In early January, Louis Jeune Dadyne had finally infiltrated a Mercy Corps Mobile Money event. She sat quietly in the back of the small, outdoor classroom, next to a particularly rambunctious prospective vendor.
He yelled. She told him to calm down and let us get on with our community mobilization. When our eyes met, she winked at me. We were explaining our Unconditional Cash Grants — Mobile Money Integration Program.
Unconditional cash grants, whereby an aid organization gives a one-time cash gift to help a community get through particularly hard times, are usually conducted with cash in envelopes or vouchers that can be redeemed for cash or goods. Our integration program in Saut D’Eau is trying something new.
Instead of cash in an envelope, the program will use mobile money: beneficiaries will receive their cash grants electronically, on their cell phones. Then they will be able to spend that money electronically with affiliated vendors, transfer their mobile money to friends or family or trade the money for cash. The benefits are many: the money is more secure, peer-to-peer transfers allow people to quickly aid family members in other parts of Haiti and keeping money on a cell phone makes it easier to save.
As the Haiti saying goes, "when money is in your hand it is gone." For mobile money to work, Mercy Corps needed to affiliate a variety of vendors. We had identified a pharmacy, the most popular school in the area, a building materials shop and several vendors selling basic foods and goods.
Though Louis Jeune Dadyne had not been one of the vendors identified, she had come to our vendor mobilization event. The biological mother of three who also cares for a fourth child, Dadyne was anxious to be involved in any project that could increase the income of her small shop. She had originally heard of Mercy Corps’ arrival in Saut D’Eau when we were building a list of beneficiaries. When she didn't end up on our beneficiary list and heard that we were also working with vendors she wanted to get involved. After the community mobilization meeting, she led us to her shop and enthusiastically answered our questions.
Poorly-constructed houses in Saut D’Eau were destroyed during the 2010 earthquake. From Dadyne’s shop, we could see the rubble that remained of her mother’s home. Luckily, her mother was not harmed.
Now, a year from the devastation of the earthquake, Saut D’Eau is coping with another disaster: cholera. During our first visit to Saut D’Eau, when the Mercy Corps team spoke to potential beneficiaries, it was clear that the area had been particularly impacted by the epidemic. It seemed that every person had a horror story to tell. Dadyne relayed that her cousin, niece and uncle had all contracted cholera despite taking recommended precautions.
Dadyne’s family was fortunate; they had the resources to seek and receive treatment. Hopefully, Mercy Corps' unconditional cash grants will ensure that more people in Saut D’Eau are able to treat their water, eat food that has been cooked recently and, in the worst-case scenario, purchase cholera medication.