News / Americas

Clicking for a Cause

New website makes it easier to donate directly to specific Haiti reconstruction projects

Concrete blocks transformed into livestock pens on the organic farm in Haiti that Boston physician Arielle Adrien helps support.
Concrete blocks transformed into livestock pens on the organic farm in Haiti that Boston physician Arielle Adrien helps support.

Multimedia

Audio
Emma Jacobs

A new website makes it easier for the Haitian diaspora in the United States to help fund the reconstruction of their homeland following January's devastating earthquake.

Zafen.org connects projects in Haiti with individual and institutional sources of funding. Zafèn means 'It's our business' in Haitian Creole.

Diaspora dollars

Last year, Haitians living abroad sent more than $1.6 billion back home to family members.

Members of the Haitian diaspora - like Boston physician Arielle Adrien - have also been active in projects which encourage long-term economic growth.

Boston physician Arielle Adrien nets a fish on the Kiskeya Aqua Ferme (farm) in Haiti.
Boston physician Arielle Adrien nets a fish on the Kiskeya Aqua Ferme (farm) in Haiti.

Adrien calls Haiti every day to confer with managers of Kiskeya Aqua Ferme, the organic farm she helps support. Located in the town of Leogane, about 25 kilometers west of Port au Prince, it produces vegetables, eggs, fish, pigs and goats.

Today, she reports with a laugh, "He says you know the fish feeds that we bought just ran out so time to buy a new one. Time to buy a new one. Time to send some more money."

Adrien says supporting an agricultural project long-distance is difficult. Along with the daily phone calls, she visits the farm several times a year.

Thinking big

No one knows how many projects like Kiskeya Aqua Ferma are funded by the Haitian immigrant community.

Livestock pens are built on Kiskeya Aqua Ferme, a Haiti farm.
Livestock pens are built on Kiskeya Aqua Ferme, a Haiti farm.

Liesl Riddle, who runs the Diaspora Program at George Washington University, says it's very hard to quantify.

"You walk in any of these countries and start asking questions about some of the new investments or the new innovations that you see in the business community, and by and large you'll find behind that a diaspora story," she says.

Much of the outside money for Haiti's small entrepreneurs has come in the form of micro-loans from Fonkoze, the nation's largest microfinance institution.

Recently, the diaspora community began expressing interest in funding larger enterprises, which create jobs and offer more opportunities for economic development.

Katleen Felix, Fonkoze's Diaspora Coordinator, explains that Haitian banks don't loan to these mid-size projects, and it's difficult for Haitians living abroad to raise start up costs for these businesses without straining their personal finances.

"Supporting those projects, yes, I would like to put $10,000 in my 401k this year, but I have my community back home that I have to support," she says.

'It's our business'

That's why Fonkoze recently launched Zafen.org.

Haitian businesses approach Fonkoze to make an appeal for funds. The institution's staff reviews each proposal to make sure the business model is sound. Approved projects are listed on the Zafen site, along with a description of the project, and needed funding.

Donors can review the projects and select the ones they want to support. Small contributions are combined and provided as no-interest loans to businesses enterprises.

Fonkoze staff members stay in touch with the entrepreneurs to ensure that the money is being spent appropriately.

George Washington University's Riddle says the process will give the businesses financial credibility as they seek more funding.

"We need some way of being able to certify that certain projects are valid and that money will be used for the purposed they say they're going to use it," she says. "Having a sort of third party identify those projects and put their stamp of approval behind it I think is really critical when we're talking about these type of markets where there aren't these sort of third-party certification institutions."

Arielle Adrien has submitted a proposal to Fonkoze, and looks forward to the day her farming project appears on the Zafen website.

Looking at a photo of her farm's first animal pens, built with concrete blocks, Adrien says, "We have come far, but not far enough."

You May Like

Photogallery US to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Expanded Ebola Effort

At US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Obama is to announce troop deployment, other details of US plans to fight Ebola outbreak More

China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Chronically Hungry Numbers Decline

Three U.N. agencies have released the State of Food Security in the World report
More

UN: Enforced Disappearances Continue Unabated Globally

UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances says more than 43,000 cases from 88 countries still remain to be clarified
More

Hurricane Odile Weakens, Still a Threat to Mexico

Odile could drench Baja California with as much as 46 centimeters of rain by Friday
More

Powerful Hurricane Threatens Mexico's Baja California

US forecasters have downgraded Odile to strong Category 3 storm, with top sustained winds of 205 kilometers per hour
More

Hard-hitting Films Tackle Homelessness at Toronto Festival

'Time Out of Mind,' 'Shelter,' and 'Heaven Knows What' all focus on characters struggling with homelessness, addiction on the streets of New York
More

After Tax Reform Triumph, Chile's President Faces Rockier Road

'Honeymoon' may be over for Michelle Bachelet as protests rise and economy, security outlook worsen
More