoal. He’d repay a tree’s owner when he sold the charcoal. Marie herself would earn an odd gourd here and there by sorting and bagging charcoal for neighborhood producers. The family had no livestock, and their planting was limited by their ability to invest in seeds and labor. They often went hungry. Their boy Olma had been in school, but he stopped going when they could no longer pay. The loss of one of Marie’s older daughters in the 2010 earthquake removed an important source of support.

Marie chose goats and a pig when she joined the program, and her livestock prospered. Before she had been in the program for a year, her pig had grown enough that she was able to sell it and a couple of her goats’ kids to buy a small cow. 

By the time she graduated in December 2014, she had that cow, a goat, another pig, and a handful of chickens. All-in-all, her livestock was worth more than twice the minimum value of productive assets that she needed to qualify for graduation. The couple had replaced the shack they were living in with a small, two-room house with a tin roof. Olma was in school, and they were eating two-three meals per day.

In some respects, their life six years after graduation has changed very little. Their main source of income is still the charcoal Thomas makes on credit, and Marie still sorts neighbors’ charcoal. They still have their one cow and two goats.

But there have been some changes nonetheless.

There is now a small, one-room house a few feet from their own. It belongs to Olma. He left school a few years ago, and started working on local sugar mills. He handles the bulls that turn the mill itself. He built himself his own small house with his earnings. “He doesn’t want to go to bed at night under his parents’ roof anymore,” Marie explains with a laugh.

And Olma’s presence in the household, if not in the house, is important, because Marie farms the hill in front of their home more vigorously than she once could because she can invest. Olma weeds and prepares the plot, and she plants it. Right now, she’s waiting on crops of plantains and pigeon peas. She points to her recent corn harvest. “I harvested 70 makonn. They’re hanging in that tree. Thomas harvested about 70, too.” A makonn is a braid of ears of corn. The individual braids are then braided into a bundle that hangs for storage in a tree.

She still has just two goats, but it is not that her goats have not been producing. She sells one now and again to buy food for the house or invest in the family’s farming. She now has a turkey as well because the last time she sold a goat, it was to buy food, and she didn’t want all the capital to be lost. “If you don’t manage what you have, you aren’t in the game.”

He one cow is not the cow she bought when she was in CLM. That first one was hard to handle, so she sold it and replaced it with another small bull. She, Thomas, and Olma took care of that bull until it was large enough to exchange for a good-sized young heifer. She thinks that it will be ready to be bred with a bull next year. She thinks of the calf as her hope that she will one day have the resources to buy some land.

What strikes me most about her story is that her sources of regular income have changed so little since she joined CLM. She can now sell an animal if she has to, but otherwise she and Thomas depend mainly on the same activities they already depended on. And those activities do not amount to much.

Since the beginning, the CLM program has been focused mainly on increasing its members’ wealth. We measure the assets they own that they could use to generate income as carefully as we can, but we don’t measure the income itself. I am not sure that there is anything wrong with that.

But perhaps at least our case management, or coaching, should focus more on ways that families can establish day-to-day and week-to-week cash income. That way, the capital a family accumulates — in livestock, for example — could be more an investment tool and an insurance policy that a source of the income the family regularly needs.

Olma carefully instructed his mother that the photo would come out better if she did not smile.

CLM in Sanrafayèl: Thirteen Months into the Program

The small CLM experience in San Rafayèl has been going on for 13 months. The women we work with there were recently evaluated against the same criteria that will be used to determine whether they will graduate, and more that half of them are ready to graduate already. All have been able to build up the required modicum of wealth. Those who are not yet ready are the ones who haven’t yet completed work on their houses.

Christianie and Natacha

Chsitianie and Natacha are sisters. They and their five children have been sharing a home that belongs to the family in Kajouwon, a neighborhood along the road that runs from Pòtoprens, Mibalè, and Ench to San Rafayèl and Okap. When they joined the program, both were already “machann pèpè,” buying and selling secondhand clothes. Christianie sold footwear, and Natacha outerwear.

They would buy the small lots that their limited capital would allow in San Rafayèl, just to the north and take them for sale to Piyon, just to the south. Clothing merchants would come from Ench and the other towns farther south and often buy their whole lot in a single purchase.

But without savings and without partners to contribute to their households and without enough capital to make their businesses grow, they struggled just to feed the kids and send them to school. Natacha had been having an especially rough time. Her two children had been sick, and medical costs were eating away at what she had. They have access to farmland that belongs to their family, but didn’t have the money to plant it.

Natacha was surprised when she was invited to join CLM. “I didn’t really believe it. People had come before with different programs. It wasn’t until the first training that I thought it was real.”

When it came time to choose their enterprises, they made different choices. Christianie asked for a pig and small commerce, and Natacha chose goats and pigs. Small commerce was important to both of them, but Natacha was focused on taking care of her sick baby. “I couldn’t leave her.” Christianie explained that her business is important because it can keep her children fed and allow her to pay into a sòl, or savings club. A hog, on the other hand, will grow in worth until she can sell it to buy a cow. Natacha says that she chose goats because they provide young that can help you pay for school.

Natacha’s goats, however, have made only slow progress. One had two kids, but both died. The other than had one, so she has three goats now. Both her adult nanny-goats are now pregnant. Her hog is growing, but she isn’t yet sure when she’ll sell it. When her child started to get better, she returned to her business using savings from her weekly stipend as her initial investment. Christianie used the capital the CLM program gave her to add to her business, and soon she was buying with 5000 gourds at a time.

She hasn’t chosen to grow her business larger than that yet, however. And it’s not as though she couldn’t. She uses her excess profits in other ways instead. She’s been buying more livestock and making regular deposits into a savings account. Savings are important to her. “You can use the money to send children to school.” She now has eight goats and over 7000 gourds in her savings account.

They are each building a new house, but the houses sit on neighboring plots of land. They have been living and struggling together for a long time, and don’t want to be separated.

Adeline in front of her new house

Adeline and her partner Esaie live with five small children. She already had four kids when she got together with Esaie, but now they have one together. She was born close to where they now live, but it isn’t where she grew up. Her mother died when she was young, and she was sent to Okap to live with her father’s godmother. Her other siblings were scattered among members of her father’s family.

Before Adeline joined CLM, the couple supported the household through farming. Not their own land, but their neighbors’. Adeline worked and still works as a day-laborer. During harvest, she would make extra money by carrying sacks of produce out to the street so that they could be transported for sale. Carrying sacks is usually men’s work, but Adeline doesn’t care. “I believe in my strength, and it means more money.” Her small, steady income meant that Esaie could take larger, more lucrative jobs. Weeding or tilling an entire field could bring in a lump of cash, but only if the family already had the income they’d need to eat every day.

She chose goats and a pig, but the goats made no progress. She received two, and each miscarried its first litter. At one of the three-day refresher trainings that the program organizes every three months, she felt embarrassed when she had to say, in front of all the other women, that she hadn’t yet been able to increase her goats.

So she made a plan. The father of two of her children had just sent money to pay for their school, and she borrowed that money to buy a goat. She then talked the school’s principal into letting her owe the money. “The kids have to go to school,” she explained. She has since purchased a fourth goat.

She’s had better luck with her pig. She chose a sow, and all five of its litter of piglets have survived. She’s letting them nurse for now, but she wants to sell them at four months and use the money to buy a cow. “I’m not going to keep them longer than that.”

She also now has a small business. She started it with savings from her weekly stipend. Every two weeks, she buys five gallons of cooking oil. She sells it to her neighbors on credit, and they know that when she’s ready to buy another jug-full, they have to pay. So far, they are paying well, and the business is working. She’d like to make it larger, but she feels she can’t until her new home is secured. “As long as your home isn’t in good order, you can’t make your business larger.”

The home is otherwise complete, but it still lacks doors. She plans to add a wider variety of groceries starting in December but then really investing in April. She hopes to make enough money to be able to give up day labor.”I’d like to stop working in other people’s fields.”

Fonise

Fonise Joseph lives with her partner Thermidor and their three children. When they joined the program, Thermidor was working as a day-laborer. Fonise had a small business selling groceries. She’d buy for about 1000-1,500 gourds at a time. But the commerce would collapse now and again. It never earned enough to cover their expenses consistently, and folks would buy on credit and then be unable to pay.

She chose goats and a pig, and both activities have really taken off. The two goats that the program gave her have had three kids so far, and she has purchased two as well — one out of savings from her weekly stipend and one out of earnings from her business. Her pig had seven piglets, and she sold six to buy a cow. She’s keeping two pigs now.

She also invested in a new business selling used clothing. She buys a small pile from wholesalers in San Rafayèl — just like Natacha — and sells her pile in Piyon. But Fonise has learned an additional trick that maximizes her earnings. Before she takes the pile to Piyon, she picks out individual pieces that she thinks will sell well, and she sells them retail herself. The family lives right next to the local soccer field, and she added a small additional business that takes advantage of that fact. She sells little snacks — crackers, cookies, and the like — to kids who come to play.

The two businesses together are really pushing her forward. They’ve allowed her to make additional investment in livestock, and they enable her to save. She has a savings account and she deposits 500 gourds per month. She also keeps a bwat sekrè, or “secret box,” in her home. That’s a wooden box with a slit in the top that allows someone to insert coins or bills. Like a piggybank.

Thermidor cannot hide his excitement about being a part of CLM. “We imagine what we would have had to go through to have a goat, and we never even thought of owning a cow.”

And Fonise is clear about what is making the program work for her. “The training is important. We are learning to manage what we have. In the past, everything we earned passed right through our hands.”

Rose-Milove — Almost Ready to Graduate

Rose-Milove lives with her older brother and their widowed mother in the older woman’s house in Ti Jaden, a neighborhood just across the river to the north of Gwomòn. She and her mother are pictured above. She wasn’t among the 200 who were selected to be part of the CLM program a year-and-a-half ago. Her name did not even come up when the CLM team met with residents of the neighborhood to identify its families. It is not unusual for community members to forget about the kinds of people who qualify for CLM. Many live in isolation from their neighbors. Some go unmentioned because they are not the principal person in the house they live in.

But none of this was the case in the meeting nearest Rose-Milove’s home. She simply lives outside of the small area that the participants in the community meeting view as theirs. The team’s supervisor in Gwomòn, Gissaint César, met her when he went to the area to attend an event for young people. It’s the kind of thing he does to integrate himself and our team into the communities where we work. He came across her, seeing that she was struggling to get around with a walker. A CLM member from nearby had just abandoned the program, and it was only three months into the 18-month cycle. So Gissaint felt he could replace her and have enough time to bring an additional member all the way to graduation.

He sat and spoke with Rose-Milove, and felt she had a good chance of qualifying. He sent case managers to do the team’s standard preliminary selection survey. They recommended her for the program, and he was able to give her final approval.

The decision was easy enough to make. All three members of the family were managing small activities. But they were very small. Rose-Milove herself had a commerce, selling laundry detergent by the cupful. She had about 200 gourds invested, which was less than $2.50 at the time. She ran the business out of the home because she can’t get around well enough to do anything else. Her mother would buy her merchandise whenever she needed to restock. The older woman could do so conveniently during her frequent trips downtown to sell the snacks that make up her own business.

She chose goats and a sheep as her two enterprises. Her family agreed to help her care for them. Both seem devoted to Rose-Milove. The livestock hasn’t yet produced young, but all three animals are pregnant. And Rose-Milove has a goal for her livestock. She plans to sell offspring to buy a cow. “I want to increase my business by selling cold drinks, and selling a small cow would help me.”

In the meantime, the business is flourishing. Using savings from her weekly stipend, she began adding one product after another. First cooking oil, then coffee and sugar. The business now has the look of a rural Haitian Seven-Eleven.

She sells groceries, kerosene, candles, matches, cleaning products, and various kinds of snacks. Her mother still does most of her business walking around Gwòman, but she also leaves merchandise in Rose-Milove’s shop. As does her brother, who makes and bottles cleaning liquid. A business that started with 200 gourds of laundry detergent now has 15,000-20,000 gourds of this, that, and everything.

As the business grew, she needed a small structure to sell out of. It became too much to arrange in a corner of the house. But she and her case manager, Figaro, worked out a plan. The program normally provides members with assistance repairing their home or building a new one. Rose-Milove’s home was in good condition. It belongs to her mother, and Rose-Milove would not consider moving. She needs her mother’s support. She hasn’t been able to walk comfortably in more than eight years, and on her worst days she cannot walk at all.

So she took the investment that the program would have made in a home and used it to build a small shop. The roofing material that CLM provides was enough for both roof and walls. She used savings from her stipend to install its shelving.

Although she joined the program late, Rose-Milove is well on her way towards graduation, which is scheduled for November. In fact, when she was evaluated at twelve months, she already qualified. Five months later, and ready for final graduation, she has made more progress still.

Guerda — Eight Months into CLM

Guerda and her partner, Renaud, live with their three-year-old daughter, Guerda’s little brother, and Renaud’s mother in a house that belongs to the older woman in Osedi, a neighborhood in northeastern Tomond. Gueda’s not from the area, but from Ench. Renaud explains that they met because “gason konn mache” or “guys get around.” He went to her home community in rural Ench to attend the first communion of the child of someone she knew. She had been living in downtown Ench at the time, but she went home for the communion as well. “That’s where we met.”

When the family joined the CLM program, Guerda had just begun a job as a cook in a local leader’s home. She felt forced to take it because the family was going hungry much of the time. The job paid just 1500 gourds per month, however. At today’s exchange rate, that’s just $25. For most of the summer, the exchange rate made it worth less than $15. She and Renaud would plant some crops on his mother’s land, but without resources to invest, their harvests couldn’t support them.

Guerda chose goats and peanut-farming as her two assets. After providing initial training, the CLM team gave her two goats and eight mamit, or coffee-cans, of peanuts for planting. She got lucky with her goats, because one of hers actually had a small not-yet-weaned kid already trailing behind it.

She and Renaud planted their peanuts using the training the program provided, and their harvest was good enough that they were able to sell two-thirds of it to buy another adult nanny-goat, one already pregnant. They re-planted the other third, which still was a marked increase over their first, eight-mamit planting.

Renaud then took a contract on a motorcycle taxi. That means that he found someone with the means to buy a new motorcycle, which Renaud pays for in eleven months by giving the owner 300 gourds per day. That is almost 100,000 gourds, which is over $1600 right now. It will be a windfall for the person he’s buying it from, but it is a way for him to get a motorcycle of his own. Even now, the income earns after he sets aside the 300 gourds is important to the family. It allows Guerda to save almost half of what she earns from her job, and she’s already purchased a pig from her savings. The small livestock is important to them — both the goats and the pig — because, as they say, “In the future, [these animals] can turn into a cow.”

And the couple really works together. Guerda is in a community savings and loan association that the program set up for its members, and she already took out her first loan, for 7500 gourds, to finance repairs to the motorcycle. Renaud explains that the motorcycle’s owner is not responsible for any repairs unless there is something wrong inside the engine itself, so he’s had to spend money on tires, the transmission, and other things as well. Guerda says that she’s made her first repayment, and she’s set aside the money for the second one, which comes due shortly. She’ll have two more payments after that.

She says that she is really happy about being in the program. “I speak to my case manager. She pushes me to move forward from where I am so I can change my life.”

Just Getting Started in Kapab

Kapab is close enough to downtown Laskawobas that older children from Kapab can hike to Laskawobas for school every day. But it is, even so, a little out of the way. It is inaccessible by car and even by motorcycle. You can get there with one of the canoes that are used as a taxi around the Artibonit River and its flood plain, or you can hike uphill, to the top of the ridge that cuts it off from the nearest road. and then down into the valley, towards the river.

Jeannette St. Fort was born and raised in Kapab, and that’s where she lives with five of her six children and a grandchild. The sixth child, the grandchild’s mother, lives in Port au Prince, where she works as a maid. Jeannette’s husband died about four years ago, after a long illness.

Even before the man passed away, the life that he and Jeannette shared was difficult. He would find work as a day-laborer in neighbors’ fields, and Jeannette would walk to Laskawobas to do laundry for families there. Neither had a steady income, but both would work as many days as they could. It was enough to keep their children in school, but just barely. The children would frequently be sent home because of unpaid tuition.

Things only got harder when Jeannette’s husband died. She spent what little she had on the funeral. And it would not have been enough, but one of her regular laundry clients bought a casket for her. She continued to do laundry in Laskawobas, sometimes staying overnight to eliminate the constant back-and-forth. She has been able to keep her children in school, mostly through occasional gifts from clients who could tell that she needed help, but she will owe money when the new school year begins in November, and she doesn’t know where it will come from.

She’s excited to be part of the CLM program now. “They said they would help me fix my house. It’s falling apart. When it rains, we all get wet.” And she looks forward to raising livestock. She wants goats and a pig. “If you are careful and don’t waste what you get, the livestock will increase and you’ll be able to buy a cow.”

Leodile After Fifteen Months

Leodile Marcelin is a 31-year-old mother of three. She lives in Kanifis, a wide area of northern Gwomòn. Each of her children has a different father, and she’s not together with any of the men. Two of the three live with her, but the third lives in Leyogann, halfway across Haiti from Leodile’s home. “I was having trouble taking care of the kids, so his father took our child and sent her away to live with his sister.”

When she joined the CLM program, she was really struggling. She had finally given up a business buying produce by the sack and selling it in smaller quantities because she spent all of her business capital trying to take care of her health. “I had been sick for a long time. I kept going to healers, spending money wherever I heard there was good treatment, but nothing helped.” The word she used for “healers,” “papa ti chèz,” or “little-chair-fathers,” is a way to indicate practitioners of vodoun. It plays off of the tendency of many to sit on low stools when they practice.

Without her own income, she came to depend on a man, but not the father of any of her children. He made money as a motorcycle driver, bringing some of his earnings to her. He also rented a room for her to live in.

But he wasn’t faithful. Leodile says that he was with a lot of women, so she decided to move out. Without her own place, she and her kids could only move into a family member’s home. That situation might have worked out, but the earthquake that struck Gwomòn in 2018 leveled the house she was living in. She then moved in with another family member, but it wasn’t a good situation. She was constantly feeling humiliated. “They made a big deal if I made food for my kids, and they laughed at me when I had nothing to give the kids, too.”

She joined the program, and chose goats and a sheep as her assets. Her livestock developed slowly because Kanifis was in the midst of a long drought when she received them, but both the sheep and one of the goats eventually produced young, and both are once again pregnant. Leodile wants to sell the other goat and buy another. “It has been mounted by a buck a couple of times and nothing happened.”

She eventually found a place to build her home. Her cousin Estelia is an older women who has a house on family land. She saw the difficulties that Leodile was facing, and she offered her a corner of her yard to build her house on. One of Estelia’s daughters had a home on the plot as well, and she was also willing to have Leodile join them. “They are really good people,” Leodile explains.

Leodile used money from her stipend to restart her business, but it didn’t last. She spent the business capital to start construction of her new home.

But then she ran into a problem. Estelia’s grown son, a man who lives in Pòtoprens, contacted her, ordering her to take down the home she had started to build. He was unwilling to have her on the land. And his word meant a lot. Estelia depends on him entirely. Though the land is more hers than his, his financial importance makes him the power in the family. Estelia had no choice but to stop building.

When the CLM learned about her problem, they went with her to talk to the local Village Committee. The program sets up these committees of local volunteers to support the program and its members in various. Leodile went with the program’s Gwomòn supervisor, Gissaint, to speak with the committee’s president, Cétoute. As the principal of the local primary school, he is widely respected. He listened to the situation and agreed to talk to the man in Pòtoprens. It wasn’t long before than man had changed his mind. Once he really understood the situation, he said he’d be happy to have Leodile build on their land. He let her know that by phone, and when he next visited his mother, he made certain to see her personally.

So Leodile was able to get back to work. She is now almost finished. She’s behind most of the 200 families who joined the program with her, but she’s confident she’ll be able to finish in time to graduate in November. Her partner moved in for a while, and that helped with expenses, but when she saw that he was still seeing other women, too, she kicked him out.

But she’s got a long road ahead of her otherwise. She is in debt to two local savings group. She took out the first loan to help her then-partner pay the owner of his motorcycle when political unrest decreased his income so much that he was unable to pay. She borrowed from a second savings group to buy the building materials she needs to complete her home. “One thing’s for sure, I won’t ever leave my savings group. When I think of what it help me do!”

But with two debts and only, for the time being, the barest trace of an income, she has some problem-solving ahead of her. For the time being, she depends on friends who lend her small amounts that she uses to buy little bits of merchandise. She sells quickly, and repays the money right away. The CLM team knows her former partner and has a good relationship with him, and we hope to make him recognize that that debt is really his. The leaders of the savings group have agreed to show special patience. But she will, at the very least, have to find the money to pay 5400 gourds plus interest and penalties on her second loan.

It might make sense for her to sell an animal to do so, especially if it leaves her with a little something to restart her business with as well. That’s something that she and her case manager will need to work out.

Starting in Ramye

Laskawobas commune straddles the Artibonit River in the southeastern part of the Central Plateau. A word like “straddles” misleads, however, if it suggests two pieces of the commune, one on either side of the water. The layout is much more complex, with multiple strands of the river and small lagoons cutting much of the center of the commune into odd-shaped pieces. The mountains and hills that run through the area only further complicated that landscape.

The CLM team has been working off-and-on in the commune for several years, serving hundreds of families, mostly in the north and the west. We had hit some of the harder-to-access stretches, but we had heard over the last few years of a pocket in the midst of areas we had worked in that we had not yet reached. The region is called “Wòch Milat,” and we completed selection of 100 families there earlier this month. Yesterday was the first day of initial training for almost half of the families.

The training is being held in Ramye, one of Wòch Milat’s larger neighborhoods. It’s a short motorcycle ride north from downtown Laskawobas, but the motorcycle only takes you to a canoe landing. Most of the year, you have to take a canoe across a dirty lagoon to reach the area. The training site is then a short, upward hike to the top of the hill.

Saintilia is a widowed mother of nine. She lives in Bisent, a smaller neighborhood next to Ramye. Her children are grown, and they no longer live with her. But she has two grandsons with her, one twelve and one ten, and she is fully responsible for both.

Her husband passed away just seven months ago, but she had been struggling with his bad health for a long time. She supported herself and her grandchildren as a weaver. She would buy latanye, a fibrous leaf, at the market in Kas, to the north, on Mondays, and spend the week weaving makout, a bag with a shoulder strap that many rural Haitians use. She’d sell them on Saturdays, at the market in downtown Laskawobas. She might make as much as 150 gourds for each one in good times. It wouldn’t amount to much, however, because the weaving was time consuming. She couldn’t do more than five in a week. But it was income.

But as her husband’s health deteriorated, her own strength suffered. She would support his weight with her right arm, and doing so awkwardly over the course of months left her arm so sore that she couldn’t weave any more. A friend saw her situation and lent her money to do small commerce, but that didn’t last long. The friend no longer has extra money she can let Saincilia use.

So she’s back to weaving, though it is hard with the constant pain in her arm.

Aniolie is from Ramye itself. She and her husband have six children, though one lives in Port au Prince with a family friend. “I keep in touch with him.” Her friend sends the boy to school, but Aniolie imakes an effort to contribute. “I don’t want to have to feel ashamed.”

She and her husband, Jean Ermane, have struggled to support their children by selling charcoal. They buy a sack from a neighbor, then Aniolie carries it to downtown Laskawobas for sale. “If I can get a good price for the sack, I sell it in one shot. Otherwise, I sit and sell it by the small pile.” Sometimes they buy a small tree and Jean Ermane turns it into charcoal for her to sell.

Occasionally, she sells fish. That depends on her finding a fisher willing to sell his catch on credit.

The area around Ramye is lush. The land looks fertile. So, one would expect the couple to be farming. But, as Aniolie explains, “It’s a good area to farm, but you have to have land. We don’t have anything you could call a garden, just the small plot our house is on.”

At the moment, the family is really struggling. Her boy in Port au Prince will go to school this year, and the oldest of her children and home, but she can’t yet see anything she can do for the other four.