Roselène isn’t from Mibalè. She from Kenskof, an agricultural region in the mountains above Pòtoprens. She met her husband in Pòtoprens, and they came back to Mibalè to move in with his parents.
It was a difficult time for Roselène. She didn’t get along with her mother-in-law. The couple wanted to move, but they had no place to go. They had no land. Eventually a kind neighbor, seeing the problem, gave Roselène and her husband permission to build a small shack in a corner of her yard.
That is where they were living when the CLM team found her. By then they had a young girl, and Roselène was pregnant with their second child. “CLM never would have found me if they hadn’t gone to every house. Programs had been to the area before, but they just ask local leaders for names. And leaders lead them to their own friends and family.”
The couple really needed help. They were getting by on what Roselène’s husband could earn as a sharecropper, planting his crops in fields that didn’t belong to them and turning over half of the harvest to landowners. There was no way to get ahead.
Soon after they entered the program they once again were at risk of homelessness. The woman who offered them a place for their shack didn’t mind having them around, but her family didn’t agree. They threatened legal action to have them removed. Roselène was nursing their second daughter, so the couple needed to find a solution quickly. Their case manager helped them talk with a neighbor, who was sensitive to their situation. She was willing to offer them an inexpensive five-year lease — just 5,000 gourds — on a small plot of land. It was hidden in the maze of footpaths that run through Bwa Fonten, but they would not have to worry about being chased away. What’s more, the owner was willing to consider the rent as a downpayment towards eventual purchase.
Roselène spoke with the other members of her savings club. Each week, every CLM member in her group would contribute money from their weekly stipend, and one of them would take the entire pot. It wasn’t Roselène’s turn to collect the pot, but her fellow members were willing to let her jump ahead in line. So, she paid the lease and started dreaming of her future purchase. “The land was steep and covered with thorns and cactus. My husband got together a group of friends, and they tore out the thorns and cut out a spot on the top for us to build on.”
She chose goats and small commerce as her two assets. She initially struggled with the goats. One died, and she was worried about the other two. So, she talked with her case manager, and she sold them both, purchasing a mature female with the proceeds from the sale. That female gave her three consecutive litters of twins, and between that nanny, her kids, and her kids’ kids, Roselène soon had ten goats. She and her husband added a small pig, which they cared for until it was large enough to sell for the price of a small cow. “It was a sow, but we just fattened it up. We didn’t have the space for piglets. I scoured the neighborhood to find stuff to feed it. The day we sold it, my husband and I got up at three in the morning. We left the girls in bed. And we pushed and pulled it to the market in Labasti.” It sold for 14,000 gourds, and they bought the cow for 12,500.
She used the money CLM gave her for small commerce to start a business out of her home, selling onions, dried herring, leeks, herbs, tomatoes — the ingredients for sauce. She walked around to all her neighbors to make sure they knew what she was selling. She used some of the income from that business to manage household expenses, but also managed to save money in her Fonkoze account. Between this small business, and her success with livestock, the family easily qualified for graduation.
When she graduated, she wanted to grow her business, so she began to take out loans from SFF, Fonkoze’s sister organization. Those loans made two changes possible. First, she changed her business. She began to buy up produce in the markets near her home — sacks of fruit or vegetables — and sell them in the large market in Kwadeboukè, Pòtoprens’s sprawling northern suburb. Second, she and her husband were able to use income from her business to rent plots of farmland for cash. They would no longer need to give up half of their harvest.
In 2019, the CLM team returned to Roselène’s neighborhood. In the years after Roselène’s graduation, the team had added an important new element to the program. It starting helping all program participants organize their own small savings and loan associations. Members of these associationsmake contributions at weekly meetings, and can take out loans from the funds accumulated. They repay the loans with interest, so the association’s funds grow. At the end of a one-year cycle, each member receives everything she has contributed along with her share of the interest. They then start a new cycle.
Roselène used her business to make her maximum weekly contribution, and her funds started to grow. By now, the couple had four children, so their expenses were increasing. Just the taxis to take all four to school and back cost almost $20 a week. And there’s tuition, uniforms, and books. And the family had to eat. So it wasn’t always easy to save, but Roselène was committed.
The couple used a 40,000-gourd loan from their association to buy a second piece of land. It was offered to Roselène by an older neighbor whose husband passed away. “It is close to the main road, so when we decide to build a new house, it will be easier to deliver the construction materials.” By now, Roselène’s business was flourishing, and she was quickly able to repay the loan from sales of produce, some from their harvest and some from her purchases. In 2021, the couple sold their cow and their goats, and used the proceeds to pay off the balance of the land they had leased back when they were in CLM, about 90,000 gourds.
Roselène’s vision for the future is optimistic, but also focused. “For myself, I don’t need any more progress, but I need to keep moving forward for my children. I want to leave them something.” She herself never went to school. She can sign her name because her case manager taught her how. But she wants her children to be able to go much farther.