The above video is Steve Werlin's Shimer lecture on CLM. It explains, in more detail, what this post attempts to.
Stephanie Fong, Zachary Fazio, Landis Masnor, and Renee Meschi are Shimer students participating in the Shimer Summer Internship Program. They are forced to regularly post updates about their internship experiences. This post is from Landis Masnor who is interning with CLM, Fonkoze in Haiti.
A brief post to explain exactly what CLM does. Their intentions are to show that it is possible to eradicate poverty in Central Haiti. And since they’ve begun, about 5 years ago, they’ve held a 96% success rate. That means that of out of every 50 women who go through the program only one doesn’t graduate. Their method is very succesful.
The Selection Process
When CLM moves into a new region they begin by holding a large, open neighborhood meeting. At this meeting two CLM workers explain that they’re doing research, but say nothing about the program. After the attendees sketch the neighborhood area they mark the locations of the houses and get the names of the people who live there. Once this is done, the CLM workers lead the attendees in what is called Participatory Wealth Ranking. Exhaustive questions are asked about who is poorest among “These two? Which of these families is worse off?” CLM uses this information to select roughly 50 women in the area that live at the bottom of the bottom. Targeting these women, the ultra ultra poor is CLM’s goal. Fonkoze, the larger organization CLM belongs to, is doing great things for poor women in Haiti but the women CLM is after can’t be reached by Fonkoze. A loan from Fonkoze is only good if you can make money from it and pay it back. These women need more than a zero interest loan to get out of poverty.
CLM members gather outside a group meeting
-“Get out of poverty” –I’m use to avoiding that phrase, mostly as a lean away from any flighty idealism and also because I can hear some idiot speaking about “getting on your feet” like it’s the poor person’s mistake, like they could do it but chose not to, and like it’s the right thing to do, the American life. But I have no problem using that phrase here. This idealism has practicality; people do get out of poverty. As far as the complicated issue of whether or not these women are merely moving from one-meal-a-day-suffering to one of the many capitalist flavors of oppression, it really doesn’t fit here This is mostly because the women are happy that their kids have stopped dying, they don't mind being entrepreneurs. The preservation of life simplifies that matter somewhat. Besides, the market place here is nothing like the United States. I have to hold my breath to not be a consumer in the US. Here women trade goats and mangoes in local markets with other women like themselves.--
The program the CLM members go through is an 18 month process of weekly visits by a case manager. At these meetings case managers speak to their members about various issues of health and safety. The 10 topics which are cycled through for the entire year-and-a-half concern immediate and foundational ideas that could possibly mean life or death. These talks are about things like Cholera, Vitamin A, drinking clean water, and using a latrine. The value of most of these talks would be lost if CLM didn’t explain what foods contain vitamin A, if CLM didn’t give them filters so they could collect river water, if CLM didn’t give them money to build a latrine.
In addition to these gifts CLM builds the members a new house and gives the members their choice of assets; goats, pigs, chickens, or small commerce. The members pick two of these activities to make money from. Early in the program members attend a week long training that teaches them how to take care of their assets. Although women who choose small commerce as one their assets can begin to make money right away, weaving baskets or growing corn, the women who choose animals must wait before their assets begin producing income. Take the goat, the most popular asset, assuming the goat gets pregnant quickly it will still take 5 months before she produces her offspring. Because of this, CLM provides a cash stipend of 250 gouds (about $5) every week for the first six months. This money is mostly used to feed their children, however if a member is doing well with her assets and securing food for her family she might buy another asset, a cow or a turkey, or invest further in their current business. Lamartin oversees the construction of a member's new house
A CLM member's husband's funeral
This six month period really separates CLM from Fonkoze and other micro financing institutions. Many of our members became poor after a medical emergency or the death of a financial supporter. Accordingly, CLM’s goal in the eighteen months is to help the women reach a point of financial security that they could take a hit like that without it crippling their standard of living. But when CLM meets them they’re in a situation where even small bumps can have grave consequences. So CLM gives them so much in hopes that these women can start breaking even. Case manager, Alancia (left) speaks meets with one of her members
During the process case managers give the members advice on business problems, help take care of their assets, keep an eye on their health, and make sure their kids are going to school. Case managers look out for their members. Steve Werlin recently wrote on his blog about a CLM member who was beaten by her husband. Her case manager, Lamartin, the CLM director, and Steve rode out on motorcycles to the house in the mountains and threatened to lock the man up if he ever did it again. The CLM director, Gauthier tells me, “He was scared! We don’t let people treat our members like that.” Case managers are responsible for the financial and physical well-being of their members but they often play an important emotional role in members’ lives too. More on that in a later post.
A graduate speaks about CLM
At the end of the 18 months the members are evaluated for graduation. Qualifications for graduation include food security, two sources of income, an active savings account, a certain value of assets… On graduation day the women are given diplomas, some speak about their experience and how their lives have changed, and lots of food is served. A Fonkoze Ti Kredi (Little Credit) representative is also present in an effort to continue cultivating the women’s financial stability.
After graduation the CLM case manager begins the selection process again in another area. “You eliminate extreme poverty in one area, then you leave and go to the next one,” Gauthier says.