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For $3,860, A New Life

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Yvrose

Yvrose Jean Baptiste stands in her new shop. Adam Davidson/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Adam Davidson/NPR

Before the earthquake, Yvrose Jean Baptiste would travel to the Dominican Republic, buy as much food as she could carry back, and sell it to shopkeepers in Haiti's capital.

The earthquake destroyed all of her stock and killed many of the customers who owed her money.  When I met her in February, she had nothing but a tub full of chicken necks she was selling for a few pennies each. The next day, she had to make a $100 payment to the bank.

Here's what happened to her since then.

After a story about Yvrose aired on NPR, a few dozen listeners sent money to her account at Fonkoze, a nonprofit financial institution in Haiti.  Some sent $20, some $100.

One day in March, Yvrose went in and withdrew it all — $3,860. Even before the earthquake, it would have taken her years to earn that much money.

"It was the first time I held this amount of money in my hands," she says.

She didn't buy a TV, new clothes, or anything for herself. She's still living in a tent, because she doesn't want to waste money on a house.

She's paying for her four kids to go to school in the countryside, where they live with relatives.

She paid off her debt, and put some money in the bank for safe keeping.

The rest, she invested in her business.

Before the earthquake, her inventory was whatever she could carry. Now she has a stand at a popular market, where she sells things like corn, beer, hot sauce and vegetable oil.

It cost her about $200 to buy the space. That's a huge investment, but having a good stand changes everything.  She can stock so much more stuff. Customers get to know her, they can find her.

She says she now makes between $20 and $30 a day.  That's not just more money; that's a different kind of life, for her and her kids.  She doesn't have to pull her kids out of school when she's broke.  They don't have to go without meals. If the kids get sick now, they can go to the doctor.

Almost everything is better now. Almost.

"I don't know if my husband was getting jealous,"  Yvrose says. He left her shortly after she got the money. The power shift in the household may have been too much for him, she said.

Without a man around, she worries that someone will come by the tent where she lives and steal from her, or worse.

But, she says, when she thinks about the future she feels very happy for the first time.

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