When I last visited Monise, she had just given birth. Her baby was just days old. She hadn’t yet left the house.
A lot has happened since then.
She had someone tear down one of her home’s two rooms so she could use the lumber to start building her new home. She’s now off to a good start, with the frame already up. But the way she has managed is not what she had expected.
When I saw her last, she was excited because her baby’s father had said he would come spend the holidays at home. He was in the Dominican Republic, trying to make a living. January 1st is Independence Day in Haiti, the most important holiday of the year. Her partner, she said, wanted to spend the holiday with her, all the more so since it would offer him a chance to meet his new child. She was counting on him to bring money she could use to build them a new house. The house she’s in now belongs to her mother.
But he never came. Eventually he called and let her know he would visit in February instead. So she was left unsure where she’d get the resources she’d need to buy the materials for her new home. One of her goats had given birth to its first kid, but the kid wasn’t even weaned, so it was too early to sell it. Her boar was beginning to put on weight, but selling it before it has the chance to really grow seemed like a waste.
She ended up getting what she needed the same way she’s gotten most of what she’s needed for most of her life. From her mom. The older woman’s sow had recently had piglets, and they were just old enough to sell. So she sold two of them and bought the rest of the lumber Monise needed for her frame. Once she had the lumber ready, getting the frame up was quick work. She says she’s grateful for her mother’s help. “Gwo vant lan pat t ap kite m regle anyen si se pat pou manman m.”
That means that her pregnancy wouldn’t have let her do anything without her mother’s help. But she’s already planning to get herself back to work, and though the baby is just a couple of months old, she’s already supplementing her breastfeeding with porridge that she and her sisters prepare. “I can’t give my baby only breast milk. What will I do when I start going out to manage my business?”
Her plan is to take the money that she expects the baby’s father to bring her and use it to buy produce that she can take to sell in Port au Prince. She’s been in the business before. She used to do it with money she’d borrow from a nearby loan shark. When the loan shark stopped lending to her, she was stuck. She couldn’t think of anything else she could do.
She’s been able to save a lot in the months since she’s entered her program by putting away most of what she gets as a weekly stipend. Her mother, who’s a farmer, covers most of her expenses. Her total savings, 5100 gourds – about $75 – is as much as she thinks she would need to get started, but she doesn’t want to ask her case manager for authorization to use it. She will need that authorization for any savings withdrawals she makes until she graduates from the program in another year.
She’s already happy with the changes she’s starting to see in her life. “I didn’t have goats. They gave me two, and now I have three. I didn’t have a regular income, now I get my stipend every week. I was able to use it to buy a school uniform so my oldest boy can go to school.”
Monise isn’t yet making clear plans for the livestock she now owns any more than she has a plan for her savings. Right now, she’s focused on the arrival of her man. She thinks he’ll be happy to see her when he arrives because he’ll be pleased that they have a new house.