For $3,860, A New Life : Planet Money Earlier this year, we reported on Yvrose Jean Baptiste, a Haitian businesswoman  left destitute by the earthquake. NPR listeners responded -- and changed her life.

For $3,860, A New Life

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


Well, we're going to leave Africa now and get an update from Haiti. A few months ago we brought you a story about Yvrose Jean Baptiste, a poor woman with a remarkably sophisticated business. She was a food wholesaler. Even though she didn't own a store or a car or any formal business tools, she would travel to the Dominican Republic, buy what she could carry back and sell it to shopkeepers in Haiti's capital. Like countless others, her life was upended by the earthquake. Adam Davidson with NPR's Planet Money team went back to see how she's faring.

ADAM DAVIDSON: I met Yvrose in February, right after the earthquake, which had destroyed all her stock, killed many of the customers who owed her money. She was destitute. And the next day she had to make a $100 payment to the bank. She had nothing but a tub full of chicken necks she was selling for a few pennies each.

I have to say, I left Yvrose that day all but certain her life would be permanently worse. But the story about her aired on MORNING EDITION and a few dozen NPR listeners sent money to her account at Fonkoze, a nonprofit financial institution in Haiti. Some sent 20 bucks. Some sent a hundred. And one day in March, Yvrose went in and withdrew it all.

Ms. YVROSE JEAN BAPTISTE: (Through translator) Yeah, I took it in U.S. currency and it was $3,860 U.S.

DAVIDSON: Had you ever seen that much money?

Ms. BAPTISTE: (Through translator) Yeah, it's the first time I hold this amount of money in my hands - in my hands for the first time, yes.

DAVIDSON: Three thousand eight hundred and sixty dollars U.S. That was several years' wages for Yvrose, all in one moment.

She didn't buy a TV or new clothes, or actually, she really didnt buy anything for herself. She's still living in a tent. She says she doesn't want to waste money on a house. She paid for her four kids to go to school in the countryside. They live with relatives. She paid off her debt, of course. She put some money back in the bank for safe-keeping. And the rest she invested in her business.

This is all yours.

Ms. BAPTISTE: (Through translator) All of this.

DAVIDSON: So you have, let's see. You have corn...

Ms. BAPTISTE: (Foreign language spoken)

DAVIDSON: ...rice, the beer - oh, like hot sauce?

Unidentified Woman (Translator): Dominican wine.

DAVIDSON: Oh, thats wine.


Unidentified Man: Oil like...

DAVIDSON: Vegetable oil.

Before the earthquake, her inventory was whatever she could carry. Now Yvrose has an actual stand, a pretty big one in a popular market. It cost 1,500 bucks Haitian - thats around 200 U.S. - to buy the space, 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. And she spent a lot of money and a lot of effort to spruce up the stand. It's well-ordered with a broad selection. She bought a tin roof, not the usual plastic tarp. It really stands out.

She says she now makes between 20 and 30 dollars a day. That's not just more money. That is a different kind of life, for her and for her kids. She doesn't have to pull them out of school when she's broke or not be able to feed them sometimes. She can now send them to the doctor if they got sick.

Almost everything is so much better now - almost.

Ms. BAPTISTE: (Through translator) I don't know if my husband was getting jealous. He left me suddenly.

DAVIDSON: He left you when you got the money?

She explains that the power shift in the household was just too much for him. Several Haitian friends told me they were not surprised by this. Men like to run the house.

She says that now, since she still lives in a tent, she's constantly worried that someone will come by and steal from her, or worse, and she won't have a man to fight them off.

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

Adam Davidson, NPR News.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.