> Posted by Steven Werlin, Communications and Learning Officer, Chemen Lavi Miyò Program, Fonkoze

A new initiative of Haiti’s Secretary of State for the Integration of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) promises to push financial inclusion for some of the country’s most vulnerable citizens. Prior to Haiti’s catastrophic earthquake in 2010, roughly 800,000 Haitians had disabilities. An estimated 300,000 more were injured in the earthquake. The Secretary’s office is facilitating a partnership between Fonkoze, Haiti’s largest MFI, and Texas Christian University (TCU), with additional support from the Digicel Foundation, to carry out a program that offers financial and livelihood empowerment services for PwDs.

The pilot for the project will test a combination of Fonkoze’s Chemen Lavi Miyò (CLM) program, which translates as the pathway to a better life, and TCU professor Dawn Elliott’s More than Budgets (MTB) program. CLM is a comprehensive graduation program for the ultra poor, based on the approach developed by BRAC. It is a tailored, sequenced program that provides participants with cash installments to build businesses, productive assets (such as goats, chickens, and merchandise to sell), a savings account at Fonkoze, and regular training and confidence-building support in areas of enterprise management, health and nutrition, and life skills. Most importantly, CLM offers weekly one-on-one meetings with trained case managers. It targets the poorest families – those too poor to use traditional microfinance services. Many participants graduate from the 18 month program and go on to join a group credit program to further support their business efforts. MTB, employing a combination of education and incentives, is a personal financial training program that was developed to help poor, unbanked Texans build up savings, gain access to financial resources, and reduce financial vulnerabilities. The program has been applied in homeless shelters and with people recently released from prison.

Thirty disabled Haitians from Lascahobas, in the Central Plateau, will participate in the PwD program. Like members of the CLM program, they will receive enterprise training and the assets they need to start their businesses, along with weekly visits from a case manager. Like MTB participants, they will receive training that highlights the value of savings and tools, as well as incentives that facilitate savings. Participant selection will be completed in February, and launch of the yearlong pilot is scheduled to start in March.

The CLM team was excited to learn from MTB because it offers a way to encourage savings even in remoter areas, where formal banking can be hard to access. Fonkoze sent staff, including myself, to Fort Worth, Texas, to study the MTB approach. We were especially interested in the way MTB is able to open up savings to those who may not yet be ready for a formal bank.

Up until now, the CLM program had to exclude the disabled poor because it lacked the tools to work with them. Gauthier Dieudonné, the Program Director for CLM, has asserted the importance of the experiment saying, “We need to make sure this pilot succeeds so that we never again have to leave a disabled person in our fight to eliminate extreme poverty.”

Have you read?

Barriers Persist in Financial Inclusion for PwDs

Fonkoze & the Global Microcredit Summit – Alex Counts Book Project

To End Extreme Poverty? Focus on Integrated Services