The following letter is one that is sent out by our new partner, Renee Gietz. She and Barb are in the process of expanding Mothers Clubs of Haiti into a new area, Les Cayes. Renee's letter to her friends and others interested in Mothers Clubs, retells our story in an interesting and up-to-date manner. Please welcome Renee to our family of friends and caring mission volunteers. Editor.
I am so excited to tell you about Mothers Clubs of Haiti, an initiative to help women turn poverty into financial independence and hopelessness into empowerment.
Dan and I have been doing mission work in Haiti since 2006. We have always felt that we made a difference on each mission trip however we have searched for a self- sustaining option for providing assistance. Mothers Clubs of Haiti is a microcredit program that uses support groups of ten women. A loan of $65 is issued to each woman to start a business. The group meets regularly to help each other with each woman’s business venture and once all of the loans are repaid another can be requested. The repayment rate is 97% and supports future loans. More importantly loan recipients have said:
- “With Mothers Clubs, I am not alone in the struggle for life. Members are like my family.”
- “If all members of Haiti could be members of Mothers Clubs, Haiti would know better days. Thanks are to God for Mothers Clubs.”
- “Before being member of Mothers Club, I had so many difficulties! I felt that the sky would fall on my head. Now with the loan of Mothers Club that improve my life, I feel that heaven is in my house."
Mothers Clubs of Haiti is ready to expand to other areas of Haiti and will use the start of three clubs in the Les Cayes area as a pilot. I have committed to fund raise to move this opportunity to Les Cayes. The needed funds are:
- $1500 start-up training and ongoing consulting fees for our Les Cayes area leaders: Genet, Yelline and Roland
- $1950 to start 3 Mothers Clubs groups of ten $65 loans
Your tax deductible donation can be made by sending me a check payable to Mothers Clubs of Haiti or donating online at www.mclubsth.org. If you use the online option please email me with the date and amount of your donation so I can track funds designated for the Les Cayes start-up goal.
Thank you for considering this opportunity to help create fisherwomen instead of simply providing the fish.
April 8, 2016
Hello Mothers Clubs Team Members,
We have just returned from Haiti and I want to share some observations and plans for the future. We had planned a February visit but for safety reasons we moved it forward to March. The political situation remains unresolved and there is no elected administration at this time. And through this instability and 80% unemployment the women and men of both rural and urban Haiti must feed and care for their families.
When we began talking with the women and visiting their businesses this visit, we learned they had taken the opportunity you had provided and changed every aspect of their lives, financial stability, education for their children, healthy food, personal empowerment. We heard, “Mothers Clubs gives us peace of mind, like coming out of sadness”. We no longer have to motivate club members. In fact, we cannot keep up with their successes. At first, many bought products to sell beside the road. Now, for example, some manufacture products and sell in attractive kiosks, or combine their funds, hiring family members, and selling homemade bread. We ate some of the bread right out of the stone oven and it was yummy. They sell out every day and everyone’s life is much better. Several groups are producing, packaging, and selling fresh fruit jams, skills they learned at a Mothers Clubs class. They use local fruits such as corossol and kashima. We ate some and it was delicious.
Last year men, knowing Mothers Clubs members and their successes, began their own program. Then they numbered about 400. Now they number over 1400. They are in groups of 25, save money for a loan pool, and decide who receives sizable loans first, with the paybacks going to the next few borrowers. They have named themselves, Solidarity Men’s Clubs, and are under the Mothers Clubs umbrella. Although, we put no money into their program, we provide assistance in many ways. The women’s success has made believers of the men. One man said, ”Just by putting ourselves together we become empowered,” while another told us, “Now we think before gambling and put our money into the program. Now it’s not ‘ME'--it’s ‘WE'.”
Because we have such an extraordinary and committed staff in Haiti, we decided they are capable of becoming independent, so the program could continue far into the future. We would continue our fundraising, with those funds being used for new Mothers Clubs loans, and the office and staff costs would be paid from the profits of their local income producing businesses. Now that a year has gone by we have three such profit centers, with a fourth being developed. Hopefully Mothers Clubs costs should be completely covered locally in two more years.
Now that we are officially registered as a non-profit charity in Haiti, we can begin to design a process to respond to the rural Haitian communities wanting to begin Mothers Clubs. This trip resulted in our staff expressing a willingness to move forward with the planning of such a process. We had many fruitful discussions of how we could best accomplish this move forward. A pilot program will begin in a few months and a full program after that.
The Mothers Cubs members had a celebration while we were there which included many stories about the successes of those attending. I was especially interested in the many women who belonged to a Club, but had not yet received their loans. Despite not having their loan money they felt they were true members and told us how their lives were now full of hope and they were committed to their Clubs and their successful futures. We will work to provide all the new expected loans as soon as possible.
Thank you all for being on the Mothers Clubs team and caring so much about these hard working, generous people, who only needed an opportunity to take control of their lives and have hope for the future. With love and gratitude,
Barb Grove, Founder and Director
November 2, 2015
HELLO Mothers Clubs Friends and Supporters,
For almost 25 years you and I, and the Mothers Clubs volunteers, have offered over 10,000 rural Haitian families an opportunity to work toward hope and a better life. This is even more important as very few programs last that long in Haiti, especially programs depending on foreign funding and direction. Haiti is a very difficult country where 90% of all citizens struggle for daily survival, where hope rarely exists.
Sr. Emile, our Haitian leader of Mothers Clubs, says in her recent report, “Haiti has experienced a drought and severe inflation during the summer which affected the Mothers Clubs small businesses. With the commercial and migration crisis between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the situation can be more difficult”. The result has been each Mothers Clubs member has to work even harder for less. We hope this is a temporary situation but it slows our work toward independence. I join Sr. Emile as she says, “We realize more and more how the Mothers Clubs program in Haiti is a great support for the population. Even though we didn’t have all the expected results, we believe we are walking towards the achievement of the objectives of Mothers Cubs: the independence. We ask for a little patience in this process to make it effective and sustainable. We sincerely thank all the sponsors of Mothers Clubs. God bless you”!
Of course, we must be patient as Mothers Clubs becomes independent. And we will continue to provide funding to keep the program running smoothly until we reach that goal. I anticipate the program will be independent in 2 to 3 more years and then we can focus on a national program. That way Mothers Clubs will continue into the future and the funds we raise can be used for the expansion of the program. So far we have active programs in the north of Haiti, northwest and southwest. You have brought us this far and you can take us forward.
In the meantime I have been trying to connect with large agencies and foundations to partner with us as we move towards a national Mothers Clubs program. So far no luck, but I will continue trying. As with the introduction of our deluxe program we might find that it is better if we do it ourselves, always with your generous help. In the meantime we continue to get requests for our program from many communities in Haiti.
My book, “Now I Can Sleep” has been well received and has resulted in my being able to share the Mothers Clubs story many times this summer. I thank all the new members of the Mothers Clubs family.
We are planning a trip to Haiti next February and as always, we invite you and others to join us. Please remember us as we enter the holiday season. Hard to believe it is almost here.
With love and gratitude,
Barb Grove, Founder and Director of Mothers Clubs of Haiti
Hello Mothers Clubs friends and supporters,
I have just gotten back from an important trip to Jeremie, Haiti, reviewing our present program and planning for the future. And, once again, I am amazed at how successful, empowered and joyful our Mothers Clubs members have become. They always ask me to tell you how grateful they are for your support and to tell you that they keep you in their prayers.
During my stop-over in Port au Prince I saw new large buildings being erected, but there are many reminders of the 2010 earthquake. The poor do not yet appear to benefit from the new construction and everywhere I saw many people who lost limbs in the quake.
In Jeremie I learned of many changes in our Mothers Clubs program.
- Our staff of Sr. Marie Ninoche Emile, Marie Petuelle Elisme, and Jackson and Woodley (our accountants), are a true team, working with and thoroughly enjoying helping poor families survive and begin to thrive.
- Three years ago we had to consolidate the program because of transportation and accommodation difficulties, leaving behind enough money with each of the three areas to continue with their present Mothers Clubs program, but making expansion unlikely. I learned that all three communities and their 300 Mothers Clubs members have continued repaying their loans and have stayed connected to our staff in Jeremie. Their commitment to the program and their future is awesome despite great difficulties. It feels so good to be able to renew our relationship with these amazing women.
- Our new Mothers Clubs store and distributorship, which began in October 2014, has had a 17 % average monthly net profit and is working well. I visited the store and learned that both Mothers Clubs members and non-members are customers.
Our goal has always been to bring Mothers Clubs to a successful point where we could turn it over to the Haitians it serves. We would continue to raise Mothers Clubs funds for the program’s expansion, but the administration of the program and the continuing loans would be the total responsibility of the people it serves. That’s empowerment!
We now have the perfect Haitian staff to carry Mothers Clubs into the future. After much discussion, we decided that instead of finding a local commercial loan provider, we would become our own lender. This meant we had to develop an income stream to meet our needs. Giving ourselves three years to accomplish our goal, we are taking several steps;
- Determining the expenses needed to become independent.
- Exploring possible income streams including, raising the loan interest from 10 to 15% annually, which is still far below any other source in Haiti, including village lenders, banks, and international foundations and charities, which charge from 2 to 20% a month! Other income streams may include a percentage of distributorship/store net income, and a special sales project which can be centered in our office. Other possibilities will be reviewed.
- We will begin an outreach program in which Jackson and Woodley will visit our previous Mothers Clubs in Northern Haiti twice a year, training, dispersing loan funds and otherwise helping them continue and expand. Several other rural communities have requested Mothers Clubs. Our plan is to require them to pay for our training expenses, finance at least five Clubs to begin, provide a competent staff to manage their program, and deposit repayment funds into our bank account which is well managed by Sr. Emile.
We often have requests for funds for medical emergencies, but cannot finance one and not another, so we have decided to let the members vote on whether they would like to increase their interest rate another 2% for a member owned health insurance program. If they choose to move forward a member board will be convened to make the fund dispersement decisions.
As Marie-Rose (a Mothers Clubs member) said, “If all women of Haiti could be members of Mothers Clubs, Haiti would know better days.” Our simple and very successful program may be one of the answers, but how are we going to make Mothers Clubs available to everyone? Please help us come up with an answer.
With love and gratitude,
Barb Grove, Founder and Director of Mothers Clubs of Haiti
Hello Mothers Clubs Friends,
Despite two epidemics, cholera and chikungunya, Mothers Clubs has grown and diversified this past year thanks to you and the Haitian women who work hard to not only survive, but make better lives for their families.
A year ago 80 Mothers Clubs members began our new deluxe program, where women who have successfully completed three basic loan paybacks, form groups of five and begin a savings program. When all five feel they have saved enough they request a group loan three times the value of their savings, which are used as collateral. When the group loan is repaid their savings are returned to them. All 80 women have completed their payments for a 100% success rate. Many more eligible women are waiting to begin the deluxe program, and will do so when loan funds become available.
For the past two years I have been writing a memoir of my many years with Mothers Clubs in Haiti. Now the book is printed and ready for you and others to read. It is full of colorful pictures and descriptions of the lives of rural Haitian families, answering many of the questions we all have about this poor devastated country and why it always seems to remain that way. It also describes Mothers Clubs and the program’s impact on the families participating, now numbering thousands. You will read some of my adventures in that interesting and complex culture. All proceeds go to Mothers Clubs. Your contribution makes you eligible to receive a copy, so let me know if you want to receive, “Now I Can Sleep!”
Mothers Clubs is an opportunity for both financial and personal empowerment, and the women from the Jeremie area have shown both by requesting our assistance in starting a distributorship/store. Before Mothers Clubs the women would have to not only buy products from a local distributor to sell at the market, but receive a loan from him to buy the products at an interest rate of 20% a month. With their Mothers Clubs loan the women could pay cash for their products, increasing their profits. The Clubs women have requested our assistance in starting a distributorship of their own serving over 600 families.
The Jeremie Mothers Clubs advisor, Sr. Emile, asked the women to survey potential customers to find out what products are most needed, in what amount, and how often products need to be replenished. It was a very thorough survey and showed that the most needed products were rice, oil, sugar, fish, flour, peas, garlic and soap. Budgets were determined and expenses calculated. After negotiations we came up with a good plan which will begin when funds are available. This is a big step toward a much better future for those rural Haitian families participating, and shows trust in their fellow members.
Our next trip to Haiti will come after the epidemics have subsided, but we are anxious to go and review their new store as well as celebrate their successes. I deeply thank you all once again, and hope you have a wonderful holiday season.
With love and gratitude, Barb
Hello Mothers Clubs Friends,
It has been about a year since I last wrote, but it has been a busy Mothers Clubs year. While we were working and providing loans to the poorest families in Tanzania, Africa, we always had the goal to be able to hand the program over to the women themselves. This happened in 2010 due to the ability of the women to manage the program themselves and the expansion of financial resources serving the poor of rural Moshe.
This has also been our goal in Haiti. However, finding appropriate leadership and local financial resources have not yet made this possible. But we have come a long way making changes and building leadership capacity. Because it is so difficult to reach three of our locations, we now concentrate and expand in our Jeremie rural area. But we have not abandoned our other locations and have worked with their leadership to continue the program even though we will not be visiting there. They have the funds to continue the program with limited expansion, although I have such faith in the commitment and hard work of the women that they could make a true success of their Mothers Clubs program.
In the Jeremie area we have hired a very capable health educator to manage and expand the program. I will be meeting with her when I go to Haiti the day after Christmas. Along with Sr. Emile, who I have been working with for several years, the two are very capable of successfully managing the program even without our visits. With emails and regular reports we all stay in close touch. Another benefit of continuing in Jeremie is that our office is located in Sr. Emile’s convent, a safe yet convenient location, both for our office and a place to stay when we visit. For about a year the airline between Port au Prince and Jeremie was grounded, forcing us to hire a car and driving approximately 10 hours on roads that are often not roads but rocky paths and river beds. The airline is now up and running again.
Last Christmas we were planning to go to Haiti, however, four days before the trip I had a fall and fractured my back, making it impossible to go. I am totally healed now and look forward to our next visit. Future visits may be limited, but I am committed to raising loan funds the rest of my life. How can I not do that when I know how great the need is and how hard these women work? How can I turn my back on even one family? I hope you will feel the same and continue to support our work. We have given over 9000 loans to families in Haiti and Africa, providing financial opportunities and hope to not only these families, but hope for entire villages.
Thank you for your continuing love and support,
As excited as I am when I think of the progress the Mothers Clubs members have made with their small loans, it is always tempered by the continued danger and devastation they must endure. Even now they are recovering from another hurricane. And recovery may mean the loss of a family member, a home, even the loss of the tent they have been forced to live in after the big earthquake or other hurricanes.
But these Mothers Clubs members carry on and look with hope to a better future. They work so hard and treat their Mothers Clubs loans with an intensity and commitment that keeps all of us coming back to help. Now they are starting our new bigger loan program the women call Fismanman Zepol ak Zepol, or Financial Solidarity Shoulder to Shoulder. I call it our deluxe loan program in which after they successfully pay back their third basic loan, they begin a savings program which makes them eligible for a loan three times the amount of their savings. (If you are interested in a more detailed description I will send it to you). We have also raised the basic loan amount to $60 due to increased inflation. Ronel Delva, our director in Haiti, spent last July there informing and training eligible members so they could begin their savings program. (It amazes me that families making less than $400 a year can even have savings).
I have been reading more and more about the recognition of micro-financing as a successful way to help families and communities throughout the world. You, and all of us, have known that fact for almost 22 years of working in rural Haiti, but it helps to see the word spread and the practice universally recognized. We are always available to give a presentation of our work with Mothers Clubs and share the lives of rural Haitian families, in words and pictures. If you have a group that might be interested, let me know. I have also begun writing a book about my adventures in Haiti, as well as the story of Mothers Clubs and the people who work so hard to make it a success. I hope to have the book completed by 2014.
Thank you so much. You inspire us, as do the Haitian women who work so hard to make Mothers Clubs a success.
After three years of trying to find a Haitian bank willing to provide totally underwritten loans to Mothers Clubs members, we have decided to do it ourselves. So after a woman has completed her third successful loan repayment she becomes eligible to apply for and receive a larger loan. In groups of five, selected by themselves, the women would begin their own savings program. When they feel they are ready to receive their new loan, they make application to Mothers Clubs for a loan three times the total amount of their savings. For example: if one woman saves $50, another $20, and the three remaining $10 each, the total amount they would receive is $300, each receiving three times their savings amount. The loan would have a 10% interest for administration and would have to be repaid in one year or before. If one member does not repay, the others must pay for her, and she forfeits her savings. The savings of the group act as partial collateral for the loan. When the loan is repaid, a new loan becomes available.
We are now raising money to provide seed money for the new banking loan program. All donations are welcomed. Eligible women are now being trained in how to use the new program in Grand Plaine and Jeremie. They will also decide on a name for the new loan program.
The Haitian earthquake of January 2010 was not only devastating then, but continues its devastation, particularly for the people of the principal city, Port au Prince. The city is nearly surrounded by mountains, with a few right in the middle of town. Most homes in Port au Prince are poorly built because that's all poor folks can afford, so when the quake hit, the homes came down the mountain in an avalanche, crushing all before it.
Over 250,000 people died in a couple of minutes, and the many wounded are still seen on the street. Toilet facilities and fresh water are still provided by other countries and organizations, but food now comes from the countryside helping the economy to recover. These courageous and hardworking people carry on as there are children to be fed. Many city folks fled the earthquakes devastation and went to the countryside. They had no money, no job, and often no home to go to, so Mothers Clubs saw an increasing need for our loans. Now we are in four rural areas of Haiti.
Director, Barb Grove, is coming out with a book describing many of her adventures, and much more about Mothers Clubs. Most people know so little about rural Haiti and its people. She will also show how Haitians deal with their many critical problems despite illiteracy, unemployment, lack of clean water, and poor if any health care. They rise from being victims to being financially and emotionally empowered. If you would like a copy of the book when it is published let us know.
Kathy Mang and Barbara Grove went to Haiti part of June and July 2010 to provide training and distribute Mothers Clubs loans. The following is a report on their trip prepared by Kathy Mang.
'Deye mon gen mon’ (Beyond the mountain is another mountain)
Barb Grove and I are back from Haiti, having traveled from the south to southwest to the northwest and back to the south. If anyone knows Haiti, you know this is one of the toughest road trips you will ever take!
On the way into Port-au-Prince from the airport we encountered the usual hustle of big city life – small vendor commerce, people walking everywhere, cutting in and around continuously beeping drivers. Then you begin to zero in on the backdrop of this human portrait: tents on every corner, on every piece of empty real estate including hillsides which plummet into ravines and rise again throughout the city. Cement rubble is piled neatly (much of which I’m sure was assembled by hand, while big trucks were brought in to clear streets). We had to guess - was it just the crumbling of buildings long abandoned in a poor country, half built, incomplete, ignored, not lived in or was it the result of the devastating earthquake in January of this year. The quake by modest estimates took over 350,000 lives. Living in poverty leaves you little time to grieve, but scars remain.
These tents may or may not be better than their previous housing structures, but the tents are already getting dry rot and they try to put blue tarps over them to protect them from the rain. Some are resting on concrete. Water trucks from the Red Cross are there for drinking and bathing. Some small garbage collection process was seen, but not a basic daily service in the city. Many international emergency feeding programs are gone and now the poor are left to their own devices of survival as before. Although I was told by an American Embassy worker that there are over 7,000 NGOs (Non-governmental organizations) in Port au Prince alone. It’s mind boggling!
The government operates in the shadows, and rebuilding on a grand scale design does not seem possible. There is no infrastructure in the country, with a 60% illiteracy rate, few good roads and no electricity. The people speak Creole, the national language, but French is spoken by the educated, international business and commerce.
Now we go deeper and see deeper – houses and buildings toppled, 2 and 3 story buildings crushed down to an unusable floor. No one but the rich has begun to rebuild (and many of those houses which withstood the quake – some out of luck and location, but many because they had better materials and construction. Buildings are beginning to be repainted and repaired, but it is hard to see because there is so much destruction. An embassy official told me that life and energy are coming slowly back to the city and I believe it. Life is in continual motion here.
At least 90% of the people in the city are poor and simply do their street commerce in and around the rubble. International food relief has upset the balance of food distributors, middle persons and street vendors, especially in the sale of rice, a staple in Haiti.
To stay alive, everyone needs to sell something or work in the service section. I saw so many crushed buildings behind the street vendors, with a tent between their small kiosks and the destroyed buildings. We saw a car painted with the words “life no easy”. We saw a winding staircase going nowhere. People point out a school where Catholic nuns taught. In seconds 200 children and teachers were lost. I have a picture of the empty space. Their bodies were just scooped up with the building rubble and hauled away. Sr. Emile of the Good Shepard sisters told me she lost a nephew who was in his third year of medical school - the school collapsed and killed all inside - the future of Haiti.
Does anyone care for their fate? They need to just stay alive. Is there such a thing as hope? I have always been amazed that Haitians think there is.
Jeremie is known as a city of poets. It’s easy to see why – it sits on a hillside spilling to the shores of the Bay of Gonave. It is filled with untouched water inlets accessible by small dirt roads for those who want to venture for a swim, write poetry or soak up the scenery. The city itself and its surrounds are topped off with coconut palms and other fruit bearing trees such as bread fruits, grenadines, figs(sweet bananas), plantains, passion fruit, papayas and mangoes. These are at any one’s disposal.
The villages we set up for women to receive loans are: Vieux Bourg, Tozia and Jebo. The women who have accepted the loans live in these mangroves. When I visited the Tozia area, I rode on the back of a motorcycle owned by Rose Michele Claremont, a 43 yr. old mother of 3. She is our Cluster Leader (head of all the groups in the area). We simply stopped by the side of the road, disappeared into the coconut palm trees and several minutes later, came upon a group of 12 women sitting waiting for us. (I thought I was in ‘Field of Dreams’)! They are a well prepared group (because of Ronel and Rose). We hear their stories and the small commerce with which they struggle. Mainly, they buy on credit one day, sell, and at the end of the same day pay back what they owe and with what little profit leftover they feed their families. Now, with their Mothers Club loan, they will have cash to buy and sell in the market. They will also begin to dream of how they can expand their business with the second loan. But for now, they are happy and grateful for the chance for a better life. Someone climbs up a tree and gets everyone a fresh coconut, machete cuts the hole and I am in heaven sipping coconut juice.
Raymond – We flew back from Jeremie to P au P and then the next day took a 12 hour ‘rock n rut’ drive to the northwest to the Jean Rabel – Port au Paix area to a small village named Raymond. Because of the length of the trip, we arrive late and the women had already gone home to prepare for the large market the next day – but they returned for their training when they heard we arrived. Again, they were well prepared and with some prodding, had many questions. They are usually the same questions asked of us – ‘what if I die, who will pay my loan’, ‘what if I can’t repay the loan’, ‘what if someone else in the group doesn’t pay their loan’? Since this is the first time for most of them ever getting a loan, the questions are reasonable. We give them our answers by encouraging them to rely on the group for the answers. This is the empowerment of the women as well as the group empowerment which they will know and feel after their first year. By the second loan they understand fully how this program works.
Haitians are hard working people and herein lies the heart and soul of this country. Their resilience astounds me – not just from the aftermath of the earthquake, nor the hurricanes that continuously deluge their country almost every year, but to just exist and survive in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. This is an emotional experience from an outsider such as myself. I happened to be reading while in country a book by Tracy Kidder called Mountains beyond Mountains. It is the story of Dr. Paul Farmer who worked in the Central Plateau region of Haiti in the most abject poverty-stricken areas. His descriptions of Haiti are far better than anything I could write here, and I encourage you to read it if you have the time.
Barb Grove and I didn’t have enough time to get to Plaisance in the north central area, but our Coordinator, Ronel Delva is training and giving out loans this week, as well as he will be returning to the Grand Plain area in the northeast to give out new loans. We have operated in this area since 2008.