A microfinance project to rebuild Haiti

July 8, 2010.  A massive earthquake devastated the island country of Haiti on January 12. More than 200,000 were killed and 3 million were left without homes or jobs.

This catastrophe underlines the daily struggles of the poorest country in the Americas where seven of every 10 people are poor.

The quake's destruction has brought with it a need for new initiatives from aid programs that existed before the natural disaster.

Zafen.org offers a unique form of aid. The organization uses micro loans to finance business projects in Haiti. It aims to create new, sustainable jobs.

The Vicentian Family has organized the program to celebrate the 350 anniversary of its founders deaths, St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac.

Fr. Gregory Gay
Superior general of the Daughters of Charity
We hear a lot of places within NGOs, supposedly there are projects to help people stand on their own but at times they continue to make people dependent in a way for the help that comes from outside. We're hoping that through this microcredit project, that's for different group projects that people can begin to make life on their own”.

Sister María Pilar López
Daughters of Charity and Vicentian Family collaborator
“These projects, so far as I understand, translate the Vicentian ideal into modern terms. There's a need for direct aid. But we can't just continue giving direct aid; it's simply the first step toward progress so that the poor can eventually help themselves.”

Businesses and individuals in Haiti present their business models online where they can show its specific cost and the amount of financing they need.

Donated money goes directly to a project and donors can follow its development online. The loans are made interest-free.

The projects predominantly focus on ecology and education. For $5 you can plant a tree in a country that is only 6 percent green. You can also fund scholarships for children to go to school. Haiti has a literacy rate of only 55 percent.

Fr. Gregory Gay
Superior general of the Daughters of Charity
We have some others projects that where some of the universities that the congregation of the mission have in the United States have offered scholarships to young people in Haiti with the condition that they receive their education and they give back to their country.”

The first project the organization financed was a company that produces charcoal from vegetable waste. It cost $1,000.

Sister María Pilar López
Daughters of Charity and Vicentian Family collaborator
“The project made a request for barrels and a donkey. It wasn't very big or requiring a lot of people, but there was a place for everyone who wanted to get involved.”

The program has funded 30 projects so far. Its organizers dream of the organization one day extending into other countries to help more small businesses.

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