“Things will get better” – rebuilding livelihoods in Carrefour Feuilles

“Things were difficult right after the earthquake, but we're Haitian so we have to get up and move forward.”
Marie Carole Boursiquot

Marie Carole Boursiquot was one of 56 women who ran Oxfam's first community canteens in Port-au-Prince, for two months from March to May. Oxfam supported her financially so she could feed 80 of the most vulnerable people in her community and make a profit for herself, as a first step to regaining her own means of subsistence.

To meet her, we drive up to Carrefour Feuilles, a poor area of Port au Prince packed with small buildings, most of them broken by the earthquake, and climbing gravel paths, still covered with a thick layer of rubble. Marie is sitting at a market stall covered by a large awning made of plastic sheeting, outside an old water kiosk – a two-story building now reduced to one floor. "Things were difficult right after the earthquake, but we're Haitian so we have to get up and move forward," she says.

"Then there was the community canteen and that work really helped me; I was able to set some money by to start my business back up. Now I have my own stall again. Every week, while I had the canteen, I would put aside some of the profits, 1,000 gourdes here and 1,000 gourdes there, and I would send the girls out to buy things for my shop; I also borrowed a little money so that I could buy the rest of the stock. Now I am selling all kinds of things; rice, sugar, beans and pasta..."

Other than food, her range includes coal, soap and washing powder. She also shows us something that looks like a little clay saucer. She laughs and explains that it's called ‘terre' (earth) and that children and pregnant women often buy them... to eat. "I don't eat these myself, but they do, sometimes they buy a whole tray! They come and ask for it specifically." Apparently it is considered healthy.

Oxfam's help

Marie explains that she does not own the shop, but has an arrangement with the owners who could not use it since the top floor collapsed in the earthquake.

"People from Oxfam (the market support team) came to inspect the site of my old shop, they saw that it was destroyed, and they are going to provide me with a shipping container that I can use as a shop and to store my stock securely. That will be much better for my business; I will be able to buy more, and I will be able to manage my stock better then." She says that Oxfam has been the only organization helping her community.

"Many things would help me, but I don't want to ask for too many things. You can't constantly ask for others to give and give. There are always needs, but as long as we are healthy, and we have two hands and two feet, we can find things to do, and we will continue living. Things will get better."

Oxfam's livelihoods work in Haiti supports people in regaining their means of subsistence, and in taking charge of their own lives again. The programs began with 56 community canteens feeding 80 people, and are continuing to expand. The women who run the canteens will participate in business management training. Oxfam will support them and many others with a livelihoods grant of 130 US dollars to allow them to recapitalize their business or buy more stock. The livelihoods grant program will reach about 150,000 people over the next few months.

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