Yeardley Smith voices Lisa for the cartoon "The Simpsons" she also has traveled oversees to help with the work of the Grameen Foundation. In her commentary for The Huffington Post, Smith recounts a recent trip to Haiti.
A month after that meeting, Alex and I traveled to Haiti to see the result of a successful partnership between Grameen Foundation and an MFI called Fonkoze. It was a phenomenal trip. I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. Indeed, it is like a forgotten country. After decades of political corruption, even its own government seems to have given up on its people. In Port-au-Prince, I was struck by the miserable living conditions all over the city. I was stunned by the vast number of people who clearly had no job to go to and sat or stood aimlessly by the side of the road waiting for something to change.
Fonkoze primarily reaches out to the rural poor who are especially isolated and disenfranchised, so we spent most of our trip visiting these borrowers in the Central Plateau. Ninety-nine percent of Fonkoze's borrowers are women and in order to best serve them, they have developed four tiers of assistance.
The first and newest tier doesn't even involve a monetary loan. It involves giving the borrower an asset such as a goat or chickens and teaching them how to raise them.
Adeline lived in a mud hut with her three children, the father of whom came and went, providing no measurable support. As a woman who lives in an especially isolated rural area and makes less than a dollar a day, Adeline was given a goat to begin her journey out of poverty. She was also enrolled in an 18-month program that includes basic education, bi-monthly visits from a Fonkoze staff member, health care, and home improvement.
While this intimate, hands-on approach is incredibly labor intensive for both Adeline and Fonkoze, I'm convinced it's the reason the program is so successful. Ninety-nine percent of its participants graduate to the next tier and receive their first micro-loan. I'm telling you, it's one of the most fantastic phenomenons I've ever had the privilege to witness.