Frantz Buteau’s workday is no typical 9-5. At 6 am, the 27-year-old Social Impact Monitor is already departing the Lenbe office—Fonkoze’s live-in branch for high-performing staff. Frantz then crosses rocky roads, streams, and barely passable mountain paths by motorcycle in order to reach Fonkoze clients. He interviews them in their homes, one by one, often until 5pm, when he finally returns to the Fonkoze office to summarize his findings.
What keeps him going? The love for what he does: gathering the data Fonkoze needs to quantify and qualify how its loans are changing its clients’ lives.
He describes one of his favorite experiences in the field: a visit to a very remote area called Labadi. The women’s homes were fairly spread out, which required him to spend the entire day traveling between them. But their hospitality amazed him. “They prepared coffee and bread for us,” no small offering for women in their situation. “It was very moving.”
Not only does he appreciate the chance to meet with Fonkoze clients, he also loves analyzing the information he finds, which includes how many farm animals they have, if they have a latrine, and if they ever go hungry. He conducts these interviews once a year, using them to measure client progress. “The main objective [of social impact monitoring] is to propose improvements to Fonkoze’s products and services,” Frantz explains. Instituted in 2006, Frantz believes the program has already improved Fonkoze’s operations.
He provides one example: credit life insurance. “Before in the group of five [women in a Fonkoze lending group], if one died, the others had to pay off her debt as well,” Frantz explains. “Listening to the women, they said, ‘This is unjust,’ and I had a sense of responsibility.” Frantz voiced his concern to his supervisors, and they used his feedback to institute a credit life insurance program for all clients. “Now as soon as one becomes a Fonkoze client, one is automatically insured,” he says. The women can borrow in peace, knowing that their debt will not burden others should something happen to them.
Frantz initially had some misgivings about working for Fonkoze in Lenbe because, as he says, “to accept to live here is to accept the lack of a private life.” But being selected to work at the Lenbe branch, which doubles as an active learning center, is a unique opportunity, and he has adapted, thanks to his fellow employees. Although communal living of course presents challenges, Frantz says, “We live as if we are a family.”
Frantz explains his gratitude to Fonkoze, where he began working in February 2008. “What I love about Fonkoze is that it doesn’t only help the marginalized, it also aids young Haitian professionals.” While it is often difficult for young professionals to find work in Haiti because most jobs require a certain level of experience, “They accept your youth, and give you the possibility to grow through this experience.”
While Frantz hopes to pursue further studies in Information Technology, his ongoing passion, he remains inspired by Fonkoze’s capacity to empower both impoverished Haitian women and young Haitian professionals. “It is why I love Fonkoze and I want to work to do all I can to help Fonkoze,” Frantz says. “This work has helped me to understand the way of life of the poor and the reality of my country. It drives me to work at the heart of Fonkoze’s objectives: to reduce the problems of those living in extreme poverty.”