Leogane, Haiti As a mother traveling to Haiti for the first time with CARE, the poverty-fighting organization where I work, I saw something powerful in this country still recovering from a devastating earthquake more than two year ago.
I saw the courage and resilience in people everywhere; especially in a remarkable woman named Yvonne Lavertu.
Known to her neighbors as Miss Yvonne, she’s a bubbly woman with a beaming smile that stretches ear-to-ear. She’s also very humble. She doesn’t like to take the credit for encouraging her neighbors to join a savings group, known at CARE as Village Savings and Loan Associations. In just a few months, the group of 30 participants has saved the equivalent of $1,500 an amount that would typically take them an entire year to save.
Because of Yvonne’s smart and inspiring leadership of the group, the participants have been able to invest in small businesses, acquire new farming tools and repair damage to their homes from the earthquake. Yvonne’s humility extends to the way she leads the group’s meeting. When we were there, Yvonne would discreetly slip discreetly to the back of the crowd to let the other group members shine as they enthusiastically shared their future business plans with us.
When we asked the assembled savings group members if their Village Savings and Loan Association would exist without Yvonne, they shook their heads said “no” in unison. She’s the reason the group exists. She’s a hero to them.
She’s also a hero to her family. It hasn’t been easy for Yvonne to raise her two children, ages 4 and 10, without the father, especially since the earthquake in 2010 destroyed their home. She says their father occasionally pays child support, but that he disappears for months at a time. “We single mothers have to work a lot,” Yvonne explained. “We have to pay rent and school tuition, all on our own.”
CARE invited Yvonne to be a Village Savings and Loan Association in February. The savings program works to serve the poorest of the poor; people who do not otherwise have access to the types financial services so many of us take for granted. Every group receives intensive financial training. Each week the group’s members contribute a minimum of $2.50 to the group’s savings fund. Members can borrow from the group fund to invest in small businesses, pay for seeds and fertilizer before the planting, or pay for important family expenses like school fees or doctor’s visits. The loans are repaid quickly with interest; interest that is shared within the group as profit. To date, there are 86 savings groups in Haiti with more than 2,100 women and men participating. In total, the groups have saved $72,000.
I am not only in awe of Yvonne’s incredible ability to be a single mother in the aftermath of a tragic natural disaster, but also her courage and determination to mobilize her community and give her neighbors something that money can’t always buy: Hope for a better day tomorrow.
Tolli Love is Vice President of Marketing and Fundraising for global humanitarian organization CARE. Founded in 1945, CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. CARE has more than six decades of experience helping people prepare for disasters, providing lifesaving assistance when a crisis hits, and helping communities recover after the emergency has passed. CARE places special focus on women and children, who are often disproportionately affected by disasters. To learn more, visit www.care.org.
To support women like Mouira, please check out The CARE Action Network, or CAN, a group of CARE supporters working to educate our nation’s leaders about issues of global poverty. To learn more about CARE, please visit www.care.org.