Modeline Pierre 2

Modeline has moved. She and her partner were living in an abandoned house they borrowed from a kind neighbor who had moved to a larger town, but her partner left for the Dominican Republic, so she and their baby moved back in with her mother and stepfather, who live uphill from the house they were in.

But Modeline isn’t upset about his departure. It is part of a plan that they made together. “We made the decision together. We have a lot of stuff to do. He left to earn the money we’ll need. He’ll be back in December.”

Their most important project is their home. They have both spent their lives as stepchildren. And though their stepfathers have treated them well, they started life together with nothing to build on. They don’t have any land of their own. Modeline’s brother-in-law has given them a small plot of land to build their home on, but they have no trees they could harvest to provide the limber they’ll need. They’ll have to buy all of it, and the money Modeline will get from CLM won’t be enough.

Modeline was careful about her return, though. She’s welcome in her mother’s home, but it isn’t easy. She left her water filter in the abandoned house she’s been staying in. She goes down every day to treat water and carry it back to her mother’s in gallons. “If I bring the filter, the kids will play with it, and it will break.”

While her partner’s away, she’s getting by. She has a small business. It has just 225 gourds in it – that’s less than $3.50 – but by rolling it over constantly, she can sometimes may as much as 150 gourds, or $2.25, in a week. And she’s a student of her own work. “I sell sugar and bread. I can’t make money of the sugar, but I can make money selling the bread. And they won’t come to buy bread if they can’t get sugar, too.”

She’s already saved enough on her own to buy a chicken. It’s the second one she purchased since joining the program. She bought the first by selling a small can of cement that was left over when her latrine was built.

But what is more striking than the purchase of two chickens is her excitement about the purchases. I was done interviewing her when she called me back to say that she had one more thing to tell me. And she explained what she had done. It was an encouraging sign of her developing pride.