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.


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. 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

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

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
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.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

IOC Leaders to Discuss Mexico Dispute Next Month

The International Olympic Committee said Friday the issue of government interference in Mexico will be reviewed by its policy-making executive board at its Dec. 8-10 meeting in Lausanne

Hurricane Sandra Loses Strength Off Mexican Coast

Now a Category 3 storm in the Pacific with winds of 195 kph, it's expected to weaken to a tropical storm Friday night

Ecuador to Impose Visa Requirements on Cuban Citizens

Objective is 'to discourage the flow of people seeking to reach the United States,' Ecuador's deputy foreign minister says

Destruction of Brazil's Amazon Forest Jumps 16 Percent in 2015

More than 5,800 square kilometers of forests were cleared during the 12 months ending in July, the government confirms — an area half the size of Puerto Rico

Local Opposition Leader Shot Dead in Venezuela

Armed assailants in vehicle shoot Luis Diaz, head of Democratic Action party, in Altagracia de Orituco in central Venezuela

Brazil Corruption Probe Widens; Bank CEO, Senate Leader Arrested

Detentions on orders from Supreme Court raise stakes in bribery scandal that now threatens heights of Brazilian banking and politics