Port-au-Prince, Haiti, June 19, 2014 – Zafèn is pleased to announce a partnership with Kiva.org, the world’s largest crowd-funding platform connecting people through lending to alleviate poverty. Zafèn has become Kiva’s first Haiti-based field partner supporting the Small Growing Business (SGBs) Sector. The move allows Kiva’s growing global community of 1 million lenders to support Haitian entrepreneurs, including many woman-owned businesses, as they grow and create jobs.
Zafèn, which has raised nearly $2 million since it was founded in 2010, is a crowd-funded loan source for Haitian SGBs that do not qualify for traditional bank loans or microfinance and otherwise would not have access to capital. Zafèn also raises donations for social projects in Haiti with community benefit, including clean water, education and the environment.
“We’ve long admired Fonkoze as an industry leader in socially-oriented microfinance and wraparound services and as an organization that shares Kiva’s focus on using innovative channels to alleviate poverty and create jobs,” says Cynthia McMurry, Kiva’s regional director, Latin America and Caribbean.
“Zafèn is a truly innovative program serving an underserved and challenging market niche,” McMurry adds. “We believe that through Kiva’s ability to crowdfund affordable loans and the Zafèn team’s expertise in serving the needs of SGBs, we will be able to impact the SGB sector in Haiti in a meaningful way by helping these businesses grow, create jobs and develop their communities.”
Zafèn provides SGBs with a range of quality financial services, training and business development programs designed to move them toward financial inclusion, increased employment opportunities and improved family economic security. Over the past four years, Zafèn lenders have funded nearly 500 business loans and donation projects. This has created more than 800 new jobs. Furthermore, Zafèn has trained hundreds of Haitian SGBs in financial best practices.
Montreal-based Katleen Felix, president of the Haitian Hometown Associations Resource Group, says the Haitian Diaspora has been operating like small-scale social impact investors in their hometowns for decades. “Zafèn was designed with advice from the Diaspora to facilitate choosing viable businesses and providing much needed follow up in the field,” she notes. “This partnership with Kiva is an important milestone that will increase our base of users around the world who are ready to collaborate with the Haitian Diaspora and their hometown associations.”
The Migration Policy Institute reports that in 2012, 606,000 Haitian immigrants lived in the United States, 77,000 in France, 74,000 in Canada and 40,000 in the Bahamas. Three-quarters of Haitians in the United States live in the greater Miami, New York, Boston, Orlando and Atlanta areas.
Carine Roenen, Director at Fonkoze—Zafèn’s parent organization—explains that the partnership with Kiva enables Haiti lenders to continue to visit zafen.org to view potential business loans. “Now these loan opportunities also reside on kiva.org and are booked by Kiva when the user checks out,” she says.
This collaboration reduces Zafèn’s administrative costs and allows Zafèn to devote additional resources to Haitian business owners and to present more loans from Haiti. Donation projects will remain under Zafèn’s administration and only appear on the Zafèn website.
“Zafèn is a great example of the International Vincentian Family’s support of systemic change initiatives that build the capacity of the Haitian people to meet their needs and claim their human rights,” says Rev. Joseph Agostino, C.M., coordinator of the Vincentian Family Haiti Initiative. “The partnership with Kiva allows a much larger segment of socially conscious lenders to support Haitians as they build their country’s economy.”
Zafèn, which means “It’s our business” in Haitian Creole, uses crowdfunding to stimulate collaboration between Haiti-based business owners, the Haitian Diaspora and others interested in supporting the Haitian economy. To qualify for a loan or donation, businesses must demonstrate an anticipated impact on the broader community by hiring more employees, operating more efficiently, becoming more environmentally friendly or other measures. Zafèn was founded by four organizations: Fonkoze, Haiti’s alternative bank for the organized poor serving more than 200,000 clients; the Haitian Hometown Associations Resource Group (HHTARG), which enables the Haitian Diaspora to foster economic and social growth to alleviate poverty in their native communities; the International Vincentian Family, an assembly of people worldwide affiliated with organizations who find inspiration in the legacies of St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac; and DePaul University in Chicago, the largest Catholic university in America. For more information, please visit: www.zafen.org
Kiva is a non-profit organization working to alleviate poverty by connecting people around the world through microlending. With as little as a $25 loan, anyone can help a borrower create new opportunities for themselves and their family. Together with more than 780,000 Kiva lenders and a worldwide network of 142 microfinance institutions, Kiva has created economic opportunity for more than 815,000 borrowers. Since its inception in 2005, Kiva lenders have funded more than $320 million in loans with a 98.9% repayment rate. Kiva is headquartered in San Francisco, CA. For more information, please visit: www.kiva.org
Linda Boucard, Director of Communications, Fonkoze
Media and Communications, HHTARG