Haitian women are depending on us

img_20161106_151833These 15 women are the most recent microloan recipients in Ranquite. Our ambassador, Father Charles, spent half a day teaching them about the loan repayment system and how they could use the money to grow their businesses. He has become so busy working with our program that he is setting aside a separate room to receive the women when they make their payments.

Another 15 women are waiting for their loans. With the help of Give to the Max Day, we are confident that we will have enough funds to get more women started in this program. Please consider making a donation that can work to improve the lives of so many women who live on the margins of Haitian society.

Helping more Haitian women due to the strong American dollar

DSC05255 (1)P1090887

Two new rounds of loans were made in April, both in Ranquitte and in Limbe.. Because the exchange rate of the Haitian gourde to the American dollar favors the dollar, we were able to add 4 new loans with no addnitional funds. If the dollar remains strong and our bank balance is favorable, we hope to add another round of loans in the early fall. These women continue to amaze us with their willingness to remain on the waiting list until we are able to find enough funds and then work hard to continue our 100% repayment rate.

First Loan Group of 2016

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I had the privilege to be in Haiti when the first loan group of 2016 were awarded their loans. These women are using the loans to expand their businesses of buying beans, rice, used clothes and cosmetics and reselling the products in the local market.  I asked them if they thought this program was beneficial for their community. The women looked at me quizzically, murmured among themselves and then informed me that they wouldn’t be wasting their time on a Friday afternoon if they didn’t think this program was helpful!

As part of the first meeting, the women are taught to work together to help each other succeed. They role play different situations and then sing a song of solidarity, which translates to “working hand in hand”.  A group leader is chosen who then distributes the funds to the other members, after which they all sign a contract requiring them to repay the loan amount monthly at an interest rate of 2%.

P1010076  Click on this link to see a video of the women singing their solidarity song

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Group leader signing contract
Group leader signing contract

The women were asked to discuss the advantages of a loan that is given to women rather than men. These are some of their comments.

-The wife should be the keeper of the money because she will use it for the household rather than for herself

-A mother pays equally for her sons and daughters

-Women feel more obligation to repay their loans than men.

When asked to discuss the disadvantages of a loan, the women were slower to respond.  Soon everyone erupted in laughter to one of the women’s responses. This woman was worried that her husband, who usually spent most of his time away from the house, would begin to stay at home more when he knew that she had extra money and eat up all of her profits as well as be a nuisance!

At the conclusion of the meeting, Frico, the agronomist with USAID who helps to administer the loans, spoke about the Haitian women who continue to wait for loans and that the future of the program depends on the success of each of the groups to payback their loans. A fitting end to describe an initiative that has thus far benefitted 225 women in rural Haiti.

New loans in Limbe and Ranquitte

Twenty women received new loans in August – 10 in Limbe and 10 in Ranquitte. In addition,  7 women from the initial loan group in May of 2012 received an additional $100 each as they successfully renewed their initial loans for a third time. The second loan group of 12 women from Sept of 2012 will soon be renewing their loans for the third time and also each receive an additional $100. While this is very exciting for the women, as they have successfully grown their small businesses and can now have even more operating funds, it is somewhat scary for us as an organization. We would like to continue to fund 30-40 new loans each year, in addition to rewarding women who have been successful over three years, but this will take extra fundraising and donations. Many women are still on a waiting list for their initial loans. Please consider donations to Helping Haiti Work.

New loan group in Ranquitte
New loan group in Ranquitte
New loan group in Limbe
New loan group in Limbe

Year Three and Continued Success

DSC04970Due to the success of our Give to the Max Day fundraising and end of year contributions, we were able to grant 30 new loans in January – 15 in Ranquite and 15 in Limbe. The pictured group are women from Ranquite.

We awarded our first loans in March of 2012 and the goal at that time was to fundraise enough to eventually award 100 loans. We are currently at 160 loans and have no plans to stop! In fact, the Board of Helping Haiti Work has been researching ideas to advance the program to more women as well as honor the requests of women who have already received grants that now want larger loans. The first group of 10 women that were awarded loans in March of 2012 will soon be due for their third loan cycle. All of them have paid back 100% for each loan cycle. They will receive an additional $100 (for a total loan of $300) this time with the understanding that they will each contribute $10-$15 of their new loan to self fund a new participant in the program. They will be responsible for collecting the money each month from this woman and benefit from the 2% interest rate that is added to the loan.

Our fundraising in 2015 will focus on sustaining the original loan program and also raising additional funds for the 27 women starting their third loan cycle.

November Haiti trip

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThank you to those of you who contributed during our Give to the Max Day fundraiser. While we were not as successful financially this year as we had been the previous year, we were able to increase the awareness of our organization.

While we were in Haiti last week we were able to meet with many of the microfinance recipients. These 135 women continue to have a 100% payback rate and are eager for larger loans and loans for their friends and relatives. It was difficult to explain to them that we do not have an unending supply of money to distribute and if we increase the size of the current loans ($200), it will mean less loans available in the future. American seems like the land of never ending funds when you see mission groups arrive at the airport daily and spend money hiring translators and eating in restaurants.

One women wanted to impress on us the ongoing benefits of the loan program. While she is able to use the profits from her business to send her children to school, the unemployment rate when children graduate from high school is still very high. Alcoholism and petty crime is increasingly more of an issue in rural villages as young men have no jobs and ample spare time.   Other young adults travel to surrounding islands for employment, where they are often treated poorly and are far from family support. The hope of these mothers is that more loans will create more local business opportunities  and allow  children to stay home after they finish school, working with their parents.

Many aid organizations in Haiti have worked diligently to build schools, making an education possible for children. Helping Haiti Work is taking the next step in Ranquitte and Limbe to help to create job opportunities for families. Consider a donation that will help us to fund more loans.

Giving Cash to the Poor

The model of our microloan program involves a half day teaching for the women recipients that instructs them in basic bookeeping and how to pay back their loan on a monthly basis. What is does not involve is telling them what type of business to operate.  Since 2000, many aide programs in the developing world have started to change the way they do business. Rather than the outside world viewing the poor as helpless, they are viewed as the part of the solution. Instead of spending money to build schools, roads and wells, many studies have shown that the results are better when cash is given directly to the poor with no strings attached.  It also decreases the cost of beauracacy and is much cheaper to run.

I have been delighted when talking to our microloan recipients regarding the ingenuity of their business ideas and their ability to change the focus of their business depending on the season.  A woman may sell foodstuffs in the summer, change to school supplies in the fall and then shoes over the winter. Each time she is using her loan to purchase the items for resale.

0[1]When we are in Haiti next week, we will be visiting with the pictured women.  They received their loans last month in Ranquitte. Unfortunately, soon after they started their businesses, extreme flooding from heavy rains has ensued. There have been multiple deaths and businesses have been closed. The road to Ranquitte passes thru 2 rivers, making washouts a common occurance. But I have always been impressed by the ingenuity of Haitians, and I am sure they will have improvised and have many stories to tell.

Please consider making a contribution to our program on Give to the Max Day.  I would love to inform all of these women that not only will we be able to continue the program but we can make it grow to include their friends and relatives.  Helping them to help themselves – Helping Haiti Work!

10421543_882050995169074_8687321334095207803_n[1]

The Butcher in Limbe

P1030728During one of my first meetings with the microfinance women, I noticed that one of the women kept looking at her watch. This may not seem unusual, but in Haiti “time” is a relative term and most people do not wear a watch.  She was often getting out of her chair and peering down the street. For what, I wasn’t sure. Ten minutes before the meeting was to end, her cell phone rang and she abruptly left. I was soon to find out why she was so worried about the clock!  After the meeting, we were led on a tour of the local market where some of the women sell their goods. A small crown was gathered around one particular stand. As we got closer, we saw the woman who had been in such a hurry. She had been waiting for her delivery of frozen chicken pieces and hot dogs to resell in the market. Most Haitian homes do not have a refrigerator, so getting the partially frozen meat sold and out of the hot sun was a priority.  Her business has been profitable and she is planning on selling meat at other markets in the area.

A widow in Ranquitte

Haiti Nov 2013 - Ranquitte (11)

Our most recent expansion of the microfinance program was to a rural village nestled in the mountainous hills of Haiti, 2 hours south of CapHaitian. Ranquitte is the hub for many even more rural areas that are only accessible by foot. Madame Jetah (second row wearing white skirt and purple blouse) has lived in this area all of her life and is now in her early 50’s with 5 children. She was widowed a few years ago, which made a difficult life almost impossible. She has also been helping to care for 5 of her nieces and nephews since her sister died. She was chosen as one of the original recipients due to her extreme need. Each week she travels the 2 hours to CapHaitian sitting in the back of a pick-up truck. After arriving, she purchases gasoline in gallon containers, which she transports back to Ranquitte while riding in the bed of the pickup truck over extremely rocky, rutted roads. The gasoline is poured into smaller, quart size containers that she resells to villagers as fuel for their motorcycles or generators. She hopes to grow her business so that she can add a second trip each week and sell even more gasoline.

New Loans and the Power of Hope

20140919_141745Our 6th loan group, who received their  loans in late 2013, paid back the original amount of $200 and were awarded a second loan of $225. We still maintain a 100% payback rate and will soon be considering larger loans for the women who start on their third loan cycle in 2015.  With the Haitian economy growing at a rate of 4.5%, the women are wanting to expand their small businesses even further and are willing to take on additional risk.

“Half the Sky”, by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, was the impetus for starting this microfinance program. Their stories of the power of individuals to expand opportunity for women in the developing world led me to further research microfinance. Their second book, “A Path Appears”, details the benefits of positive change both for the recipient and for the giver.  “Interventions that create hope, such as microsavings schemes and entrepreneurship training, can shatter the cycles of learned helplessness and create hope.”  That hope is what we are seeing and hearing from our loan recipients. They are WORKING to create a better life for both themselves and for their families. And they are benefitting in many more ways than monetary – they have a renewed sense of pride and accomplishement.

Give to the Max Day is one short month away.  This is our major fundraiser for the year and will help to fund new loans in 2015.  Please consider making a difference in a Haitian women’s  life and creating hope for her family.