Jean Gislene is Going Places

Jean Gislene is Going Places

CARE-led food program brings economic empowerment to the table for local entrepreneurs

Jean Gislene is going places — and she’s taking her whole community with her.  She plans to buy more land, beyond what she already owns. That’s quite a feat in her home country of Haiti, where only 9 percent of women own land. She also plans to send her kids to school, to build a better house and to buy several cows as another income source. What makes this possible?

It starts with Jean’s participation as a caterer in the country’s USAID-funded Kore Lavi program, which is implemented by a CARE-led consortium and aims to improve access to food and nutrition for 300,000 of Haiti’s most vulnerable families. Jean buys local food from local farmers and vendors, then prepares it for schoolkids in her community. Kore Lavi pays her for the work. In six months, she has gone from feeding about 15 people each day, to serving nearly 60 schoolkids daily in her neighborhood. Her profits have tripled, and with a weekly income of $60, she more than doubles the average annual household income in Haiti’s rural communities. 

It’s a lot of work, requiring Jean to get up 2 a.m. each morning in order to prepare all of the school lunches for the day. But that’s okay with her.

“It’s my business, and I am proud of it,” she says.  “Why shouldn’t I work hard?  My husband is very proud of me, too, since I can help provide for the household.   

My two oldest children couldn’t go to school because we didn’t have any money, but my youngest ones are going to finish their education. The business also gives my older kids work to do so that they have employment. My sons help me take food up to the school every day. I’m using the extra money I make to expand and diversify my business, so I don’t have to be afraid of changes in the market.

The income isn’t the only thing that makes Jean proud.  Now, she has a chance to contribute to her community. Her business isn’t just for her; it’s for everybody.

“The kids at school are learning better than before because they are well fed,” Jean says. “They don’t have headaches from hunger any more. With the training and the menus from CARE, I cook them meals that have more vegetables and lots of vitamins, so they are healthier, too.”