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!

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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.

Storytelling

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Most stories about Haiti begin with one or more of the following facts.

1. Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere.

2. The average Haitian lives on less than $2 a day.

3. It is ranked among the most corrupt countries in the world.

4. Unemployment is 40-60%.

While these statements are true, they do little to portray the Haiti that we see when we visit with the recipients of our microfinance loans. These women are resourceful, hard working and creative despite their low literacy level and lack of formal business training. They are most appreciative of the continued existance of the program so that they can continue to benefit and so can their friends and relatives. In order for the program to offer more microloans, we need to keep asking for donations. Facts do not generate donations; personal stories do. In the beginning, I had hesitated to share individual pictures and stories  as I did not want to invade the privacy of our Haitian participants. But I have realized that stories are what motivate others to give and I believe that the invasion of privacy is outweighed by the possibility to help more women. Work in the developing world is never black or white – only shades of grey.

Our next trip is planned for November 7-15. In the weeks leading up to the trip, I will share stories of individual women who have been successful in their small business. Give to the Max Day (our biggest fundraiser) occurs while we are in Haiti. I am hoping their stories inspire you to give.

 

 

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.

New loans in Limbe

12 New loans were granted in Limbe last week. The women were pleasently surprised as the last set of 10 loans was just in May and we were not expecting to be able to fund another group until later this fall. A large monetary donation from Amo Methodist Church in SW Minnesota made this extra group possible. unnamed[7]unnamed[1]

Menstrual Pad Awareness event at Messiah United Methodist Church

unnamed[5]Over 70 women attended our first menstrual pad awareness event held on July 15th at Messiah UMC in Plymouth.  The first part of the evening was spent hearing about the need for reusable feminine hygiene in the developing world, how the lack of resources impacts a young girls’  ability to attend school, and the development of a sewing center that constructs the pads as part of our microfinance program.   Special guests from Zimbabwe shared their stories about how universal the need is for these products. The evening ended with those in attendance cutting and sewing some of the menstrual hygiene kit components for later distribution. Donations totaled $745 to be used in supporting the sewing center.

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New Loans in Limbe and Ranquitte

Due to the generosity of our donors during the Mother’s Day Fundraiser, we were able to start 10 new loans in both Limbe and Ranquitte.

Group of 10 women in Limbe
Group of 10 women in Limbe

Due to the start of the rainy season in Haiti and because Ranquitte is a more remote location, the 10 loans here are being administered as women are able to travel and we don’t have pictures of the full group.

Menstrual pads are on their way to Haiti!

Future Haitian taxi
Future Haitian taxi

photo (8) IMG_4314The 4 sewing machines and 50 kits of reusable menstrual pads were packed in the trucks and headed down to Miami. From there, the trucks will be loaded onto a barge and make the 3 day journey to Cap Haitian, Haiti. The group of 3 Canadian students will start working with 4 Haitian women next week to resource the materials needed for constructing the pads in Haiti.

Happy Mother’s Day to the Unknown Moms

by Leslee Jaeger
Open Leslee’s blog

sisters

There are 2 mothers in this world who will go unrecognized on Sunday. One lives in Korea and one in China. They gave birth to my 13 and 15 year old daughters and have not seen them since days after their birth. Their stories are presumably very different. In Korea, most children that are placed for adoption are born to single mothers. Public acceptance of unwed mothers is low and the family often hides the pregnant woman from the outside world. Adoption paperwork is completed  in the first few days after birth, as was the case with our daughter. If the woman later marries, she often does not inform her husband of the first child and her family never talks about the child.  This is only one of the many reasons that searching for birth parents can be frustrating.

The reasons that children in China are placed for adoption has changed over the last few years with the relaxing of the one child policy and the increase in economic prosperity of the people.  When our daughter was born in 2000, the one child policy allowed for a second child if the first child was a girl. We do not know her exact circumstances, but she was probably the second daughter of a rural family who needed a son to continue to farm the land.  Her mother would not have had much input into her abandonment (placing children for adoption in China is illegal) as this is often the decision of the husband and mother-in-law.

I am not judging either of these women. If in the same circumstances, I can’t say that I would have made a different decision. I would love to reach out to each of them and communicate how much their daughters are loved and flourishing in their current environments. However, this  needs to be a personal decision by each of my daughters. So much of their early story was out of their control that this is one important choice that they can control. They are aware of my feelings about openness in adoption, but have heard enough stories about family searches that have not ended well, that they have put any ideas about searching into the future.

Currently, open adoption is very common in the United States and preferred by both adoptive parents and birth parents. International adoption is traditionally closed, with adoptive parents receiving very little information about the circumstances of the birth family. This is slowly starting to change as the world is getting smaller. More adoptive families are traveling to their child’s country of origin and meeting extended family members. Social service agencies are facilitating communication between families after the adoption is completed. I can only see this as a positive as it helps a child have a history of less “unknowns” regarding the circumstances of their early years.

As much as I love my daughters and cannot imagine life without them in our crazy family, I still sometimes wish that they could have grown up within their birth countries.  They will both be strong woman and they may have been able to change some of the strong social mores in Korea and China that led to their adoption stories. Individualism is a strong force in America, unlike Asia where more of the focus is on the family. My daughters were sacrificed for the overall betterment of their birth family. They were received in American to benefit an individuals desire.

In my work in the developing world, I have seen some families make even harder decisions.  When there is not enough food for everyone, which child will need to go hungry?  When there is only limited funds for school, which children will benefit from an education?  If a child is sick, does it warrent the expense of a medical visit? These are choices most of us cannot imagine making once, let daily or weekly. These are the moms that most deserve our thoughts on Sunday if we have a quiet moment. On Sunday,  I will be thinking of the stories I have heard both in Africa and Haiti and giving thanks to a special mom in Korea and China.

mom in field