SEED program participants gather to receive certificates and celebrate a new start.
By Julia Kayser*
January 11, 2013—When the 2010 earthquake struck Haiti, it destroyed the business that Richmond Gela Pierre Paul had been running for more than a decade. The entire inventory in her electronics shop was destroyed. Without her shop, she struggled to feed her two children, and paying to repair their badly cracked house was out of the question. After a dissatisfying period working odd jobs, Paul became a participant in one of UMCOR’s pilot programs: Strengthening Entrepreneurship and the Economy through women’s business Development, or SEED for short.
The SEED pilot program provided business and financial training to 69 women whose businesses were damaged in the earthquake. For Paul, this training was her first exposure to the concepts of tracking inventory and keeping a record of transactions. Each woman made a new business plan and received a small grant to invest in the future of her enterprise. Paul decided to start a new business selling food items out of her home. She plans to put her profits into a bank to keep them safe. She reports that the SEED project gave her family a big economic boost.
This project complements work that other organizations and the government have done to move people out of camps and back into neighborhoods. UMCOR targeted several neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince with the SEED program. Because there is little incentive for families to relocate to areas with little or no economic activity, UMCOR has focused its renewal and relocation efforts on livelihood support.
Another beneficiary of this program is Constant Pharly. When the earthquake hit, she was living with her mother and taking professional courses. “The house collapsed,” she says, recalling the day her life changed. “My mother supported me financially and now”—since the earthquake—“I’m responsible for myself. Anything I need depends on me.” At age 20, Pharly became homeless, jobless, and without a safety net.
In early 2011, she started a small business selling food items. The SEED training helped her expand her shop and become more productive. “Now I know how to manage my business and my money,” she says. “Learning how to plan and prepare a daily calendar [to help her implement her business-improvement strategy] has helped me a lot.” Thanks to the SEED project grant, Pharly now has more merchandise and a permanent stall in her neighborhood’s public market.
UMCOR partners with Making Cents International, an organization based in Washington, D.C. which specializes in financial literacy and entrepreneurship in the developing world. Making Cents provided the curriculum for the SEED training. Staff form UMCOR and Eglise Methodiste d’Haiti (EMH) facilitated the training.
The program was designed to have a multiplier effect: While beneficiaries received training, facilitators also were learning the skills they needed to replicate this project throughout the country.
January 12, 2013 marks the third anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti that caused so much ruin and loss of life. Please pray for those who died, and for those who survive and struggle to renew their lives today.
View a new UMCOR video, on the critical juncture Haitians face today as they begin to turn their attention from relief to long-term recovery and development.
Your support for UMCOR’s work alongside the people of Haiti is as important today as they begin to turn their attention from relief to long-term recovery and development. Please give to Haiti Response, Advance #418325.
*Julia Kayser is a writer and a regular contributor to www.umcor.org.