Rebuilding Haiti with small businesses

In the devastating earthquake in Haiti five years ago, people lost not only their homes but also their means to earn an income. With nothing left, many were unable to provide daily food for their families.

Using $1 million of donations to our Haiti Disaster Relief Fund, Compassion worked with local churches to provide small loans and training to Haitians affected by the earthquake. Compassion trained credit officers to help the entrepreneurs develop viable business plans and offered ongoing encouragement and advice along the way. In all, 850 loans averaging $1,000 each were distributed to families of Compassion-assisted children. All of the repaid loan money, including the one percent monthly interest charge, went toward rebuilding schools and child development centres.

Here are just a few of the parents who can now provide for their children thanks to our supporters.

Herman Estimphil, shoemaker


Herman has been a shoemaker for 40 years, a skill his brother Luc taught him. When the earthquake struck, he was making shoes in his workshop. He survived, but his brother did not.

As Herman mourned, he tried to figure out how to rebuild life for his family—which includes nine children. “We were very vulnerable, you can imagine,” Herman says. “I couldn’t figure out how we would keep surviving.”

Compassion invited Herman to submit a business plan and apply for a loan. He was approved for the maximum loan of $2,500. He bought startup materials and rented a small shop on a busy street. There, he makes, repairs and sells shoes.

“This loan became a lifesaver,” Herman says. “It helped us deal with our children’s situation, and it also helped us better feed them.”

Marie Sylvina Saint-Louis, water seller


Before the earthquake, Marie was not only a widow but also blind. As a street vendor, she made $5 to $10 a day selling “anything that could be sold” to provide for her four children. Survival was hard enough, but then the earthquake struck, partially crumbling the family’s rented home.

Compassion staff members worked with Marie to devise a business plan that could help both her family and the community. Since the city water isn’t safe to drink, residents must buy filtered water. Marie decided to start a purified-water shop with a loan through Compassion.

A 1,200-gallon tank stores water that Marie purifies with her reverse osmosis filtration system. She sells the filtered water to customers who bring empty containers to her window. The business has nearly tripled her income from before the earthquake.

Marie can now pay for all her children’s school tuition. She is even able to pay for her older daughter Rose’s education—who is now in her third year of nursing school.

Eriner Joseph, baker


Six years ago, Eriner was struggling to support his wife and daughter on his income as a public schoolteacher. But then the 2010 earthquake threw the city into chaos. “The whole capital city was destroyed,” he says. “And people were wondering, Will there be any tomorrow for Port-au-Prince?”

Eriner enrolled in Compassion’s income-generation program. He talked to a lot of neighbours who thought a bakery would be good for the community.

Although he didn’t know much about baking, he learned how to run a business. He secured a loan to rent a building, hire bakers and buy equipment, including a small oven. As demand for their baked goods grew, Eriner repaid the loan and took out a second one to buy an industrial oven, allowing him to increase production. He now employs eight people and earns about $544 a month, more than double his previous income.

“I never had in mind I would become a baker,” he says. “Now I’m a baker, and this is my bakery. And I feel very proud of that.”

Written by: Amber Van Schooneveld

Amber Van Schooneveld is the Managing Editor of Compassion International's blog.