The physical consequences of Haiti’s 2010 earthquake are numerous and ongoing, but there have also been longstanding fiscal repercussions. Haiti’s economy took a hit as strong as the force that destroyed homes and water sources, leaving people searching for ways to start anew. Microfinance loans can be an effective tool to rebuild economic stability, but many of the loans offered by Haitian banks have incredulous interest rates, sometimes as high as 50% or more. That’s why organizations like ServeHAITI are stepping in to offer more affordable microfinance loan options.
Five members of ServeHAITI’s Economic Group, also known as SHECON, went to Grand-Bois with two main objectives in mind. They included Gary Froeschle, Marty Gingerich, Ben Quaye, Pat Cassagnol and Ed Carroll. The first of these objectives was to meet with IFGA, a women’s group in the process of starting up their own bakery. SHECON has been working with IFGA for over two years, and the long thought out plan is going into action. The ServeHaiti members met with IFGA and went over their plans, signed the promissory note and distributed their funds. SHECON’s second objective was to meet with Mr. Sylphanor Sylphat, a Grand-Bois resident, to discuss his plans to produce poultry. His promissory note was signed, and the loan will be distributed once the housing for his chickens are completed. Other business ideas were also explored during this visit.
Although the loan process here sounds simple, the procedure includes numerous steps. First, the loan applicant writes a business plan in Haitian Creole describing the value of his or her business idea. The plan includes key information such as how the business will work, how it will make money, operational details, sales and marketing support and more. Next, the business plan is translated into English and reviewed by a team. The team meets with the loan applicant to discuss the idea, address other questions or other information that might be needed. Oftentimes, several adjustments are made to the business plan before it is approved. The ServeHAITI team that approved the loan will then keep tables on the business to make sure that everything is running smoothly. While the loans provided have a higher interest rate than normally expected in the United States (to factor for higher risk), they are significantly less than those provided by Haitian banks.
In addition to the two main objectives, the SHECON team discovered a new coffee project that has very good potential for profit in Grand-Bois. Farmers in Grand Bois will grow coffee trees and sell the beans to a processor. The processor will then sell the beans to Rebo Coffee in Port Au Prince. The farmers in Grand-Bois have been provided with what they need to start growing and selling, and a repayment plan has been set. The representatives from Rebo Coffee were very impressed with the coffee bean samples they received and are enthusiastic about buying from Grand-Bois! This is very good news for the Grand-Bois community, and those of us who care so much about their wellbeing.
ServeHAITI is striving for sustainability in Grand-Bois and thus, focused on the continuation of programs that help create long-term impact related to physical, education and economic health. Each small, incremental step can make a huge long-term difference. Health is hope and hope is everything.