Kanpe is a new organization, one that’s just starting its work in Haiti. Regine is on their board of directors, and the band has given them a fair bit of money. They’re starting their work in Bay Tourib, that rural village we visited—-Fritz Louis, Kanpe’s program director, was with us in that rollicking SUV ride out to the countryside. They’re aiming to be partners in health with Partners in Health. Well, partners in a lot of things, I guess, but health is one of them. I just wanted to be clever. Sorry.
To talk about Kanpe—-well, it actually helps to tell you first about this Haitian bank called Fonkoze. Fonkoze is a microfinance institution. Which means, most famously, that they lend small amounts of money to poor people who ordinarily can’t get loans. But that’s just one aspect of the work (albeit a very important one)—-this is a good summary of their methods.
Now, there is a difference between the very, very poor and the very, very, very, very poor—-or ‘the poorest of the poor’. Basically, if you have a very poor person and you teach them to fish, and you give them a fishing rod—-they will use it to get food for their family. If you have an insanely poor person and you teach them to fish, and you give them a fishing rod—-they will sell the fishing rod to buy emergency rations, or they will have to use it to prop up a corner of their house when the rainy season comes, or they will have to trade it for medicine. That is a simplification, but what can I say, I’m a simple man.
Fonkoze noticed that they had better success with the poorest of the poor in communities where Partners in Health was working. Basically, with free health care, when people got loans, they didn’t immediately go out and buy medicine for their dying families. Because the medicine was free! (Oh, and, mysteriously, when they got the medicine, the families were no longer dying—-and they were able to contribute economically! The CIIIIIIIIIIRCLE of LIIIIIIIIFE!)
And Partners in Health noticed that in communities where Fonkoze came in, the poorest of the poor were slowly becoming just run-of-the-mill poor. Like, people owned more goats and stuff. It was totally awesome. People weren’t just healthy and stuck with absolutely no opportunities—-now, of a sudden, there were small opportunities.
So, since 2004, PIH and Fonkoze have been working in concert more and more. There are a few towns in Haiti now—-Thomonde (next to Bay Tourib) is among them—-that have Fonkoze bank branches next to PIH hospitals.
Kanpe saw this high-five party and wanted in. So in Bay Tourib, all three organizations will be working together. Kanpe will be focused on the 250 or so poorest families in the community—-helping them get from absolute zero to 0.000000001 . This means helping people get access to health care from Partners in Health and financial services from Fonkoze. It also means helping people get secure housing, getting children educated and fed, getting adults educated and fed, and, well, helping with any of the myriad problems that people face in rural Haiti. Now, PIH and Fonkoze tackle those problems, too—-these organizations are pretty ‘whatever means necessary’ in helping the poor. But having an extra set of hands, and almost more importantly, eyes, means that the community can be brought up to a higher level more quickly.
When Partners in Health is alone in a town, it kind of means that there’s a great Department of Health, and that the Department of Health will also act as the Department of Housing, and of Education, and of Sanitation, and of Transportation, etc., if needs be. But having partners? Oh, man, that’d be great!
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