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At Grameen Foundation, our goal is to spur innovation in the global movement to eliminate extreme poverty. Part of that work is to develop better solutions and share them with people like you.

On GF Insights, we share lessons learned from our leaders in the field, news about efforts to expand access to financial and information services for the poor, and how poverty-focused organizations are using data to improve the way they work.

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05/24/2009 by

Day 3
Monday, May 18th, 2009
Mirebalais, Central Plateau, Haiti

Dear Zib,
In the midst of the wreckage of this country, I continue to meet the most inspiring, charismatic people on both sides of the micro-finance fence. It makes it impossible to stay mired in despair, despite the never-ending sprawl of abject poverty here. In fact, I feel quite hopeful. Because even though you could liken the day-to-day progress that GF and Fonkoze are making to emptying the proverbial well one teacup a time. The well still gets emptied that way.

05/24/2009 by

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4SEfm7gW5ag] My report on our emotional visit with entering CLM clients will have to wait one more day.  Now, for a bit of the lighter side of visiting microfinance organizations and borrowers. 

During our first half-day in Haiti, my colleague Kate Druschel and I adopted the personas of worldly, well-travelled anti-poverty professionals when advising Yeardley – who was in deep learning mode.  At one point over lunch we said, “Yeardley, you should probably avoid eating these things, even though Kate and I will probably eat them since we have built up immunity over the years.”  It sounded slightly pompous to me when I said, it, although it was probably true. 

05/23/2009 by

DAY 2
Sunday May 17th, 2009
Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Dear Zibby,

What a day. A huge day! I met up with Alex and Kate at the Miami airport this morning and we flew to Port-au-Prince. There, we were picked up by a driver from Fonkoze (the org that GF partners with in Haiti) and taken to the Hotel Montana where Anne Hastings, director extraordinaire of Fonkoze, met us for lunch. More on Anne in a minute.

The Port-au-Prince airport is small and painted that strange mint-green color inside that I’ve seen in other tropical countries. It’s a color that clashes so vividly with the foliage. Odd.

Ooof! It’s incredibly hot and humid here. Air conditioning is a luxury mostly reserved for hotel rooms and some businesses, it appears. But even then it’s iffy since the state turns off the electricity for several hours each day. Can’t keep up with demand, or can’t afford it? Unclear. So everybody has batteries, like car batteries, to run generators to power their appliances. The offices of Fonkoze have a whole wall of batteries, (fifty I think Anne said) so they can keep their computers and lights running during business hours. Fonkoze is also behind high walls (painted deep orange and purple) and there’s a man at the front gate with a rifle.

05/23/2009 by

Alex Counts is the President and CEO of Grameen Foundation.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2FAVkx7w8jI] Fourteen months earlier, I had visited Haiti and spent an afternoon meeting with five families who were beginning participation with the so-called “Ultra-Poor” program of Fonkoze, Grameen Foundation’s local microfinance partner organization.  Also known as by its Creole acronym CLM (“Path To A Better Life”), this program takes people who would normally be too destitute, too sick, and too socially excluded to join and succeed in traditional microcredit programs (which Fonkoze also offers).  Even after twenty years anti-poverty work, I was disturbed by my visit to early stage CLM clients: the children’s distended stomachs, the glazed-over looks of the adults, the abysmal housing conditions, the fact that almost everyone in those families was sick.  I wondered, despite the CLM program’s carefully tailored economic, health, housing and empowerment interventions, whether any of those families would be ready for the traditional microcredit anytime soon.

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