Success is strange. Most of us want to experience it, desperately even. But we don't all share the same definition. For some, success is the gold medal in the Olympic decathlon, for others it's running a mile. For many us, success is simply pulling our shoes on in the morning.
When extreme poverty enters the equation, a successful week might be one where your entire family goes to bed every night with enough to eat. For others, success might be when this occurs just 50% of the time.
I recently read an article which discussed economic inequalities in the United States. The article stated that in order for a person to overcome poverty, they must traverse 16 years of life without anything bad happening. No sick kids. No family deaths. No layoffs. No natural disasters. Nothing that could derail them from the path of advanced education. Those are some tough odds. And that's in America.
We try to make a difference during the short period of time we spend with each family, by offering livlihoods training, basic education, and the seeds of a small business. And when they're ready to leave the center, we send them off hoping for the best. But real stuff happens. Kids still get sick. Family members do die. Hurricanes still happen. And entrepreneurial efforts don't always produce dividends.
So do we hope that families excel in business or simply wish for the child's continued health? Do we feel successful only when we see a healthy baby and a thriving business? Or is just one good enough?
When it comes to defining success, we try to remember that one-size-does-not-fit-all.
We celebrate a child who recovers from an illness without relapsing into malnutrition as often as we celebrate one who goes a year without illness. We celebrate a woman who is able to resume business after a family crisis as often as we celebrate a woman whose business grows steadily over many months.
Success looks different depending on where you sit. But if you look for it, it's there.
Today's "success at home" story features a woman by the name of Rose-Elliete St. Fleur.
Check out her business!
To the untrained eye, her stock of product might not seem very impressive, but let me assure you, it most certainly is.
Rose-Elliete is a matriach. She gave birth to 8 children at home, 3 of whom did not survive childhood. She lives with two of her adult children and 5 grandchildren. Before Rose-Elliete arrived at the center they were making ends meet through agriculture. Rose-Elliete owns a half-acre of land, where she grows sugarcane, plaintain, and corn. Her two adult children aren't employed, but help with farming and the three adult children who don't live at home also help when they can. A friend told Rose-Elliete about Second Mile after she noticed that one of her grandchildren had signs of malnutrition. The next day, she brought her 5-year-old granddaughter, Edenica, for a consultation.
Edenica was admitted to the program, but didn't require a long stay. Although she resembled a child three years her junior, Edenica had no complications, and she loved Medika Mamba, the therapeutic peanut butter formulated to help children recover from malnutrition.
After 6 weeks we said "goodbye" to the duo. While Rose-Elliete was happy that her grand-daughter's good health meant that they could leave the center, she didn't depart without saying a few words of thanks.
"I take my hat off to every one at the center who helped me and my grand-daughter. Here, I gained health and things that money can't buy. To the nurses, the managers, the entire staff--Thank You-- only God can repay you."
We held similar sentiments about Rose-Eliette. She took excellent care of Edenica and made an effort to learn about health and nutrition during daily classes. We had a feeling they would do really well. But you never do know.
Many women in Haiti earn a living through commerce. They purchase in bulk and sell their goods in markets, from stands beside their homes, or by peddling their fares. While 90% report a history of this type of income-generating activity, only 10% are currently earning money in this way. For Rose-Eliette it had been 5 years since she'd last set up shop.
Just 2.5 weeks after they left the center, and after follow-up visit proved Edenica was still progressing well at home, Rose-Eliette received her commerce package.
The products pictured are worth roughly $250 and provide a profit of $50. As products sell, women purchase more of the same, or use the money to purchase the goods they believe will sell best in their place of business. Money earned can of course be spent, returned to the business, or saved for emergency.
We saw Edenica and Rose Eliette again 3 weeks after she started her business and the pair looked as sharp as ever. But then, not four weeks later, Edenica broke her arm.
Don't worry, she didn't loose an ounce of spunk. But Rose-Etilienne did lose some of the money she hoped would allow her to grow her business. It took several trips to the hospital to get Edenica treated resulting in a loss of both time and resources.
But therein lies the success. Rose-Elliette was able to get help for her granddaughter. She may have lost a little bit of weight during the ordeal, but malnutrition didn't creep it's way back in. And Rose-Eliette didn't lose her business.
This was a success with a side of hiccups. And we hope for many more for this family.
Stayed tuned for more 'success at home' snippets like this one.