PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI – “I love what I’m doing.” Amid the devastation of Haiti’s capital city and surroundings, Odette Mednard sounds a note of optimism. A dressmaker and owner of a small food shop attached to her home, Mednard has been a client of Fonkoze – one of Haiti’s largest microcredit organizations – since 2005. A Fonkoze group leader, she now hosts regular client meetings at her home and counsels other women entrepreneurs on their small businesses.
Thanks to $8 million in funding from the American Red Cross, Mednard and about 18,000 other Fonkoze clients – most of them women – have received one-time payments to cover emergency expenses, had their debts paid off, and have become eligible to receive new loans to get back on their feet after the January 12th earthquake.
Mednard’s house was damaged and she lost much of her store’s inventory in the quake, but today her business is growing. “The money from Fonkoze has helped my family a lot,” she says. “My husband was a mason, but he hasn’t worked for six months. I’m supporting the family now.”
Other Fonkoze clients sound equally grateful for the funds they have received, thanks to the American Red Cross. Listen to Jacquelines Dormeus, 63, who has a business selling charcoal, beans, corn and plantains in front of her home. “Our family would be on the street,” she says. “This money brought me hope.”
Ammaselie Papouloute, 46, is a mother of six children aged 22 to five. A food vendor who sells her wares walking through local streets with a basket on her head, she had to send her children to live with relatives in the countryside after their home was destroyed in the earthquake. “My house collapsed, flat to the ground,” she says.
Now, thanks to the financial support of the American Red Cross, she is able to rent an apartment in the city and her children have returned to live with her. She has money for food, clothing and can buy supplies for the business. “Without the money, we would have died,” she says. “I had nothing to give them.”