"I'm on my way": revitalising business in Haiti

17th Jan 2011

Oxfam is helping to revitalise local markets in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, with a series of strategic small-business grants.

In the Carrefour Feuilles neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Oxfam is helping to revitalise local markets with a series of strategic small-business grants. The program, which includes micro-credit loans for some people as well as training in business management, is benefitting business owners, five of whom are receiving shipping containers adapted so that they can serve as small shops. One of the criteria for participation is that merchants offer products locals say they need in their neighborhood, including food and hardware store goods.

Marie Carole St. Juste, who ran a bottled-drinks and packaged-food business (known as a boutik in Kreole), is one of those who has received a container. She has re-opened her business from it.

"It really put joy in my heart," said St. Juste, 34, standing in the entry of her new shop, its walls painted with a fresh coat of pink paint - a color she loves. "If it wasn't for that container I don't know when I'd be back on my feet. I'm on my way. I know I'm going to be able to make it back."

With her business, she is supporting herself, her mother (Marie Carmel Etienne), her father, and two nieces.

She was particularly appreciative of Oxfam's support. She said Oxfam didn't only provide food, if you know what you're doing the organisation helps you with your business.

St. Juste also participated in some of the business training Oxfam offered, which was part of the agreement: "They taught us how to manage the business. The best thing I learned was that instead of going downtown to get my supplies, it's better to go to the big market that's closer." The reason is that transport costs less. "If you sell something and make only 10 or 15 gourdes on it, it's better than not having sold it at all," said St. Juste.

"If it wasn't for the good work, a lot of people here would have lost their minds because they would be focusing on their problems. … I'm really happy about the work Oxfam is doing."

Oxfam's response to the Haiti earthquake and cholera response