The National Council of the U.S. Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP), a nonprofit whose mission is to help those in need and living in poverty, announced a$400,000 revolving loan fund to help residents start or expand businesses in Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the Americas. So far this year, SVdP has provided about $64,000 in interest-free loans.

The funds are part of Zafen, a microfinance program established in April of 2010 by the International Society of St. Vincent de Paul and other members of the Vincentian family: the Daughters of Charity, Ladies of Charity, DePaul University, and the Congregation of the Mission. “As these loans get paid back into the revolving fund, they’ll continue to provide seed money that will help others develop and sustain their businesses,” said Roger Playwin, SVdP’s national executive director. Translated as “It’s our business” in Haitian Creole, Zafen recognizes the 350th anniversary of the death of the Society’s patron, St. Vincent de Paul, and St. Louis de Marillac, his close ally in alleviating the suffering of the poor. Zafen has partnered with Fonkoze, the largest microfinance group in Haiti. Just a few of the projects funded for this year include: $2,500 to purchase additional equipment and more staff for a restaurant and bakery owned by two brothers, who have also approached nearby schools to offer a special breakfast for only 62 cents apiece;

  • approximately $3,500 to purchase three boilers/kettles and hire additional staff for an organic cosmetics manufacturer; and
  • approximately $2,200 to buy an oven to double a local bakery’s capacity.

The Society also has created a $275,000 grant program to provide tuition scholarships for Haitian children in K-12. A donation of $175, for example, will pay for one year of a child’s school tuition, supplies, or daily meals. In addition, SVdP has developed a cholera prevention program. Cholera in Haiti has been rampant, particularly since the earthquake in 2010 disrupted sanitation. To reinforce its commitment to help the country’s residents, SVdP last year hired a project coordinator in Haiti. “Poverty takes on an entirely new dimension and depth when you’re talking about Haiti,” said Sheila Gilbert, SVdP’s national president. “The most important aspect of our initiatives in Haiti is that they offer the strong prospect for independence and self-sustainability for the Haitian people. In short, it’s the proverbial hand-up instead of a handout. We hope others will join us in that work.” Any individual or organization can make a micro-loan or a donation to the Society’s efforts in Haiti through SVdP’s website: . After logging on to the homepage, click on the “Donate Now” tab. At the next page, click on the “Donate Online” button. On the following page, you can select “Haiti Earthquake Fund.” Charles B. HendersonOffice: (314) 576-3993, ext. 214Mobile: (314) 623-6505 Email: