WE is proud to announce our newest project partner, the Boutik Sante Program of Fonkoze in Haiti. Our members may be familiar with Fonkoze’s outstanding microloan program, one of the oldest and most well respected in Haiti.
The Boutik Sante (“Little Health Store”) Program offers a new direction for Fonkoze and for WE. Run by Fonkoze’s nonprofit arm in Haiti, Fonkoze Foundation, the program grew out of the need to provide basic, good quality, affordable health care products and health screening in remote rural areas of Haiti with no access to health care. Each boutik provides free vitamins and malnutrition screening for children, and adult screening for conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, at a nominal cost. Over the counter health items such as water filters, anti-parasitic medications, oral rehydration treatments, vitamins, and family planning supplies are sold at prices that are within the reach of even the very poor. Monthly health seminars are offered at each boutik, to acquaint the rural poor with good health practices.
A pilot program establishing 69 boutik in 2013-14 demonstrated that the boutik became self-sustaining within 6 months, and attained the desired outcome of increasing the poor’s consumption of basic preventive health care items, reducing preventable health issues in the area. Over the next five years, the goal of the rollout is to establish 1800 boutik in the poorest and most remote areas of Haiti, serving over 2.7 million underserved people, and providing employment to 1800 women entrepreneurs who are microcredit clients of Fonkoze.
In Fonkoze’s microloan program, five women form a Solidarity Group, which then joins a Center comprised of 25 to 30 women. The Solidarity Centers are at the core of Fonkoze’s business support programs, providing ongoing training, health services, and encouragement. Each center elects a leader, and the Boutik Sante project will draw the majority of their 1800 entrepreneurs from the pool of elected leaders, women with demonstrated strength, resilience, leadership qualities, and the ability to run a business. Fonkoze may extend credit for up to half of the supplies for the first cycle of product purchases. After that, the women are on their own, modifying their inventory to meet the demands of their clients. Of course, they are always eligible to apply for business loans through Fonkoze’s microloan arm, if needed.
This exciting new program is something of a departure for WE. In past projects, WE has worked with small microfinance programs where we can make a substantial difference in the success of a program. The Boutik Sante program demands far more funds than WE can provide, so we are working in partnership with other, larger, funding entities that provide the bulk of the funding. Our first year contribution of $30,000 will go towards the training of the women entrepreneurs, as they prepare to open their own boutik, and offer monthly health education seminars in their villages. The beauty of Boutik Sante is that after this initial five-year investment, profits will enable this program to be self-sustaining. It will no longer require contributions from donors and charities—a true social enterprise. This is the kind of innovative model that WE seeks to lift up, and possibly help extend to other countries with underserved populations. Watch for a progress report on this inspiring new program within the next six months.