Mother’s Day Contest – support Fonkoze’s Raise For Women Challenge

This month’s contest is a Mother’s Day contest, though it will run for the whole month of May. To enter:

* donate through my Crowdrise page set up to support Fonkoze’s Raise For Women Challenge.

* If you can’t donate Crowdrise’s minimum of $10, or don’t want to use Crowdrise, you can use the button at the mirror blog post to donate – it’s specially made for this fundraiser and will come in earmarked for its destination, so there’s no need to add a note telling me what it’s for. Once $10 in donations through paypal come in, I’ll donate it to Fonkoze through Crowdrise in the donors’ names (names will be in the memo box, and I wouldn’t use anybody’s full name without expressly being asked to, so there’s no need to tell me not to; just let me know if I *should* use your full name).

* If you can’t donate, you can enter by sharing the link to the fundraiser page. The only tricky thing is making sure I can track your share so you’re entered in the contest. If you are on facebook, you can share any of my posts that link to this blog entry or to the Crowdrise page there (either at my personal account or at the Karma Zain Spiritual Supplies page) and I’ll see the share and count it. If you are on Pinterest, you can share my pin there (either the one linking to this blog entry or the one linking directly to the Crowdrise page) and I’ll see the share. If you are on twitter, you can retweet my Mother’s Day Contest tweet or the one right before it linking directly to the Crowdrise page) and I’ll see that. If you think of some other way to do it, just let me know (leave a comment here at the blog, or you can email me directly at karmazain at gmail dot com). Those who enter this way will need to keep an eye on the blog for the announcement of the winner since I might not know real names/emails if you enter through the share-the-link method.


About the Contest and Fonkoze

most of what follows is quoted or paraphrased from unless otherwise cited

Fonkoze (Fondasyon Kole Zepòl, or the Shoulder-to-Shoulder Foundation) is Haiti’s largest microfinance institution and one of the best known MFIs worldwide for its innovative approaches to reaching the most disadvantaged women and helping them take the first steps out of poverty. Why a Mother’s Day contest? Fonkoze was founded in 1994 by a Haitian Catholic priest, Fr. Joseph Phillippe, who started the institution with a vision: to provide the means for all Haitians, even the poorest, to participate in the economic development of the country.  His target group was women, because as he declared, “Women are the backbone of the Haitian economy and the doorway into the family unit.”

The majority of Haitians live on less than $2 a day. Yet women in poverty face even more challenges, made more difficult by inequality on a number of levels. According to Fonkoze’s 2007 statistics, women made up 52% of the Haitian population, with nearly half of that number under the age of 15, yet women headed 43% of households. 60% of Haitian women are illiterate. Unemployment is rampant, and women who are employed suffer wage discrimination. According to the Office of the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, 26% of women and girls 15 or older had been the victims of sexual and gender-based violence, as of 2010 (and just imagine how often this violence goes unreported). Considerable gender disparities exist at every level of society. When large-scale relief operations distribute aid, women-headed households are often at a disadvantage when they’re recognized at all, and those far away from city centers often find there’s nothing left to trickle down to them.

Fonkoze goes where the rural poor are and provides services and structure in which client feedback and participation are integral. Fonkoze is Haiti’s Alternative Bank for the Organized Poor, offering a full range of financial services to the rural-based poor in Haiti. Fonkoze is committed to the economic and social improvement of the people and communities of Haiti and to the reduction of poverty in the country. With its network of 46 branches covering every region of Haiti, it is also the only MFI that is truly national in scope. It was founded with the following principles:

  • Women constitute the backbone of the economy in Haiti.
  • You can’t just give a woman a loan and then send her on her way – you have to accompany her as she struggles to make her way out of poverty.
  • All Haitians deserve a chance to participate in the economic development of their country.
  • A political democracy cannot survive without economic democracy.
  • Nothing in Haiti can be effective without the endorsement and support of Haitians living in the Diaspora, for it is those Haitians who keep the economy of Haiti afloat through the remittances they send home.

Moreover, Fonkoze is one of the few MFIs in Haiti that is truly grass-roots. It works within existing social, family, and religious structures rather than demanding member-clients attend a certain church, adhere to a certain dogma, abide by a foreign set of mores and values, or live with a shame-based approach to tackling the challenges that the Haitian economy and political history have presented for families. It uses peer-outreach and peer-education. Given the lack of employment opportunities in the formal economy, Haiti’s poor must be entrepreneurial. And for that, they need credit, which Fonkoze gives on better terms than the loan sharks Haiti’s poor have traditionally relied on. Micro-loans come with solidarity, support, literacy training, business skills training, and the chance for Haiti’s poor to invest in themselves and their communities.

After the 2010 earthquake, Congress allocated $1.4 billion to Haitian relief, according to the US Government Accountability Office, but then $655 million of that went to reimbursing the US Department of Health and Human Services for food, goods, and money distributed to evacuees. Another $150 million went to the US Department of Agriculture; $15 million went to Homeland Security to cover immigration fees for evacuees. In short, the money (99% of it, according to the UN) went to non-Haitian people in non-Haitian agencies who distributed it as they saw fit, with little to no input from Haitian people. Where the US government has been donating rice to Haiti for years, thus undercutting Haitian rice farmers and leaving them unemployed and displaced, Fonkoze helps Haiti help itself. Haitian women create jobs, become self-sufficient, and participate in a positive cycle that helps individual families, the larger community, and the country as a whole, making Haiti, step by tiny step, a little bit less vulnerable, a little bit further away from the precipice, one Haitian entrepreneur and one mother at a time.

Fonkoze’s comprehensive approach to poverty alleviation includes the following services:

  1. Micro-credit, using a solidarity group methodology of lending
  2. Small and medium sized business development loans to strengthen businesses
  3. Savings products
  4. Currency exchange services
  5. Money transfer (remittance) services
  6. Literacy, business skills, women’s health, children’s rights and environmental protection education for borrowers
  7. Social impact monitoring
  8. Life and credit microinsurance
  9. Housing rebuilding and repair for member-clients following the earthquake of January 2010

The Prize(s) !

Really, everybody wins, because you’re doing a good deed and raising your own awareness or somebody else’s. But one person will get more than just the warm fuzzy, the star in their crown, the good karma, or however you want to think of it. Everyone who donates (or spreads the word by sharing the link) will be entered into the drawing. At the end of May, I will draw a winner at random. The winner receives his or her choice of any spell/prayer kit I make (I should have more posted at the online shop by the end of the month, and I’ll make a custom kit too if you want something you don’t see) – along with supplements of additional items and products related to that kit’s goal (so if you want a honey jar kit for love drawing, I’m not going to send you just the stuff that comes with a $10 kit – that would be lame. I’ll send you additional items and formulas related to that petition/goal sufficient to fill a decent-sized gift basket). If the winner is not from the U.S., the kit or items will have to fit in the smaller of the available boxes since USPS now charges almost $60 to ship a medium box, but I’ll work with you to get you what you need given the shipping parameters.

If you donate through CrowdRise and meet the criteria for any of several giveaways they’re running at any given time, you have a chance to win other cool stuff from CrowdRise Promotions, including:

  • $100 Amazon gift card
  • A donation to your favorite charity *and* an iTunes gift card for you
  • an iPad and Haitian crises

A portion of the proceeds from my voodoo rosaries goes to support, an organization that works to deliver critical services to Haiti’s poor. 

As you are probably aware, there has recently been a food crisis in Haiti, resulting in riots in Port-au-Prince, increased starvation and malnourishment, and political upheaval.  This is a tragic turn of events in an already poverty-stricken area. has been providing financial and educational services to help Haitian women and their families through low-cost alternative loans, microfinance programs, and literacy and accounting training.  Fonkoze  recently got a grant to help provide increased access to healthcare to Fonkoze clients.  Earlier this spring, Nicole Muller Cesar joined Fonkoze as Director of Health. She is a native of Haiti and founder of the Institute of Human and Community Development. She has a background as a health specialist and social services provider.

Find out more at