Daniela Cherilen graduated from the CLM program on Thursday, January 24th. We wrote of her once before. You can find the first profile here.
A lot has happened in the eighteen months since she joined the program. Her life, at the time, had reached a low-point. Her family was trapped in a downward spiral because of her husband’s illness. Various stomach ailments had weakened him to the point that he could not work. As Daniela put it, “Se mwen ki rele, se mwem ki reponn.” She said that in June, and she repeated it the week of her graduation. That’s like saying, “I’m the one who shouts, and I’m the one who answers.” It’s a way that rural Haitians have of saying that everything depends on one person, in this case Daniela.
She continued to struggle, managing to feed her children most of the time and to keep the kids in school, but she and her family were moving backwards. “If it hadn’t been for CLM, I would not have been able to send my children to school this year.”
When we spoke to her in June, she was feeding her family with a small business she had created with 1500 gourds that she saved from her weekly CLM stipend. She would buy limes, hot peppers, or other high-value produce from farmers, and sell it retail in the Gwomòn market. She had just made an important investment decision. She had taken 1000 gourds out of her business to buy the harvest from a series of mango trees. It meant that she had to run her little business temporarily with only 500 gourds, but it enabled her to make a 750-gourd profit when she sold the mangos. She put that money, along with the original capital, back into her produce business.
She is now facing graduation, however, with no business at all. She spent much of the capital to send her children to school this year, and then spent the last few gourds buying the cement she needed to complete repairs of her home, which was damaged in the earthquakes that shook the Gwomòn area in October. CLM was able to provide special help to the families whose homes were damaged by the earthquake, but Daniela wanted to do more than the minimum that the CLM funds were designed to finance. She wanted to buy extra cement to cover the walls. So she had to raise extra money.
But Daniela has a plan to repedale, which means to get going again. She has a cousin willing to lend her 1500 gourds to re-start her business. He won’t charge her interest. “He just wants to do me a favor.” He can do so without risk now because the six goats she now has can serve as a guarantee. She’ll start next week. She doesn’t plan to repay the loan with income from the commerce itself, though. “My husband and I will make charcoal to repay the loan. That way, the money in the business can stay in the business.”
Her long-term plan includes a focus on farming. “We rent land to farm, and we eventually want to plant sugarcane.” There’s more money in sugarcane than most other crops, but it’s a longer-term investment and, unlike other crops, it doesn’t directly help feed her kids. Choosing cane depends on her confidence that she can meet the family’s daily needs in other ways.
When asked how the CLM program helped her, Daniela is effusive. She talks about the home she used to live in. “Anytime it rained, I was under water.” She talks about learning to save, too. She uses both her VSLA and a Fonkoze savings account to put money aside.
And she talks about the value of her case manager. “It was great to have some who could give me advice. He was able to shine a second light on the path forward.”
Most importantly, she talks about her husband. “If it were not for CLM, my husband wouldn’t be alive.” She had lost all hope of saving him. He had grown so weak that he couldn’t even get onto a motorcycle to get to the hospital. The CLM team got him to the local hospital, and when that didn’t help they brought him to see specialists at the university hospital in Mibalè, almost four hours from her home. He’s now healthy again, and working with Daniela to manage their household.