“Fonkoze encourages us ti machann who don’t have anything at all,” she says.
Hirane lives with her three-year old son and her husband in a small house in Flon, just outside Leyogàn. Because vendors in the open market must pay for a place to sell, she conducts her small commerce from her home. Printed on the wall of her house are three Bible verses and a note that says, “Relaxation is the best medicine.”
It stands in contrast to Hirane’s hard work. She sells a variety of products, including snacks, beauty products, and household goods.
Hirane began selling cosmetics in 2006, but when the earthquake hit in 2010, she lost her business. “After that, I stayed that way, not doing anything,” she says. Hirane had taken out a loan from another organization in 2010 and had only a month left to pay it back when the earthquake struck. Unable to repay her loan, the amount she owed kept mounting. She told herself she wouldn’t borrow again.
Then in January 2013, she met Samuel, her Ti Kredi credit agent. She decided to enroll in the Ti Kredi program, and along with her fellow Ti Kredi members, received training from Samuel in basic business skills.
She explains, “Fonkoze got rid of the sadness in my heart. Because when someone sits and does nothing, she isn’t happy. But when you have a business, you feel more proud of yourself. You feel like you have more courage.”
She started out with a $25 loan, the starting amount in Fonkoze’s Ti Kredi program, designed to help women with few assets who are unprepared to take out a $75 loan (the minimum size in Fonkoze’s core Solidarity lending program).
“It started out small, but in time my business grew,” she says. Hirane explains that she first bought cosmetic products, then used her next loan to diversify into alimentary products, and finally used her $50 loan to add charcoal to her collection of products.
“I can see the difference in my life,” Hirane says. “What I didn’t have before, now I have, thanks to Ti Kredi. I’m able to give my family food every day, even when it’s not that much. My husband does industrial electricity, but he doesn’t bring home money every day. There were three months when he couldn’t find any work.”
Now, her commerce allows her to provide for her family even when her husband is out of work. She still has worries, like the need to fix her leaky roof and find money to pay for her son’s school, but she is taking steps to ensure her continued progress. She and her husband have made the conscious decision not to have more children for the time being, instead investing their resources in their son’s future.
She says, “I would like him to arrive farther than me. I want him to go to college. My mom couldn’t help me. [My husband and I] can help him, and we’re happy about that.”
Hirane recently celebrated her graduation from the Ti Kredi program and now plans to continue into Solidarity lending. “I want to continue with Solidarity credit to augment my business,” she says. “My little commerce will grow.”
Reflecting on her past and how far she has progressed, she says, “I fell down completely. Now, if you see me smiling, it’s thanks to Fonkoze.”