Listen: Inspiration – Microcredit in Haiti

February 21, 2010 § Leave a comment

A shift in focus from the opportunities for microfinance in the United States to the very real impact of the initiative in Haiti. A good friend of mine told me about a great piece on Friday’s NPR Morning Edition: “Poor Haitian Business Woman Masters High Finance.”  You can listen to the podcast or read the transcript.  I was absolutely amazed and impressed and thought you might be too.

Yvrose Jean Baptiste carries a bucket of chicken necks for sale in Haiti. (Chana Joffe-Walt/NPR)

Enterprising just begins to describe the Haitian woman in the story, Yvrose Jean Baptiste.  She has a business: she borrows funds from a microcredit bank; gets on the bus to the Dominican Republic; buys product not available in Haiti; gets back on the bus; and delivers the product to shopkeepers in Port-Au-Prince.  But here’s the really ingenious thing, she does not collect money at the time she delivers the goods.  She extends credit to her customers; she leaves the chicken necks, corn, and oatmeal, and fifteen days later she returns to collect her money plus interest.  So she’s a “middle-woman,” a wholesaler.  And by being an intermediary, she enables other businesspeople to stock their stores and profit from their businesses.  This is woman with a fifth-grade  education.

Unfortunately, she had just made a trip to the Dominican Republic and delivered her goods right before the earthquake struck.  All ten of her customers’ stores were leveled, many died, but the bank from which she borrowed the money was still standing.  When NPR published the story, Yvrose owed roughly US$100.  NPR has included a post on the PLANET money page of their site to track Yvrose’s repayment and to give you a chance to help.  She’s set up an account at Fonkoze, the largest microfinance institution in Haiti.  Any money donated to Fonkoze in her name will be deposited directly in her account.

NPR originally set out to interview the Haitian finance minister and ended up with Yvrose instead.  Apparently, even the finance minister was impressed.  As the rebuilding of the devastated city progresses, there is going to be a need for ongoing, forward-looking business opportunities for Haitians like Yvrose.

One word comes to mind:  “ennablement.”

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