Rayjon raising a toast to inspiring women here and around the world

Yvanne Laurent, 35, has become a successful businesswoman in Haiti with support from Rayjon microloans. Submitted Photo

Cathy Dobson

Yvanne Laurent is a 35-year-old mother of three in Haiti who understands what it means to be empowered by Rayjon Share Care, a charitable group based in Sarnia.

“Yvanne’s story is my favourite. She really represents the transformation that happens when a woman becomes self-sufficient,” says executive director Heather Smith.

Before seeking help from Rayjon, Laurent’s family was impoverished. She and her farmer husband struggled to feed and clothe their family. They couldn’t afford to educate their children.

But in 2005, Laurent was encouraged to start a business using a microcredit loan from Rayjon. Her first venture was selling flowers and ornaments, and she made a success of it with entrepreneurial training.

Laurent paid back that first loan and received another, then two more, growing her business each time and paying off each loan. Today, she breeds goats and ducks and makes enough profit to clothe and feed the family, as well as buy tuition, shoes and uniforms so her three children can go to school.

She also pools some of her profits with neighbours and encourages them to start small businesses too.

“That’s what I love about her story,” said Smith. “She influences others around her and actively encourages other women in her neighbourhood to get microloans too.”

It’s women like Laurent that Rayjon will celebrate on International Women’s Day.

Changemakers who make a positive difference in their community, in Haiti and in Sarnia, will be honoured at a Rayjon-hosted event at the Refined Fool on London Road.

The community is invited to join them in saluting women and share their stories.

“Attendees are also invited to pay a toonie for a toast and put a shout out to a woman who inspires them,” said Smith.

Rayjon and The Refined Fool have teamed up with Indigenous women and Women’s March Sarnia-Lambton to ensure local and global women are celebrated at the event.

“We did this last year and several hundred people came out,” said Smith. “This year we want to make an even bigger deal of it.”

Rayjon Share Care was started in 1986 and initially focused on providing education and better health care to people in the rural St. Marc area of Haiti.

More than 150 women have received microcredit loans to start businesses and overcome horrific economic challenges.

Rayjon works with the Haitian Women’s Federation, which encompasses 350 women from seven villages, and delivers literacy classes, microloans, small business and leadership training. Some programs have been extended to neighbouring Dominican Republic.

Today, about 175 Canadians volunteer with Rayjon, most of them from Sarnia-Lambton.

For more about Rayjon, visit www. rayjon.org, call 519-339-0887, or go to International Women’s Day celebrations.

 

IF YOU GO:

WHAT: Rayjon/Women’s March Sarnia-Lambton International Women’s Day.

WHERE: Refined Fool, 1326 London Rd.

WHEN: Sunday, March 8 from 3 – 8 p.m.

TICKETS:  None required but ‘Toonies for a Toast’ are encouraged.