It will be a happy 2012 in Haiti for about 350 new families who will enroll in Chemen Lavi Miyò *Link no longer active)(CLM), a poverty alleviation program that translates into English as “Pathway to a Better Life.” This systemic change effort led by the International Vincentian Family has raised $520,000 so far that will enable more than 2,000 Haitian parents and children to create a fresh start in the New Year.
In partnership with Fonkoze, an alternative bank for the poor in Haiti that runs CLM, the Haitian Hometown Associations Resource Group (link no longer active) and Zafèn, a micro-credit resource that funds entrepreneurial business and social projects, the Vincentian Family (VF) launched a fund-raising initiative on the Feast of St. Vincent (Sept. 27) that ran for three months at zafen.org.
The goal was to raise $100,000 online, which would then be matched by another $100,000 provided by the Franz Foundation. “Initially, we were hesitant about seeking such a large amount online, since our biggest match up to that point had been $30,000,” said the Rev. Robert Maloney, C.M., who has until now served as chair of the Vincentian Family Board for Haiti. “But we decided to try to ‘stretch.’”
The Rev. Joseph Agostino, C.M., assumed the chairmanship of the board at the end of January.
Among the many donors who supported this effort, the international branches of the VF were “wonderfully generous,” according to Father Maloney. On Christmas Day, online contributions reached $100,000, which was doubled to $200,000 by the match.
Meanwhile, the USA Vincentian priests and brothers were involved in an offline match offered by the Franz Foundation and the USA Western Province. In late December, that, too, was fully funded at $100,000, which also doubled to $200,000.
Contributions are still being sent in. As of Jan. 31, 2012, more than $520,000 has been raised for this program that reaches out to Haitians living on the margins of society in the self-empowering way that Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac served people in seventeenth century France.
“On one of my first trips to Haiti, I visited CLM,” said Father Maloney. “I found it one of the most impressive works that I have seen in the country.”
Families chosen to participate are usually headed by women with several children, who may be malnourished and are not enrolled in school. The family’s health needs are not addressed by professionals, and the family has no reliable source of income.
When a family commits to the 18-month CLM approach, they receive construction materials to build a house with a sturdy roof and a floor. They also build a separate and sanitary latrine. They gain access to free health care, a water filter and receive weekly visits from a case manager, who reinforces what they have learned to ensure progress along the path to prosperity. The children may for the first time in their lives attend school, while the mom chooses several ways to earn an income through a micro business or an agricultural enterprise. All the while the mom learns skills for life that build her confidence in her ability to guide her family out of poverty and weather inevitable setbacks.
Within a year and a half the family can graduate from the program if the mom and her children are properly nourished and food secure, the house has a good roof, the mom has proven successful in at least two income-generating activities and the family has assets of at least $150. The final criterion for success is that the mom believes that she can stay on this path to success and has a plan for an economically stable future. The program has a 96% success rate.
Zafèn, which means “It’s our business” in Haitian Creole, was developed on the 350th anniversaries of the deaths of Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac as a systemic approach to poverty alleviation. It was designed to stimulate collaboration between Haiti-based business owners, the Haitian Diaspora and others interested in supporting the Haitian economy. It is unique in its criteria because businesses must demonstrate an anticipated impact on the broader community from the loan or donation by hiring more employees, operating more efficiently, becoming more environmentally friendly or other measures. Zafèn was founded by the International Vincentian Family, DePaul University, Fonkoze, Haiti’s alternative bank for the organized poor, and the Haitian Hometown Associations Resource Group.
Tags: Chemen Lavi Miyò, Featured, Haiti, Systemic change, Vincentian, Zafen