He smiled. A huge smile. And signed his name on the contract. And he became a small business owner.

This happens often in the United States, probably even in your own hometown. This time, it was a Haitian gentleman, who was becoming part of a micro finance program on the island of la Gonâve in Haiti. 

La Gonâve Haiti Partners has supported schools and communities in ten villages for over 30 years, providing education from Pre-K through 6th grade. At a community meeting, one brave mother stood up and asked if there could be classes for the parents too. The parents were appreciative that their children were learning, but they wanted to be able to read and write as well. And, they asked for math classes so they could calculate costs and receive correct change at market.

As a result, the Adult Literacy program was born! In 2020/21, over 320 adults in the 10 communities participated in the classes. Somewhere on la Gonâve, there is a class every night of the week – except on Sunday. The program includes a meal, so that adults can attend class right after work.

Along with education of adults, La Gonâve Haiti Partners supports a micro-finance program where local Haitians may apply for loans to start their own businesses. It is designed on a “cohort” model: although each individual is responsible for the success of their own business venture, community participants meet regularly for financial training plus mutual support and encouragement. All loans within a particular community are disbursed at the same time and expected to be repaid by the same deadline. Each participant must repay her/his loan in full before a new round of loans is issued for the community.This model encourages collaboration and mutual accountability. 

In the remote village of Bois Brulé, a student in the Adult Literacy program learned how to read and write. And how to start a business. 

He smiled. A huge smile. And signed his name on the contract. And he became a small business owner.

Ann Waddle, Clarksville, Tennessee

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