Before the Haiti earthquake in 2010, Ethilde Désir was selling mandarin oranges, but struggling to make ends meet and feed her two babies. However, since she started participating in the British Red Cross livelihood programme, it’s been a different story.
Ethilde, 29, lives in Delmas 19 in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince. As a single mother, life was tough even before the earthquake. “When my husband died, I asked myself how I was going to provide for my son and my daughter,” she says. “I couldn’t afford to send them to school every day.”
Immediately after the earthquake, Ethilde took refuge in a small camp in Delmas 19 for a year. “It was terrible, living there with children,” she says. “I had a lot of debt, and I had nothing to do.”
Red Cross support
Fortunately, Ethilde’s house wasn’t too severely damaged and when everything started to return to normal, she went back home.
“I remember when British Red Cross committee members knocked on my door,” she says. “They told me the Red Cross was helping people in this area get back on their feet. It was good news for us, a new beginning for me.”
After attending training and developing a business plan, Ethilde qualified for a first instalment of £240, which she used to pay for her children to go to school, clear some of her debt and start her new business.
Starting a business
Ethilde sets up her stall each morning in front of her house, selling school and reading books to people living in the area or passers-by. People come to buy her books every day and she also sells TVs, radios and clothes.
“I bought the stock from a former businessman who left Haiti for the United States,” she says. “It was a very good opportunity for me.
“A TV gets me almost £32 so I usually try to sell them. I sold a lot of TVs at Easter and made a good amount of profit then.”
This income has helped Ethilde immeasurably, she supports her family, pays for the schooling of her children, buys food for the house and sometimes can help a friend in need.
“The British Red Cross helped us a lot. Before, we had a difficult life, but now we can see clearly that things have improved.”
In May 2012, Ethilde received the second instalment of her cash grant (£160) to strengthen her business. With this money, she bought more books and more TVs, and has now created a sustainable source of income.
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