Photograph by Kerry-Ann Hamilton/HU Communications – Edna Juene and Judith Souffran meet at HAC-Haiti for a microfinance class.

Edna Juene, 29, lives in Croix Des Bouquets, Haiti where she sells Coca-Cola and other beverages. With the sun beating down on farmers and workers in the community, her business does well.

Juene, wanted to expand her business, but did not have the capital to do so. About a year ago, Juene learned about the Asosyasyon Fon Pam, microfinancing program offered by the Haitian American Caucus, Howard’s alternative spring break partner organization.

HAC-Haiti provides capital to small business in Croix Des Bouquets. The loans help beneficiaries, mostly women, to start or expand existing businesses.

The rural village known for its metal work is small rural township about 15 miles from Port-au-Prince.

In the first round of loans, approximately 20 small business owners received loans of $50 each. Today, there are more than 600 microfinance clients including Juene and Judith Souffran, a food vendor I spoke with earlier this week. However, there is a critical need  for more space.

Souffran sells food including Haitian staple fried green plantains.

“It has really helped me to take care of my family,” Souffran said with translation support from Jeanide Joseph. ” I send my two children to school and was able to grow my business.”

HAC-Haiti is building a microfinance bank about a quarter mile from its headquarters in Croix Des Bouquets.

The land was covered in trees and dense vegetation. Howard students along with other volunteers from Wagner College cleared the area with machetes to prepare the land. The group toiled in 90-degree weather to burn debris and to level the land.

Photograph by Justin Knight/HU Communications - Ricardo Noel, a masters degree candidate in the School of Education at Howard and a first generation Haitian-American.

For Ricardo Noel, a masters degree candidate in the School of Education and a first generation Haitian-American, this work is personal and his love for Haiti is infectious.

“Haiti has played a significant role in lives of Black people,” Noel said. “As a historically black college, recognizing Haiti’s contribution to the liberation of black people around the world, we now have the opportunity to give back and help Haiti in their current struggle.”

The work will continue for the next two days as Howard wraps up the alternative spring break mission in Haiti.

Kerry-Ann Hamilton, director of strategic communications and marketing, is traveling with Howard University volunteers on their service mission to Haiti. The blog “Howard Brings Hope to Haiti” chronicles the travels and work of nearly two dozen students, faculty and staff during Alternative Spring Break 2012.