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The source of Haiti's success

Haiti, December 29, 2010

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Ben Depp for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Though the earthquake left her disabled, Magguie Louis-Jeune, 27, is eager to collaborate with her sisters to start a business in their new home. Photo: Ben Depp for Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Ben Depp for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Magguie and her son Odinal (left), Nadia with her newborn daughter Valanda (center) and Junya (right). Photo: Ben Depp for Mercy Corps

Junie, Nadia and Magguie Louis-Jeune live in a small house with their eight children in Haiti’s Central Plateau. The three sisters lived in Port-au-Prince until the earthquake destroyed their homes. Junie and Magguie lost their husbands. Falling rubble broke Magguie’s legs. When the earth stopped shaking, all they had was each other, and a humble country house they had inherited.

Shortly after the earthquake, an estimated 140,000 survivors like the Louis-Jeunes fled the city for the rural Central Plateau and the Artibonite region. Despite their own impoverished circumstances, local families opened their homes and hearts to the displaced.

For displaced and host families struggling to get by, Mercy Corps offers a variety of cash assistance programs here, including temporary employment and stipends for food, household supplies and school fees. Junie is one of 20,000 people who worked on a community- selected infrastructure project. “The job made a big difference,” she says. “The money went mainly toward food.” The sisters also received $225 to spend at a Mercy Corps-organized market fair. They paid school fees for two children and bought a mattress and cookware.

Now, the sisters are trying their hand at farming, planting peanuts, eggplant and beans. In the city, both Junie and Magguie had market stands. Junie sold cosmetics; Magguie sold everything, they say, with laughter. The sisters voice their desire to start a business here, in their new home.

In these fertile agricultural provinces, Mercy Corps is helping Haitians use their talents to create their own prosperity. We’re providing 5,000 unemployed people, predominantly women, with $175 grants to buy items such as farm tools or sewing machines to start their own small businesses.

Mercy Corps has also helped introduce brand-new technology that delivers cash assistance via mobile phone and, for the first time, gives families access to the financial services that will improve their economic stability. And we’re beginning to work with farmers to improve yields, reduce post-harvest losses and boost incomes.

After years of hardship, these rural communities are eager for change. Their energy is the catalyst of our work — and will be the source of Haiti’s success.