AMURTEL has been a presence in Haiti for over 20 years, partnering with local people to provide a children’s home, schools, clinics, literacy programs, reforestation initiatives, micro credit finance, and women’s leadership programs. The area around our center in Bourdon, Port au Prince, was especially hit hard by the earthquake in 2010; for so many who were already struggling with overwhelming poverty, the loss of family members, homes, and jobs was especially devastating. In collaboration with the UN, we are currently working with families in seven camps in this area for individuals and families displaced by the earthquake.
Disaster Relief Programs
About eight years ago, AMURTEL opened a school in Anse a Pitre, a village close to the Dominican Republic border. In 2011 we expanded our work there to include an economic empowerment programs for women in the greatest need.
There are seven amazing children under six years old living in the home, as well as four teenagers. Along with the 300 kids coming every day to our school, the free clinic held there twice a week, and the constant stream of visitors and area residents in need of help, our center in Bourdon is always bustling with activity
The AMURTEL Haiti Children’s Home is home to several babies and children who either need a permanent home or full or part time support. Many of the children who have experienced neglect or abandonment are thriving due to a loving and supportive atmosphere. Whenever possible, ties to the families of participating children are maintained and supported.
AMURTEL Haiti runs two schools in Haiti; one in Port Au Prince, the other in Anse a Pitre. Both AMSAI schools use a curriculum and educational philosophy based on Neo-Humanism–a philosophy that propagates love for all creation. The philosophy seeks to acknowledge the spiritual, mental, and physical aspects of a child through the methods of creative arts, supportive sharing circles, and yoga asanas. This educational philosophy is employed as a way of fostering compassionate caretakers and leaders in our future society.
Following the 2010 earthquake, AMURTEL was informed by women in the refugee camps that they were interested to start small businesses in order to get back on their feet. After much planning, a Microfinance project was created to support these women in that task. Currently, about 80 women are participating in using micro credit to finance a pathway to a better future.
Disaster Relief Programs
In line with our commitment to be community-based, AMURTEL began working with four local Haitian women trained as community organizers. These organizers–or animators, as they are called in Creole–work in the camps helping the women organize into committees, performing regular needs assessments, and partnering with the camp leaders to determine relevant interventions. These four animators were so inspired by their work with AMURTEL that they helped to create a micro finance program to create economic opportunities for the women in the camps. The creation of the finance organization began with much planning and research into best practices. MIKFAB (Micro Kredi Fanm-yo Viktim AMURTEL) invites participating women to work in groups of six so each can support the others. We provide training in business skills and non-violent communication to assist the women in being successful in their endeavors. Currently, about 80 women are participating in using micro credit to finance a pathway to a more sustainable future. This program has been successful; so far we have 100% repayment from all participants. The local women involved and our volunteers seek to expand MIKFAB and continue to invest in the economic sovereignty of Haitians. To contribute financially to this project, please access the ‘Donate’ tab below.
Some of our Participants:
Jeannine is 29 years old and has two children. She lives with her children and a few siblings in a small shelter in the camp Sitwon 1. She ran a small business before the earthquake in January of 2010, but lost all of her merchandise and had no capital to start over. She would not have been able to start again without the small loan from AMURTEL; in her case 8,000 HTG (or 200 USD). The loan allowed her to buy enough stock to open a small drinks stand, where she sells Tampico, the local juice, and various local sodas. As she stands beside the small fridge where she started her business, run right out of her single room house, she explains how without the loan she wouldn’t have been able to power the fridge or buy the initial supply of beverages. With the income she generates from her small business, she helps support her extended family and send her children to school.
Venise is 31 years old and lives across the ravine from Jeannine in Sitwon II, the namesake of its neighboring camp albeit slightly less developed. She also lives in a small shelter with her two young children, watching over her stand of goods outside at which she sells everything from canned milk and rice to cooking oil. She has only participated in the program once–for a loan of 8,000 HTG (200 USD)–and explains that without it she would not have been able to recreate the business she had before the earthquake. Like many other MIKFAB participants, Venise has experience supporting her family by selling small products, and needed the economical push and support of an external loan. In addition, the training provided by the animators alongside the loan program (including seminars regarding financial management and non-violent communication) helped change her perspective on her children. She learned to look at events through their eyes, and consider how the earthquake might be affecting them, in ways different than it affected her.
A note from Project Coordinator Joni Zweig:
I recently returned from Haiti, and although it was distressing to see so many people still living in appalling conditions almost two years after the earthquake, it was also extremely inspiring to see how successful our AMURTEL programs have been. I met with women from two of the seven camps where we have been running MIKFAB–Amurtel’s self-financed micro credit program–and heard their own stories of how powerful this program has been. There were some unexpected results: a reduction in domestic violence of the women and children in the family, due in part to the non-violent communications classes we offered. I was also happy to hear the more expected results- improved health of the women and children in the home, increased self esteem in the participants, better food for the family, etc. All the women we talked with told us how important it has been for them to be part of the MIKFAB program and expressed hope we would not only continue it but expand the amounts given as well as the number of women participating. When I asked what else they needed, they unanimously agreed that mobile medical clinics, literacy classes, and schools for their children would greatly improve conditions.