Hermite: A Quick Follow-Up

I recently wrote about Hermite, a CLM member who lives with her three children near Lascahobas. (See: here..) We were pleased with the progress she had made in the program’s first nine months, but concerned about a couple of things.

We were, for example, worried that she hadn’t yet established a way to earn even a trickle of her own income. She continued to depend instead, almost totally, on a man who doesn’t quite seem like someone to depend on. I spoke to her case manager, and we agreed that the ideal thing would be for her to have a small commerce, but we weren’t sure whether she could manage one. Hermite is blind, and we’d have to help her imagine a commerce that would not depend on her sight.

She and her case manager decided on snacks. She now sells cookies, crackers, lollipops, hard candy, and other similar junk food. The key to it is that all her merchandise can be sold in five-gourd units. That’s helpful because the Haitian five-gourd coin is easily recognized by touch.

I went by her home today and was happy to see that her commerce is off to a good start. She keeps it in a large purse, rather than a display case, so it is protected from thieving fingers that she cannot see. A fellow CLM-member made the first purchase for her, and may continue to buy for her, but she told me that she herself plans to buy merchandise tomorrow. Her initial investment was 750 gourds, or about $12.50, but her first round of sales already enabled to increase her capital to 800 gourds, even though she used her sales to buy both 50-gourd shares at her savings and loan association’s meeting and various things her children needed. So the business appears to be succeeding.

She has challenges to overcome. Her merchandise moves most quickly when she sells it along the road that leads up towards her neighborhood, but that’s several hundred yards from her house, and she’s been reluctant to take it out to the road herself because she has an infant to deal with. Her oldest daughter, a tiny eleven-year-old girl, was selling for her, but other children started picking on her. So Hermite moved the business into her home, where she can do the selling. But she lives off the beaten track, so sales are slow. She knows she needs to get the business back to the side of the road, but needs to do it herself. She doesn’t want to subject her girl to teasing.

In the meantime, Hermite is happy with with the business. She says, “I never used to know where to get five or ten gourds when I needed them. Now I just take them from the sales.”

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