In a small village in rural Bangladesh, a team of strong fishermen wade through the neck-deep water of the village pond they share as a fish farm. Underneath the water’s calm, murky surface, calloused hands work tediously to reel in the rope that holds an increasingly heavy fishing net. One of those hands, belonging to a fisherman named Muhammad, is crimped—his fingers fused in the shape of a claw. But he is all smiles as he uses this hand to skillfully hook the net, now filled with hundreds of fish jumping out of the water.
For Muhammad, who has endured many hardships, not least of which was being robbed, beaten, and left for dead while working as a tuk tuk driver some 15 years ago, he is grateful to have a business that earns him a sustainable income.
“I cannot do anything else,” Muhammad reflects as he reveals his hand that’s been disfigured since the attack that left him permanently maimed. “So I chose this profession … my hand is like a hook for pulling in the ropes,” he says confidently.
Muhammad has been receiving business loans, support, and training from World Concern since two years after the attack. Prior to that, he was unable to work and therefore unable to provide for his family.
Muhammad’s wife, who cannot help but smile each time her husband looks at her proudly, recalls that time with tears in her eyes. “I cannot express how sad I felt. We were helpless and I could not do much. Our brother helped support us.”
It wasn’t until World Concern came to Muhammad’s village that he began to see the possibility to make a fresh start for himself. Today, Muhammad is not only a successful fish farmer, but he also raises ducks in a large pond on his property.
“Before, I was so poor,” Muhammad says, “and then World Concern came and encouraged me and helped me get started again.”
Muhammad and his loving wife work together to support themselves as well as Muhammad’s brother’s children—generously repaying the family that supported them for so long.
What does fatherhood look like?
It looks like a loving, supportive uncle raising and caring for his brother’s children.
It looks like a husband who adores his wife and in a culture of arranged marriage that often results in lack of respect for spouses.
It looks like Muhammad, who works tirelessly to provide for and ensure a better future for his family.
This is part three in a three part blog series exploring World Concern’s microcredit program in Haiti. If you missed part one and two you can read them here and here respectively. Thank you for reading!
As we have seen throughout this blog series, microcredit is a tool that can provide opportunity to the poor who often lack access to the resources needed to succeed. In Haiti microcredit has exploded over the years and currently there are an estimated 116,000 borrowers throughout the country. With this many microcredit clients in Haiti and many other groups serving poor small business owners, what makes World Concern’s program unique?
“Our clients say to us that our interest rate is low, our training helps them in their business, and since we are a Christian organization they feel comfortable with us,” said Vilbert Douilly, World Concern’s microcredit program director in Haiti.
In part two of this blog series we discussed how World Concern includes Biblical values into its’ training for each new client. World Concern staff is able to use text from the Bible to share about the importance of having integrity both in personal life and business life. Our desire is to transform individuals and communities both physically and spiritually. It is encouraging to see how microcredit can be used to accomplish this goal.
World Concern has been providing microcredit to small business owners in Haiti since 1990. We hope to use our experience and expertise in this area to continue to empower and support people in the future.
“I want to see our microcredit program become an institution of reference for others. We want to continue to be involved in microcredit in Haiti. We wish to serve more clients and reach the most vulnerable in our country,” shared Mr. Douilly.
Together we can see this vision of continuing to serve the most vulnerable come to life.
Small business owners in Haiti often lack the ability to access credit and therefore lack opportunity. Access to credit at traditional banks is reserved for those who are more privileged and have assets. Although the poor desire to be productive and provide for their families, there are little to no options for them to expand their business and earn a livable wage. Microcredit aims to address this injustice. It is one tool that World Concern has found useful in equipping and supporting the poor.
Please consider partnering with us as we support small business owners in Haiti. Your investment not only impacts the individual client but their family and community!
Here are a few of the 5,000 exceptional people we are blessed to work with in Haiti.
This is part two in a three part blog series exploring World Concern’s microcredit program in Haiti. If you missed part one, you can read it here. Please keep visiting the World Concern blog in the coming days for part three.
The majority of Haitians earn their livelihoods by operating a small enterprise but are left without an equitable option for receiving access to credit in order to grow their business. These enterprises are operated by people like Bellia, whom we met in part one of this blog series, and many other low-income and hardworking individuals.
“People get loans at the bank. But certainly the bank is not accessible to everyone. At the bank there are a lot of difficulties in giving a loan to someone. They will ask you what other bank loans you have and if you have a house,” explained Vilbert Douilly, World Concern’s microcredit program director in Haiti. These requirements mean the poor are denied the opportunity to access and utilize credit. This is why microcredit remains an important poverty reduction tool in Haiti.
World Concern in Haiti has been using microcredit to empower and strengthen the poor working in the informal sector since 1990. With the support of donors, 31 staff members are currently able to serve 5,000 clients in five departments throughout the country.
This is no small task. It requires a sound training program, an effective model, and a strong network of local partners. If you have ever wondered what the process of implementing a microcredit program looks like, then you should enjoy this next bit.
How Microcredit Works
Identifying new clients
World Concern’s new microcredit clients in Haiti must meet the following criteria:
Possess a high level of need
Unable to qualify for a loan from a traditional bank
Currently operate an income generating activity (examples include selling food, household items, or clothes)
Since our goal is to reach those small business owners at the bottom of the economic ladder, it is important to take each of these three criteria into account when deciding whether or not to accept a new client. There is no rubric or measurement tool used when determining whether or not a person is in great need. These decisions are made on a situational basis and with the help of our local church and association partners and World Concern staff working in each community who know the individuals well.
We want our clients to be encouraged and given all the resources they need to succeed. While a small loan can certainly help develop someone’s business, a high quality training can help develop the individual. This is an important investment and one that World Concern takes seriously. After all, we are interested in the transformation of the entire person not just their economic situation.
Each new client participates in three training sessions. The first is about nutrition and developing a balanced diet, the second teaches business skills, and the third focuses on using Biblical values in the marketplace. The training sessions provide our clients with practical skills they can use to improve their lives and businesses.
“The values we teach them include integrity because we are going to give them a loan,” said Mr. Douilly. “We can take verses and texts from the Bible to talk about the importance of integrity and morality.”
We have found that Biblical values can play an important role in improving clients understanding of scripture as well as how these values can help them operate a successful business.
There is more than one way to implement a microcredit program. Each context has unique challenges that need to be considered. World Concern has developed three methods for providing loans to clients that are effective in Haiti. These methods are Individual, Solidarity groups, and Village Bank groups.
Although World Concern does offer loans to individuals, many of our clients join one of two groups; a Solidarity Group or a Village Bank Group. These group methods have been a part of the World Concern microcredit program since the beginning. A group receives one large loan and the loan is then divided among each client – sort of like a mini credit union.
Aside from simply sharing a loan, group members have the opportunity to support and encourage each other. The Solidarity and Village Bank groups help provide clients with a sense of community, which is important when trying to run your own small business.
“We meet every Thursday to share ideas and give advice,” said Bellia, a mother of two and member of a Solidarity Group.
You can see from the infographic that interest rates are kept low enough that clients can afford to pay them, while still allowing the program to continue. The traditional banking system is simply not an option for the poor in Haiti who lack assets. Aside from banks, another form of accessing credit is through local loan sharks. But interest rates through a loan shark are astronomical and also not a viable option for the poor.
According to Jean Rico Louissaint, World Concern’s Microcredit Coordinator for the northwest department in Haiti, loan sharks charge borrowers at least five times the interest rate World Concern offers. High interest rates such as this only trap people in poverty and are hardly fair. Our program aims to provide a different solution; one that actually works for the poor, not against them.
Essential to our microcredit program is our network of local partners. These include churches and local associations. “The associations and local churches help us identify new clients, especially those that are vulnerable in the community,” explains Mr. Douilly. “The church knows that we give loans so they often ask us to present the microcredit program to their congregation. After this presentation they send us a list of people who are doing business in the church and are interested in receiving a loan.”
Many clients who come to World Concern through a local partner form a Village Bank group. The infographic above highlights this. This allows small business owners in the same area to take out a joint loan together and support each other.
Collaboration is an important aspect of any development program. We are very thankful for our local partners and their assistance in providing opportunity to small business owners throughout Haiti.
It is exciting to see how microcredit can help provide opportunity to people operating a small enterprise and otherwise have no feasible credit option.
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.
“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.”
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!