Exceeding Expectations

Alex Henning from Sheridan Lutheran Church in Lincoln, Nebraska completed his second internship this summer with HTF.  This time he had the unique opportunity and privilege to spend more time learning about Fonkoze’s CLM program and visiting HTF-sponsored women in CLM.  His original blog post can be found here: http://sheridanlutheran.org/2014/07/chemen-lavi-miyo-a-pathway-to-a-better-life-by-alex-henning/.

This summer I had the opportunity to do another internship with the Haitian Timoun Foundation (HTF).  I was able to spend a month with a few of our different partners, in particular Chemen Lavi Miyo (CLM) and Wings of Hope, in addition to doing the summer camp in Jacmel.  My first week was spent at CLM in the city of Mirebalais in the Central Plateau of Haiti.  CLM is a program of Fonkoze, a microfinance institution in Haiti, where they work with the poorest women in Haiti who live on less than $1 a day.  The women go through an 18 month program in which a woman will get a small house that is sturdy, a water filter, small bathroom, and the opportunity for two different enterprises where they can earn some income. These enterprises usually consist of raising goats, pigs and/or chickens.   The program will also teach the women to write their own names; many of the women don’t know how to write their own name and will use their fingerprint to sign documents for CLM.  They also want the women to have their children enrolled in school by the time they graduate the program.

The goal of this program is to get these women out of ultra-poverty and to a better life for them and their family that is self-sustaining.  While talking with Steven, a regional director of CLM, I was told that Fonkoze set CLM up because they found that certain people who they would give loans to wouldn’t pay them back.  It wasn’t that these people didn’t want to pay the loans back but that they didn’t have the means to pay back the loans.  They found that most of these were women who were considered the ultra-poor.

Throughout my week at CLM I was able to go out with 2 different case managers one of which was Manu who works with women sponsored by HTF.  While with Manu, we went on a motorcycle to a very rural area of the Central Plateau.  Here we had to do a little “off roading” to get to some of the women.  These women were genuinely happy to see someone from HTF, who sponsors them, on Manu’s weekly visit with them.  Where these women live is a very difficult place to take a lot of people from HTF, so it was a great experience to go out to some very rural areas in Haiti where there are HTF sponsored women.

One of the days I also had the opportunity to sit in on some training for the women of CLM on the different enterprises that they have.  At this training session I was able to sit in on a class about how to take care of their goats.  It was wonderful to see the excitement that these women had in these classes even though it took up most of their days.  The other major thing that I was able to do with CLM was to go out with Wilson who was in the final stage of the decision process on whether or not a woman would be accepted into the next CLM 18 month class.  While I was with him we went out to many different women throughout the Central Plateau which included a lot of hiking up and down the hills of the Central Plateau to interview the women so that CLM could determine whether or not these women would be accepted.

Being able to stay with our partner CLM for a week was very eye opening for me.  The ability to see hope in the women that are in the program is something that will never leave me.  It was great to be able to work with the case managers.  You could see that each one of them genuinely care about each of the women that they work with and they put in way more work than I ever expected going into this internship.  These case managers will find these women who become part of the program, not the other way around.   I had high expectations for CLM based on everything that I’ve heard about them and the one day I spent with them when I was 16.  But having the opportunity to see what they do on a daily basis was amazing and they exceeded all of my expectations.  CLM is truly a great program in Haiti.