Daniela was once a charcoal merchant. She never had enough capital to establish a large business, but she would buy a few sacks each week in the countryside around her home in a rural neighborhood outside of Gwomòn and sell them to the merchants who sit in the downtown market and sell it by the sack. Her husband was a hard-working farmer, and together their income enabled them to just get by.
Things took a turn for the worse for the family as Daniela’s husband grew ill. Persistent stomachaches weakened him. They both made him a less capable contributor to the household and created a drain on the family’s resources as they paid for medical care for him.
By the time Daniela joined the CLM program, her charcoal business was long gone and she was her family’s sole support. “Se mwen ki rele, mwen ki reponn.” That means “I’m the one who calls, and I’m the one who answers,” and in the Haitian countryside it’s a standard way to say that Daniela herself had to find a way to meet to all her family’s needs. That extends to her home repair, which is proceeding slowly because she has to carry all the rocks and clay that her builder needs herself.
She chose goats and a pig as the two enterprises for us to give her, and she hasn’t been able to make much out of them yet. Pig-rearing is a high-risk, high-reward proposition, and her pig died. She was able to sell the carcass to a butcher for 1500 gourds, but she hasn’t collected the money yet. Butchers who buy an animal that is already sick or dead know that their bargaining position is strong, so they rarely pay cash. The woman who bought Daniela’s pig said that she’d pay for it in July. Daniela is hoping that she’ll be able to re-establish her charcoal business when she collects the money. Her two goats are still just two goats.
In the meantime, she is managing her household with income from a small business she created from 1500 gourds of savings from her weekly stipend. She buys key limes, hot peppers, and sour oranges, and carries them around the marketplace, selling them in small quantities. “I thought about selling rice, but you never know what you’re buying. You expect seven full cans or seven cans and a couple of cups [in the sack you buy], but it turns out to be less. When I buy limes or peppers, I know what I have.”
She also uses the income to buy shares in the two VSLAs she belongs to. VSLAs, or Village Savings and Loan Associations, are small clubs that meet every week. At each meeting, participants buy from one to three shares at a price they have collectively determined. The shares become loan capital that club members can then borrow. They repay the loans with interest, so at the end of a one-year cycle, when the club separates the pot, the shares have accrued interest. Then the association reforms for another one-year cycle. Daniela was in one even before she joined CLM. A team from CARE had established them in her area. But she had ceased to be able to buy shares. Now she can buy shares every week in both that VSLA and the one that CLM established.
The CLM program is now helping her get medical care for her husband. He’s been diagnosed with both h-pylori and typhoid, and his recovery will be slow. “His pain is so bad some days that he can’t even get onto a motorcycle or into a truck to get to the hospital.”
Daniela’s been part of the program for about a year, and her progress towards graduation has been slow so far, but both she and her case manager, Annel, believe in her final success. She’s Annel’s favorite person to work with, because she wants to talk through all the decisions she makes and is careful to carry out any plan they agree on. And she’s happy to explain why. “If there’s something you cannot do or achieve by yourself, and someone comes along who’s willing to help, you have to give them reason to feel encouraged.”