Marie Lilia Bazile’s boutik (neighbourhood/corner grocery store in Haitian creole) is the one spot not to miss in her neighbourhood. With all types of dried food for grown-ups and a small corner with sweets for the not so grown-up, Marie knows how to attract and retain clients.
But when the Haitian government imposed a quarantine last year to combat the coronavirus pandemic her business dried up. Marie’s pwatik (loyal customers in creole) retreated to their villages to avoid the virus and potential problems with the authorities.
Marie lives in Les Cayes on Haiti’s southern peninsula. It is the region’s biggest city but small by comparison with Port au Prince. And located a full day’s bus ride from Port au Prince, Les Cayes has long been isolated from the hustle and bustle and political turmoil of the capital. It wasn’t, however, sufficiently isolated to keep Covid-19 away.
The lockdown chased the smile from Marie’s face. But soon her optimistic nature took over. She realized people needed to eat and that she could get her pwatik back if she sold the item everyone was after: local Haitian ginger. Brewed into a tea, ginger was said to strengthen the immune system. And thanks to her loan from FINCA, Marie soon had ginger on her shelves.
Marie doubted the medicinal benefits of the tea, so as she wooed customers, she also put safety measures in place. Marie started wearing a mask. She took to handling cash as little as possible. And she asked her pwatik to maintain a safe distance while in her shop.
Thanks to her business acumen and FINCA loan that our supporters helped make possible by giving to the FINCA Emergency Response Fund, Marie is navigating this troubled period with calm and grace. No one should be surprised to learn that her boutik is once again the busiest place in the neighbourhood. Busy but safe!