On April 1, 2010, the worldwide Vincentian Family and its partners launched an interest-free microfinance initiative at Zafen.org that enable contributors anywhere in the world to lend or donate to Haitian entrepreneurs and support sustainable economic development in the Western hemisphere’s poorest nation. More than half of Haitians live in absolute poverty, spending just $1 per day, while 80 percent live on about $2 per day.
To change those devastating figures and to honor the lives of St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac on the 350th anniversary of their deaths, the Vincentians elevated their longtime commitment to Haiti. In its first eight months of operation, Zafen raised more than #275,000 for educational, environmental, agricultural and retail projects in Haiti.
The Worldwide Vincentian Family, consisting of the Congregation of the Mission and all organizations who find inspiration in the world of Vincent and Louise,
Haitian Hometown Association Resource Group (HHTARG), which enables the Haitian Diaspora to foster economic and social growth to alleviate poverty in their native communities, and
DePaul University, the largest Catholic university in the United States, which instills a commitment to community service in its students, faculty, staff and alumni.
Zafen.org profiles funding requests from Haitian businesses that want to grow, but do not have access to necessary capital. Online lenders combine efforts to find the enterprises. Other projects, such as Haiti child’s school tuition, are funded through donations. In lieu of interest (only the loan principal is repaid), to be approved for posting on Zafèn, borrowers and donees must demonstrate a sustainable community impact such as job creation, positive environmental impact or the provision of a needed product or service to the community. It is in this way that the influence of a Zafèn loan or donation reaches not just the recipient but far wider.
The Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., president, appointed Management Professor Laura Hartman, a business ethicist who has written extensively on poverty alleviation, as DePaul’s academic representative to Zafèn and his Special Assistant on Haiti Initiatives. Hartman sits on Zafen’s steering committee, which screens all projects before they are posted to the site for their community impact, as we as financial sustainability and other elements of due diligence. After a loan is made, Fonkoze visits the project to confirm the money was spent in the way in was intended. This process offers accountability that many other ways of giving do not and gives lenders confidence that their money is spent as it was meant.
For more information on DePaul's initiatives, click on http://haiti.depaul.edu