May 23, 2009
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.