One of the most successful of Fonkoze’s branches is the one in Wanament. Wanament is a major city in northeastern Haiti. It sits right on the Dominican border, across from Dajabòn, an important market town. So it’s a city of commerce, much of it the small commerce that Fonkoze is so good at nurturing. Just last year the branch moved from small, cramped quarters on a side street to a larger building right on the main drag.
The branch’s education coordinator explained to me that it’s important for Fonkoze to have impressive offices. “It’s good for clients to see that they are part of something large and successful,” he said. “It helps them feel confident to accept the risk of taking out a loan.” Here’s the Coordinator, Edmond, in front of the office.
Fonkoze’s credit program is organized around credit centers, groups of women that take their loans and make their repayments together. The groups may have anywhere from 25-50 women, organized into tighter groups of five friends who accept shared responsibility for the loans they take. Fonkoze’s new office has enough space that the centers based in downtown Wanament can meet inside.
Fonkoze’s particular mission, however, is to bring its services into the countryside, farther than bricks-and-mortar establishments can reach. It depends very much on staff members that work from motorcycles. They make it possible to organize credit centers as much as two hours or more from the nearest branch. This credit center, only about 30 minutes outside of Wanament, was meeting on the day we visited. Its members were making make savings account deposits.
The next day, Edmond and I rode 45 minutes in another direction to administer the final evaluation to members of a credit center who had just participated in a four-month basic literacy course. The course was offered as a regular part of credit center activities.
Edmond and the group’s own literacy teacher worked closely with participants to evaluate their reading skills.
Most participants don’t get very far in an initial four-month cycle, but they get a start. This group had just been working on vowels.
When I speak with them about their hopes for their centers, participants regularly ask for the class to be extended. They want more. So, starting in July, Fonkoze will be working with an eight-month basic literacy sequence, consisting of two four-month classes.
This little girl likes to come to watch the literacy class. She’s a third-grader, who goes to school in the very same building that her mother attends class in. The spaces that Fonkoze credit centers and their educational programs use are always donated. Often they’re in local schools and churches, whose leaders see the importance of Fonkoze’s work.
The girl told me that she enjoys seeing her mother learning to read. They like to do some of their homework together.