"I don't know how many mouths I need to borrow to thank the cooperative," says Petithomme, a woman who lives in northwest Haiti. "I used to have to carry a basket with leaves, sour oranges and limes on my head to sell in the town. Some people told me, 'There's a cooperative here; why don't you join?' I said, 'For me to join, I'd have to find some relief.' They said, 'You'll find it.' So I joined.
"I was able to buy a donkey with profits I made from a loan," Petithomme continues, "and now I'm not carrying small stuff on my head anymore. I'm able to buy coconuts, corn, beans, things I couldn't buy before--thanks to the cooperative.
"I had trouble sending my kids to school; one year they couldn't go at all," explains Petithomme. "Since I've joined the cooperative, they haven't missed a year. That's why I say I don't have enough mouths to say thank you to the cooperative."
The cooperative Petithomme belongs to is one of several supported by Church World Service partner Christian Center for Integrated Development, SKDE.
The cooperatives offer loans to their members at about three percent, much lower than is offered in town. Today, one of the cooperatives has 375 members and is flourishing.
The cooperative has a community store that stocks tools and supplies for building and agriculture such as shovels, nails, cement, and wheelbarrows. Members also sell basic medical supplies, canned food, toiletries, and household items. This store, as well as a cooperative bakery, is a significant source of income for members.
Another cooperative member, Elizabet, says, "I didn't know anything about cooperatives. My husband died and left me with eight children. I didn't have a good place to stay. I went by myself to cut wood in the wilds to try and make a little house for the kids to sleep in. I was struggling to survive.
"Some friends told me about the cooperative, but I didn't think I could join," Elizabet explains. "I went and talked to the manager and he said I could. If I hadn't joined the cooperative I don't know how I could make it. The house isn't finished yet, but the fact I was able to put it up was thanks to the cooperative. So now the kids have a place. For me, the cooperative has done a lot."
A powerful 7.5 earthquake struck off of Sulawesi, Indonesia, early on Nov. 17. Twenty-five villages were seriously affected, with some 15,000 people displaced and 700 homes completely destroyed. Some people have returned to their homes, though others, particularly those living along the coastline, are reluctant to return. CWS Indonesia has a team in the affected areas assessing the situation.