Microcredit in Haiti Part 1 – How microcredit can create opportunity

This is part one in a three part blog series exploring World Concern’s microcredit program in Haiti.  Consider this a little ‘behind the scenes’ look at how your generosity is used to provide real opportunities for Haitian small business owners.  The aim of this series is to provide you with a deeper understanding of how microcredit actually works in this context.  I will share about our history with microcredit in Haiti, describe the model we use to implement this program, and introduce you to some special people along the way.  I hope you will be encouraged and learn something new!  Please keep visiting the World Concern blog in the coming days for part two and three.    

Economist Muhammad Yunus, the ‘father’ of microcredit, is quoted as saying, “But we have created a society that does not allow opportunities for those people to take care of themselves because we have denied them those opportunities.”

One thing I have seen even in my short time in Haiti thus far is that people want to take care of themselves.  If you ask someone what they hope for their future a common response is, “I want to earn an income so that I can provide for my family and live a better life.”  I have heard this both in Port-au-Prince and in the countryside.

The idea that the poor are content with waiting around for the next handout is inaccurate.  Although I do not hear this specific word used in discussions with Haitians, the generally vibe is that people just want an opportunity.  A fair shot.  A lack of opportunity is a particularly harsh form of poverty because it acts as a trap.

Microcredit is one development tool that aims to offer an equitable solution to this injustice.  What is microcredit?  According to the Virtual Library on Microcredit, the definition of microcredit (adopted at the 1997 Microcredit Summit) says microcredit programs “extend small loans to very poor people for self-employment projects that generate income, allowing them to care for themselves and their families.”

Here in Haiti, World Concern has been using microcredit to help people care for themselves since 1990.  Over the past 23 years our microcredit program has experienced lots of growth.  Currently a local staff of 31 serves 5,000 clients in five Departments across the country.

Mr. Douilly sharing about microcredit and his experiences with World Concern.
Mr. Douilly sharing about microcredit and his experiences with World Concern.

“Our goal is to see clients work with us and then become independent.  They are independent when they can come to us and explain their situation and show how their business has grown.  They also need to show that they can work with the stock of merchandise they have,” explains Vilbert Douilly, World Concern’s microcredit Director in Haiti.

 

Bellia is one microcredit client that is working on building her business.  Since 1997 Bellia has been selling clothing and accessories at the market in Saint Louis du Nord in North West Haiti.  She said, “I use the loans to buy more products and grow my business.”

With the income Bellia earns she is able to provide for her family.  She has two children who are both in school.  Bellia proudly shared about another important purchase she recently made.  “I was able to buy land.  I want to build a house on it so I don’t have to pay high rent.”

Bellia next to her stand at the market.  What a wonderful woman!
Bellia next to her stand at the market.  What a lovely woman!

There are many other vendors at the market in Saint Louis du Nord, some who are also selling clothing and accessories.  When asked how she has stayed competitive over the years she said, “With my wisdom.  I smile and offer a good price.”  With a smile like this, how can she go wrong?

In Haiti, World Concern’s microcredit clients are primarily women, like Bellia.  Why is this?  Mr. Douilly explains that “Women often care more about their activity.  When they come and take a loan they want to pay it back more than men.”

Also, women are generally more likely to be engaged in a small income generating activity.  If you were to visit a market in Haiti, you would see that the majority of vendors are women.

Bellia serves an example of how microcredit can provide opportunity.  She is one of 5,000 people currently being empowered through our program.

In part two of this blog series we will look at more of the ‘nuts and bolts’ of World Concern’s microcredit program in Haiti.  What does the process look like?  What trainings are new clients given?  So stay tuned!

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Austin Snowbarger

Austin Snowbarger

Austin is serving as a communications liaison in Haiti. He and his wife Martha share stories, photos, and videos of World Concern’s work in Haiti here and on their blog, Echoes of Hope.

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