Zafèn Microloan Program for Haitian Businesses Announced

Brooklyn Auxiliary Bishop Guy Sansaricq, the only Haitian-born U.S. bishop, encouraged members of the New York Haitian Diaspora to use the website as a means to help Haitians begin viable enterprises that will contribute to a self-sustaining Haitian economy in the future.

With the help of David Miller, dean of DePaul’s College of Computer Science and Digital Media who led the site’s development team, attendees explored dozens of projects posted on www.zafen.org from businesspeople across Haiti—many in rural areas—seeking to create or expand commerce in their region by increasing employment opportunities, operating more efficiently and/or becoming more environmentally friendly.

Katleen Felix, chair of the Haitian Hometown Associations Resource Group and Haitian Diaspora Liaison with Fonkoze, made a loan online to demonstrate the process, which was projected on a large screen so audience members could follow step-by-step. Attendees asked questions and used computers to make loans and donations. Haitian students from St. John’s provided entertainment during the event.

Since April 1, lenders and donors have contributed more than$25,000 to Zafèn to finance businesses seeking capital to do such things as turn waste into charcoal, improve cooking technology, plant fruit trees and coffee plants, and purchase a freezer to eliminate expensive daily ice costs. Additionally, annual tuition for nearly 700 students has been donated.

Zafèn was created through a collaborative partnership of four entities: the worldwide Vincentian Family, DePaul University, Fonkoze and The Haitian Hometown Associations Resource Group (HHTARG).

  • The international Vincentian Family is a worldwide network of about 1 million people consisting of the Congregation of the Mission, Daughters of Charity and all organizations who find inspiration in the work of St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac, who served the poor in 17th century France and beyond. The Vincentians created Zafèn to extend Vincent and Louise’s legacy into the 21st century and mark the 350th anniversary of their deaths this year.
  • DePaul University in Chicago is the largest Catholic university in the United States. It instills a commitment to community service in its students, faculty, staff and alumni.
  • Fonkoze is Haiti’s alternative bank with 41 branches, 200,000 savings accounts, 47,000 borrowers and 15 years of experience covering rural Haiti.

The Rev. Robert Maloney, C.M., who chairs the Vincentian Family Board responsible for the project, told the audience: “The preacher at St. Vincent’s funeral stated: ‘He just about renewed the face of the Church.’  I hope that we can help the people of Haiti renew the lives of their families and their country’s economy.”

The word “Zafèn” means “It’s our business” in Haitian Creole. It was developed to stimulate collaboration between Haitian business owners, the Haitian Diaspora, friends of Haiti and others interested in supporting the development of Haiti’s economy.

 

DePaul Management Professor Laura Hartman, a business ethicist who has worked and written extensively in the area of global poverty alleviation, and a team of experts from DePaul’s College of Computing and Digital Media were instrumental in the creation and development of the project and the website.

“Zafèn does not simply open a door to a future,” said Hartman. “Zafèn opens the door to a gallery of offerings that allows contributors the opportunity to be participants in Haiti’s future.”

Anne Hastings, Fonkoze’s director, agrees. “At Fonkoze, we are committed to identifying and strengthening the small- and medium-enterprise sector in Haiti as we have done with the microenterprise sector. We are looking forward to accomplishing that through Zafèn and its partners in the Diaspora and worldwide. Together we can strengthen the Haitian economy.”

Felix said after the New York launch, “It is a great opportunity for Haitians from the Diaspora to support sustainable businesses or projects in rural Haiti and follow their progress.” She is hopeful that Zafèn gains popularity among the large numbers of Haitian Diaspora who are living in New York, Boston, Miami, Atlanta, Chicago, Montreal and Paris.

Key features of www.zafen.org are:

  • Contributions are linked in real time to projects that await funding, and they go directly to the project(s) users select.
  • Zafen.org offers peer-to-project vs. person-to-person relationships, encouraging greater sustainability.
  • Users can track their loans, watch them return, then re-lend or withdraw – all online.
  • Zafen.org uses PayPal for secure, easy and reliable loans/donations.

Buck Close, president of 1000 Jobs/Haiti, Zafèn’s fiscal agent, is excited to be involved with the project.

“It is vitally important that Haitians who have good ideas for economic development and the initiative to pursue them get the support they deserve from people around the world who wish to stand in solidarity with them,” he said. “The partners who created and manage the Zafèn website are determined to support the creativity and hope that many Haitians demonstrate despite the difficulties of daily life.”

“Haiti does not need help in the traditional sense of the word help,” said Hartman. “Haiti needs your confidence; Haiti needs your partnership; Haiti needs your belief; Haiti needs your optimism, and all of that is why you go to Zafen.org.”

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About Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens

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Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens
Jim Luce (www.lucefoundation.org) writes and speaks on Thought Leaders and Global Citizens. Bringing 26 years management experience within both investment banking and the non-profit sector, Jim has worked for Daiwa Bank, Merrill Lynch, a spin-off of Lazard Freres, and two not-for profit organizations and a foundation he founded. As Founder & CEO of Orphans International Worldwide (www.oiww.org), he is working with a strong network of committed professionals to build interfaith, interracial, Internet-connected orphanages in Haiti and Indonesia, and creating a new, family-care model for orphans in Sri Lanka and Tanzania.

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