While in Haiti last week on a medical mission trip, 2 of our board members took a side trip to Ranquitte for 24 hours to see first hand the initial loan group of 7 women and distribute solar powered cell phone chargers to the second group of 5 women. Father Charles, the priest who has assisted us with finding the local women, meet us at the airport in Cap Haitian and then drove us the 2 hours over 30 miles of rutted, pothole filled roads into the mountains of the central part of the island. We crossed 3 streams by driving thru them and then wound our way up the side of a mountain, descending into the valley between mountains where Ranquitte is situated. We were quite impressed by the cleanliness of the paved main street and even filled garbage receptacles by the side of the road. Father Charles gave us a tour of the school that he has started, currently with an enrollment of 400 students at a cost of $12 per year.
Since Ranquitte has no electricity, all work occurs during daylight hours. The Catholic church service started at 7 am and lasted for 2 hours. Following mass, we met with all of the microfinance women and gave instructions on the new cell phone chargers. It was during this part of our visit that we learned that one of our loan recipients had walked 4 hours from her home in the mountains to be at the 7 am mass and receiver her charger. Most of her walk had to have been in the dark if she arrived in Ranquitte at 7 am.
Another of the original recipients had been widowed and left with 5 children, in addition to another 5 children of her sisters when she also died. She said that the extra money she made with the loan program was helping to provide for one meal a day for her family. This woman traveled that long road to Cap Haitian each week to buy gasoline and then resell in smaller quantities to motorcycle owners in town. All of the women were proud to show us their credit books, with on time payments made each week and the amount to be paid back decreasing. They were eager to pay off their loans so that they could qualify for a second, larger loan and expand their businesses.
A $200 loan to these woman will probably not move them from poverty to a middle class life. However, it will make poverty a little easier when you can count on one meal a day and possibly enrolling your children in the school so that they can have a brighter future.