Grameen Foundation Insights
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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.
Sunday May 17th, 2009
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.
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.
[caption id="attachment_96" align="alignleft" width="160" caption="Yeardley Smith with Fonkoze client"][/caption]
Hi. Yeardley Smith, here; actress, author, and generally good egg. I’m just back from a trip to Haiti with Alex Counts, Prez and CEO of Grameen Foundation, and his colleague, Kate Druschel. I’d say of all the things I’ve done in the past 5 years, (and I’ve been busy), this trip --three days in Haiti—seems to have piqued all my friends’ interest more than anything else. So…
Actress and television voice of Lisa Simpson, Yeardley Smith has teamed up with Grameen Foundation to fight poverty.
She has recently returned from a trip to Haiti to visit GF partner Fonkoze and learn first hand about the experiences of poor women whose lives have been transformed by microfinance.
She will be blogging here about this live-changing journey over the next few days.