Fonkoze blog for news and updates on the work we are doing for the ultra poor in Haiti.
Fonkoze blog for news and updates on the work we are doing for the ultra poor in Haiti.
Hurricane Matthew destroyed everything: her home and busineses; her garden; and her livestock. Now, in the wake of the storm, Marie-Julienne Laine says that she and her three children sleep anywhere they can find in their community outside of Okay. It has been raining for three straight days, and new floods are threatening her region again—less than three weeks after Matthew left Haiti.
It all would be more bearable if her husband could carry this burden with her, but he was killed in a car accident six year ago, shortly after the 2010 earthquake. At the time, Marie-Julienne’s children were 4, 11, and 14 years old, and she knew that their lives depended on her ability to move forward in the face of tragedy. And so, she turned to Fonkoze. “After the death of my husband,” she says, “Fonkoze became my only partner.”
Back then, she had been a Fonkoze client for almost nine years, and she threw herself into her small business. With advice from her Fonkoze Loan Officer, she did her best to stock products that would bring the most profit. She was able to send her children to school, and she even made enough money to purchase livestock. She planted a garden that not only provided food for her family but produced a surplus that she could often sell in the market.
She became so successful that the other clients in her credit center elected her to become their Center Chief. By virtue of her leadership, she was selected to join the Boutik Sante (Community Health Store) Program in 2015. Boutik Sante trains Fonkoze clients like Marie-Julienne to become Community Health Entrepreneurs. They sell over-the-counter health products and deliver basic screening services in their communities; it is an innovative way of expanding access to health products and services in some of the most rural parts of Haiti.
Now, Marie-Julienne is turning to Fonkoze again, and she knows that her new role as a Community Health Entrepreneur is critical as the country faces a worsening cholera epidemic. “It’s more important than ever for me to continue supplying my neighborhood with water purification tablets and oral rehydration salts in case of an emergency.”
She and other Community Health Entrepreneurs met with Fonkoze nurses at the Okay branch office to launch the Cholera Awareness and Prevention Campaign. She says, “Those of us who could make it to the branch this morning are all eager to restart our businesses; we don’t want to sit down—not for a second. But we need any help that we can get to rebuild and continue moving forward with our lives.”
A widow who lived on her own, Sonia supported herself by selling biskwit, a bread common in rural Haiti, which is baked in large, rectangular sheets, scored and then separated into little squares to sell. Each day, she would buy a few sheets from a local baker, and then carry them around the neighborhood in a basket on her head. Life seemed to be going well, as she was able to live a productive and self-sufficient life.
Sonia’s life would later take a turn for the worse however. A few years ago, she suffered from a minor stroke, losing much of the use of her right arm and leg. Having no access to physical therapy, she wasn’t able to regain most of the mobility she had lost. As a result of this new physical limitation, she could no longer run the small business she had worked so hard to build.
Unable now to do even the simplest things, her neighbors worried that she could not take care of herself anymore. Sonia was more vulnerable than ever: living in isolation with no viable way to support herself. Even after she was selected by Fonkoze to participate in its CLMD (CLM for persons with disabilities) program, she still wondered if she could really turn her life around for the better. She would soon discover this was truly possible.
As part of the CLMD program, Sonia was asked to choose two enterprises to develop upon joining the program. She chose a pig and small commerce. Using the funds the program provided her, she bought sacks of charcoal from people who walked down the long dirt road that passed by her home. She would then separate the charcoal into small bags and sell them to her neighbors. Her business began to flourish and she would soon earn enough income to allow her to add other products to her business.
When it came time to graduate from the CLMD program, Sonia admitted she was sad because she had gotten used to the CLMD team being there. So it was no surprise to see how thrilled she was when she learned the team would still visit her for six more months to follow-up on her progress.
Through this guided process, Sonia regained the confidence she had lost and discovered a newfound sense of hope and purpose. Thank you for making this possible.
P.S. Our programs are funded by the ongoing donations we receive from supporters like you.
It is no secret that the poor quality of Haiti’s infrastructure contributed to the death toll in the 2010 earthquake. Haiti’s earthquake, magnitude 7.0 with a death toll of approximately 200,000, is often compared to Chile’s 2010 earthquake, magnitude 8.8 with a death toll of 525. One primary reason that Chile’s was less devastating was the quality of its infrastructure and the safety of its buildings.
In a place like Haiti, even when building codes and standards are in place, they are not easily enforced. Most of the buildings in Port-au-Prince are constructed of cinderblocks, and during the earthquake, buildings with poorly-produced cinderblocks were more likely to crumble. Small entrepreneurs in the cinderblock-making sector often lack the skills and the incentive to produce quality, disaster-resistant cinderblocks.
But, block-by-block, Claude Debrosse is helping to change the face of the cinderblock-making sector in Haiti. A partnership between Build Change and Fonkoze Financial Services is enabling Claude to develop skills and access the financial services he needs to expand his business.
Build Change, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization, has been working to help REZO, a network of 35 affiliated block manufacturing small businesses, ensure that they produce disaster-resistant cinderblocks. They provide them with simple tools, such as block-testing machines, to evaluate the strength of the cinderblocks, and once a month, they conduct random inspections at each business.
One of the key challenges Build Change identified for the cinderblock makers was a lack of access to financial services. Commercial financial institutions view small enterprises like Claude’s as too risky to be attractive borrowing clients. On the other hand, microfinance institutions’ loan offerings are often too small, too expensive, and require payment too quickly. So, Build Change and Fonkoze Financial Services—the largest microfinance institution in Haiti— partnered to develop a loan product that would be tailored to small businesses like Claude’s.
Since Claude became a Fonkoze Financial Services client and took out his first $10,000 loan, his business has grown. In just four months, he increased his block production by nearly 45%. His purchase of cement, the main component of cinderblocks, has increased fourfold. He has created jobs for more than 20 people—mostly young men who were previously unemployed. And he has ambitious plans: “I want to continue growing my business with Fonkoze Financial Services.”
Claude, himself, has a humble background. Born to a poor family in Petit-Goave in 1985, he was one of 11 children. He says, “In a family with 11 children, it was very hard on my parents; we understood early on that everyone needed to put in a lot of effort to succeed in life.” He attended public school, and his academic success enabled him to move to Port-au-Prince and attend Haiti’s National School for Arts and Trade. In 2008, he established his own enterprise, designing and creating cinderblock-producing machines. His work ethic and dedication was noticed by one of his clients, Our Little Brothers and Sisters of St. Therese, who took it upon themselves to send him to Italy for a three-month skill-building program.
Once he returned, he decided to expand his machine-making business to actually include the production of cinderblocks in a town outside of Port-au-Prince. However, he lacked the resources to do so; the demand was high, but he could not produce cinderblocks in large quantity. Now, thanks to his loan with Fonkoze, not only has Claude’s business expanded, but it is an asset in his community. He says, “I feel proud that I am responsible for preventing young people from being in the streets by hiring them. I understand that what I do is valuable for the community.”
Perhaps equally important, Claude’s expanded business provides cinderblocks that are safe and will resist future earthquakes and hurricanes in Haiti. He, with support from Build Change and Fonkoze Financial Services, is part of a business-led solution to Haiti’s post-earthquake reconstruction.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 31, 2016
BOSTON – Classy, the world’s first social impact platform with the goal of helping organizations solve social problems more effectively and efficiently, today announced Fonkoze as a finalist for the 6th Annual Classy Awards. The Collaborative + Classy Awards bring together top social innovators from around the world for a unique three-day experience of speaker series and networking opportunities that culminates in the Classy Awards. This year’s event will take place June 14-16, 2016, in Boston’s Innovation District.
“The Classy Awards team spends a year extensively researching social innovations from around the world. We’ve been fortunate to discover some incredible organizations over the past few years, but this year’s pool of nominees is one of the strongest we’ve ever seen! We’re honored to play a role in convening leaders throughout the sector to recognize their efforts,” said Pat Walsh, Co-Founder and CIO of Classy.org.
“We are thrilled to have been selected as a Finalist for this year’s Classy Awards recognizing the most innovative organizations of the year. Fonkoze is being recognized for our Boutik Sante (Community Health Store) Program, which – at full-scale – will provide basic health services and products to over 2 million Haitians in rural and underserved areas. One of the most exciting aspects of the program is that after an initial investment, it will become self-sustaining and won’t require additional donor funding,” said Natalie Parke, Fonkoze USA’s Program Manager.
This year, Classy reviewed over 1,300 program submissions from 1,100 global organizations. This year, Finalists were awarded based on their scale and scope of the problem, an innovative approach; ability to solve the problem; and organizational effectiveness. Of the 100 finalists selected from the submissions 10 winners will be chosen by the Leadership Council and announced on stage at the Classy Awards.
The Finalists recognized this year are addressing the incredibly complex and equally severe problems we face today. Their efforts span global poverty and hunger, disease, education, climate change, disaster response and preparedness, and health care accessibility.
The Collaborative + Classy Awards, presented by Southwest Airlines and Classy, are produced in partnership with Guidestar, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Salesforce.org, Plenty Consulting, WePay, GOOD, GLG, Babson College, and Echoing Green. For more information on the Collaborative + Classy Awards and to register for the event, visit www.classy.org/collaborative.
It is with great sorrow that we share with you the recent passing of our friend, colleague and leader, Lunese Valcy. Joining Fonkoze in 2012, Lunese was indeed a very special person and a phenomenal leader in her community.
Born in 1967, Lunese dedicated her life to the protection of children, advocacy of women’s rights, education and social development. She belonged to several organizations that promoted these causes.
A very dynamic and inspiring person, Lunese had a great sense of leadership, loyalty and fairness. She worked hard to discover new possibilities for the women in her community, in an effort to find them a better way of life.
Lunese was eventually elected by her peers to serve on the Board of Directors of Fonkoze’s Foundation to represent the *ti machann (Creole for little merchant) in her region – which she did passionately.
She leaves behind two children, including a 16-year-old daughter. Please keep Lunese’s family and the community she supported in your thoughts and prayers as they mourn the loss of their mother and leader.
*Ti machann translates literally to “little merchant,” but that translation does not do the term justice. These are women who have small, informal businesses in their village markets—selling used clothing; food products like cooking oil, rice and flour; candies and snacks; soda; and other items. They are often illiterate; many of them walk miles to reach their markets, with wares piled on their heads; the majority live on less than two dollars a day. As women, they are often the default caregivers for their children—and are often responsible for the payment of school fees and healthcare. They are considered the poto mitan (backbone) of the Haitian economy. Their resilience in the face of adversity and economic hardship is what inspires Fonkoze’s staff to do the work we do on a daily basis.
After an extensive and careful selection process, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) selected Fonkoze as the sole winner (in the Economy & Finance Category) of the 4th Edition of the “Juscelino Kubitschek,” Award of Merit for Regional Development in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The ceremony was held on the IDB premises in Haiti, on May 17. There to accept the award was Fonkoze Founder Father Joseph, Executive Director Carine Roenen (The Fonkoze Foundation), CEO Matt Brown (Fonkoze Financial Services), and COO Dominique Boyer (Fonkoze Financial Services).
As you may have heard, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is planning to deliver surplus peanuts to Haiti in an effort to provide humanitarian aid. While this gesture is well intentioned, the plan—if carried out—will endanger the livelihood of poor farmers all over Haiti and increase Haiti’s reliance on foreign aid. As an organization that promotes self-reliance, and works with peanut farmers living in extreme poverty, we are strongly opposed to this measure.
Peanuts are an important crop in Haiti. Not only does everyone love the local peanut butter “mamba”, but few crops offer as good an opportunity to make money over a short amount of time. They are relatively drought tolerant and require few inputs to have a reasonable harvest, which is one of the reasons why Fonkoze teaches ultrapoor women in our CLM program to grow them to increase their income. A massive influx of imported peanuts would cause the price of local peanuts to drop and would substantially reduce the income these women could obtain from this reliable crop.
Unfortunately, U.S. involvement in Haiti’s agricultural policy has often had disastrous effects. In the early 1980’s, fearing Haiti’s Creole pigs could spread African swine fever, the U.S. Congress authorized $23 million to slaughter local pigs and replace them with hybrid pigs from Iowa. The imported pigs struggled to adapt, often became sick, and had few litters.
The most bitterly remembered example is the collapse of the Haitian rice market. Haiti was largely self-reliant in its rice production by the mid 1980’s, but in the mid 1990’s, Haiti’s leadership agreed to slash tariffs on cheaper imported rice at the behest of the U.S. and the World Bank. As a result, subsidized U.S. rice inundated the market, effectively crushing local rice farmers. This small Caribbean country is now the second-biggest export destination for American rice growers.
Bill Clinton, who as President encouraged this trade liberalization in Haiti, has since stated, “It was a mistake…I have to live every day with the consequences of the lost capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people, because of what I did.”
Let’s not do it again.
To learn more about what others are saying about this issue, please read the following:
The Associated Press
The Washington Post
Partners in Health: http://www.pih.org/blog/no-to-dumping-peanuts-in-haiti
Smallholder Farmers Alliance: http://www.smallholderfarmersalliance.org/
Presbyterian Church USA: http://www.pcusa.org/news/2016/5/11/us-prepares-dump-500-metric-tons-peanuts-haiti/
How to Make an Impact Today
Our vision is for a Haiti where people, standing together, shoulder to shoulder, have pulled themselves out of poverty.
Fonkoze is a family of organizations that work together to provide financial and non-financial services to empower Haitians – primarily women – to lift their families out of poverty.
The report profiled Fonkoze’s Chemen Lavi Miyò (CLM) program for the ultra poor, showing how the “graduation model” we use with our clients helps them become economically stable.
Read more about Fonkoze’s Chemen Lavi Miyò (CLM) program in their report.
We’re proud to announce that Garcelle Beauvais, Haitian-American actress, author, and fashion model, joined the Honorary Board of Directors for Fonkoze USA after traveling to Haiti and witnessing Fonkoze’s work first-hand.
“Fonkoze is doing tremendous work in Haiti, bringing economic opportunity and support to people in some of the furthest reaches of the country,” says Garcelle. “When I saw the impact Fonkoze has in the lives of people living in extreme poverty, primarily women and children, I knew I had to become involved.” Since then, Garcelle has generated support for Fonkoze by attending its first fundraiser in Haiti in October and reaching out to her own network for their support.
Garcelle has long been a champion of women’s issues, particularly when it comes to family. “In Haiti, women are considered to be the backbone of the economy and the doorway to the family unit,” she says. “Their small business enterprises are key to putting food on the table, and a roof over their heads. Fonkoze’s willingness to serve these tiny micro-enterprises, and their extensive reach throughout Haiti, offers reason to be hopeful about Haiti’s future.”
As one of her first projects as a new board member, Garcelle and fellow board member Marguerite Lathan, both Haitian-Americans, are planning a gala fundraiser to be held in Los Angeles in 2016.