In our last email update, we mentioned the food insecurity that our community (and most of Haiti) is facing. In our next few blog posts I will be sharing about what that looks like on the ground for individuals, and what the amazing men on our staff are doing to address it.
This first post and the one that will follow will look a bit more at the "darkness" that I mentioned in our last email. There are sad and hard realities, and what our staff is working so hard to accomplish won't shine as brightly if you don't understand the context in which it is being done. Please stick with us through some darker glimpses. I promise, Light is shining and we'll share about that soon!
Mrs. R. works for Lemuel, cooking for visitors and keeping the Lemuel house and yard clean. Each Monday she has the day off so that she can sell in the market in Anse-Rouge. This used to be a good way for her to supplement her income. She and her husband would put their Lemuel salaries toward their children's school tuition, building the home they've been working on for nine years, and saving for larger expenses. They would use her market income for food and basic necessities.
But when we sat down to talk about the realities she is facing, she explained how she rarely breaks even now, and often ends up losing money.
Mrs. R. borrows from a Community Micro-Credit Group. This allows her to buy products in bulk to resell in small amounts in the Monday market. At one time, she could make enough profit, after selling her stock, to buy food both for her home and to send to her three children in school in the city of Gonaïves. But today the funds she has to work with can't buy as much. Her reduced stock barely provides enough profit even to pay the interest on her loan, let alone to cover her family’s expenses. "I used to be able to buy many different products with my micro-loan," she told me. "Now I can only sell garlic, bouillon cubes, and oil. Sometimes I can buy rice to sell, but not usually."
In addition, because most people aren’t able to afford as much food, she sometimes can’t sell her whole stock. In that case, her profits are diffused over weeks and can accomplish even less.
She explained that her loan was to be paid back over 5 months. “I can usually pay back the first three months,” she told me, “but now, by the fourth month, I have to use some of the loan to buy food and I’ve lost any profits. I usually have to end up selling livestock to pay the last two months.
She went on to explain, "If we had gardens, we wouldn’t depend on the market for our food. But we can’t get anything out of the gardens. So I have no choice but to buy the expensive food in the market.” She said she and her husband are able to make do on very little, but sending enough food to her children in the city is getting very difficult.
"[It used to be] when you had $1000 (Haitian Dollars, equivalent to $33USD) in your hand ,
you could go to the market and buy four or five things with the $1000.
Now you have $1000 in your hand and you can't even buy a [5-gallon] jug of oil."
(Note: that jug of oil costs $1750HT or $60USD.)
Mrs. R sells oil in the market.
She buys it by the 5-gallon jug and sells it by filling empty soda bottles
Two other ladies from our community sell their wares together in the market.
Mrs. R's sister sells her wares out of a wheelbarrow.
While Mrs. R.'s situation is certainly difficult, she is actually among those who are better off in our community. She has a job. She has a husband. She has the micro-credit group that enables her to at least keep her her business going. There are many others for whom the current situation is much more dire. We will look at some of those situations in a future post.