Lynda Despas, symbol of courage and perseverance in her community
Lynda Despas, a 41 year old single mother, lived in the Haitian capital with her son in a small house out of which she also operated a small grocery store. During the earthquake of January 2010, her house collapsed on her and her son. Miraculously, they were both rescued, but were left with no way to provide for themselves in the city amongst the rubble of their former life. Lynda and her son left Port-au-Prince with only the clothes on their backs to return to their home village of Bethel, in the Matheux region. Lynda perservered and quickly engaged in community activities with the Groupe de Femmes Vaillantes de Bethel (GFVB), an association whose goals are to support women in Bethel in the areas of literacy, community development, and agriculture, and that brings together about 100 female members. Her dedication and leadership was a clear example to others, and she is today president of the association.
Under Lynda’s leadership, this same drive and ambition for a better future led GFVB to work with the USAID-funded Feed the Future West/WINNER project in 2011, to receive essential training for organization members in: improved agricultural practices, management of input supply stores (BIA) including inventory management, business skills, leadership skills, and small farm management. “With FTF West/WINNER’s support, association members now have a totally different concept of agricultural work: they take it on as their primary occupation to support their families and improve their living conditions", Lynda explained. Thanks to these trainings, members also learned the critical role women can have in agriculture.
The BIA run by GFVB, although subsidized by FTF West/WINNER, is working towards becoming fully managed and financed by the association. Indeed, with more efficient management and inventory control, GFVB now has 606,639.36 gourdes (around $14,000) available in its bank account and is better able to purchase inputs directly from wholesalers, which reduces their need for subsidies. Recently, FTF West/WINNER also donated a cereal processing unit to the association. This will enable GFVB to provide processing services to members of the Bethel community, and can represent revenues of around $100 per day during the harvesting season.
In Lynda’s personal life, she has made great strides as a result of her efforts and collaboration with FTF West/WINNER. Thanks to the revenues earned from her agricultural activities, Lynda has been able to open a small restaurant that provides her with a monthly revenue of 20,000 HTG (USD $450). With this income, Lynda can afford to send her son to school. She adds: “The FTF West/WINNER project taught me to manage and grow my money, and that’s exactly what I did. ”
This single mother has made GFVB a model association in the community of Bethel. Lynda explains that now, « Many other associations consult me, asking for advice. » Of course, a woman like Lynda has even higher aspirations : She dreams of becoming the Mayor of Cabaret, and proudly declared that she wants to “make my mark on the development of the region.” If Lynda’s past success is any indication of her future, it looks like she’ll certainly have a lasting impact on her community.