Self-Help International

Self-Help International (SHI) devotes its efforts to alleviating world hunger and poverty by providing opportunities to rural citizens that ultimately lead to self-reliance. Since its inception, Self-Help has served as a vessel; training, education, and opportunities are provided to rural citizens and whole communities in developing countries so that they can have better lives. MISSION STATEMENT: To alleviate hunger by helping people help themselves. SELF-HELP'S INITIATIVE Educate: We educate the people of the United States to understand the problems of life in developing countries particularly the awareness of the perpetual struggle by millions to produce and distribute food to battle p...
Oct 31, 2014

Creative training & support help build businesses

Women
Women's micro-credit group from Cruz Verde

The Self-Help International (SHI) micro-credit program recently has been focusing developing the professional skills of women and youth beneficiaries. These skills will provide meaningful incomes while enabling them to remain in their communities and homes to take care of their families. With new job skills in practice, beneficiaries will benefit with new job opportunities, better nutrition and learning how to save money.

Self-Help also provided courses in piñata design and funeral wreaths for All Souls’ Day so beneficiaries can increase the variety of their services and grow their businesses and income. In addition, SHI offered training courses for personal development including classes in self-esteem, gender, reproductive health, health and nutrition.

Self-Help’s newest micro-credit group (see photo above) is made up of nine women from the community of Empalme de Cruz Verde. Together, the women went through all the required training offered by Self-Help International before they could get their loans. Over a three-month period, the women took courses in self-esteem, business management, business planning, pickling vegetables, hot pepper sauces, jelly and marmalades. After training each woman got her first loan of $50. The women will use the funds to grow their small business some of which include making and selling tortillas, cosmetology, buying and selling grains, buying and selling products, growing vegetables and much more.

SHI is working in six different communities with 84 women beneficiaries. The beneficiaries are sharing their positive experiences with other women from their communities. News of Self-Help’s programs is traveling from community to community and more women are interested in SHI’s training and personal development skills.

Adelina is from Las Azucenas and is a tailor. She keeps herself busy with sewing projects for her community including school and cheerleading uniforms, skirts,  dresses, table cloth, bags, among other products. In the photo below, Adelina is displaying aprons she made for Self-Help International to be used by micro-credit beneficiaries that are baking, selling products in the street or in the local market. And while preparing food. 

Adelina said she thankful for the support and training the micro-credit program has provided to her.

“I am now earning money and working in my home. I provide everything in my house ranging from meals to paying monthly bills,” said Adelina. “Thank you very much for caring about women like us that are lack of opportunities in life.”

Your donation has helped Adelina and the women from Cruz Verde explore their talents and grow their businesses. Thank you for your generosity.

Adelina displays her aprons
Adelina displays her aprons

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Oct 13, 2014

Graduate's business creates employment

Graduate Samuel (right) in front of cropping house
Graduate Samuel (right) in front of cropping house

Samuel completed a course in mushroom production at Self-Help International’s Frances Mueller and Virginia Lageschulte Training Center (FMVLTC) in June 2014, and now has a growing business that is creating employment, improving the environment, and providing a more nutritional food source for the market.

Last month, Samuel started up his mushroom business in Offinso, a town in the forest region of Ghana with several timber mills. These timber mills produce tons of sawdust causing considerable environmental pollution due to inefficient waste management practices. The sawdust is sometimes set on fire to eliminate it, and other times carried away by wind with the potential to cause lung infection and other respiratory diseases. Samuel’s business makes use of this sawdust for composting, thereby offering some relief in minimizing this environmental menace. He tells SHI the abundance of sawdust for composting reduces his production cost. He only pays for transportation. It costs 30 pesewas ($0.10) to produce a 1.5kg bag of sawdust compost which sells for one cedi ($0.33). Meanwhile, one 1.5kg compost bag produces 6 cedis worth of mushroom ($2.00), a significant return on investment.

Samuel sees a lot of profitability in mushroom sales since most mushrooms currently available on the market are wild mushroom, which are seasonal and expensive during lean seasons. As an accountant, he is aware of the significant benefits of taking a loan from SHI, where the interest is a flat rate without any additional hidden fees that are charged by most commercial banks in Ghana. With his loan, he was able to invest in building the cropping house for his mushroom.

Yet he is motivated not only by profit from his business but also his contribution to creating employment for the youth. By October, he had already created new job employing three people who were formerly unemployed. Awudu and Zakaria are both full-time employees who assist with composting and bagging for mushroom production, and Mamuna works part-time.

Samuel has big plans to grow this business into three major cities, creating even more employment as the business grows. He and his wife have one son and one adopted daughter (niece) in their care. Even though he has a day job as an accountant and his wife works as a nurse, he says it would be challenging for them to care for the children’s needs and school fees without this supplementary income. He plans to expand by marketing the mushrooms to hospitals as well since they are currently promoting low cholesterol diets and increased vegetable consumption.

With the outbreak of Ebola in Africa and heightened education for people to stay away from bush meat, availability of skills and resources for people to go into agro-based enterprises such as rabbit rearing and mushroom production will not only create employment for the youths, but will also provide more affordable and healthier nutritional sources, which minimizes morbidity rates and increases productivity. Thank you for your support of Samuel’s business, which is providing better livelihoods, healthier foods, and safer environments for many residents of the Ashanti region.

Mamuna, Awudu, & Zakaria bagging compost
Mamuna, Awudu, & Zakaria bagging compost

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Oct 7, 2014

Kontomire gathers to celebrate QPM feeding program

Children sing QPM koko song
Children sing QPM koko song

Yesterday I visited the community of Kontomire to see first-hand how the QPM feeding program is progressing after one year of operation.  The journey began early, with a 90 minute drive from the office to the rural village.  The final 6 miles involved a lot of bumping and jostling as Benjamin, Self-Help’s country director in Ghana, deftly navigated around the gaping holes in the road that would have taken the truck out of commission for a day or more.  He noted that this community was particularly grateful for Self-Help’s support, since few NGOs would be willing to work with such a remote community due to the challenges of transportation.  As we turned on to that final stretch, Bridget climbed in with her infant son Fifi to join us for the rest of the journey.  Bridget is a junior high school teacher, but due to lack of residential housing at the school, she commutes more than an hour to work each school day if she pays for a taxi, or longer if she goes by food on the treacherous road.

Upon our arrival in Kontomire, we met with the teachers, who shared that the program is “an immense benefit” because it helps them to relate to kids, and for that they are very grateful.  The main challenge is that the program depends heavily on the willingness of the parents and community members to donate QPM. To address this challenge, the community secured a ½ acre plot to cultivate QPM, and harvested 1 ½ of the 5 bags of QPM needed for the school year. They are also working with the chief to secure an additional ½ acre plot along the edge of the school grounds for the teachers and junior high students to cultivate for an additional maize supply. They would like to extend the feeding program beyond the KG1, KG2, and class 1 up through the junior high school, but understand that the feasibility depends on a consistent supply of maize. 

After the meeting, we spoke with the caterer, Auntie Nana, who prepares the QPM porridge each morning – called “koko” locally.  She said that before the feeding programs were started, many children reported sick and went home.  But now that they are eating daily, their “sicknesses” – more likely actually hunger pains – have subsided, allowing them to spend more time in the classroom and attentive. The enclosed kitchen where she prepares the porridge was built by the community with material contributions from Self-Help, and is well-maintained.

Then began the main event: an assembly of the entire community in which the chief, head teacher, country director and I all addressed the community, recognizing how much progress has been made in our partnership, and challenging the parents to continue to support the program. Despite some wonderfully drumming between talks and lots of joyous song and dance, the highlight for me was when Mavis, Victoria, Yaa Angel, and Serwaa, student beneficiaries, sang about koko (the local term for the QPM porridge):  

Go, go, go
Go to school
And eat koko
QPM
Koko is sweet!
Koko is sweet!
Koko is sweet!

Another student, Mariama gave a speech of appreciation to SHI for offering free QPM breakfast for the past year.  Then a group of students enacted a play recounting the true story from a few months ago in which community members who didn't understand the QPM program went to the Headmaster with false accusations about the program, he clarified about the benefits of QPM and confirmed that the program really is free, and, once on the same page, everyone agreed that the program was in fact very worthwhile. Then the head teacher, Emmanuel, appealed to the community to provide the school with more chairs for students in class 1.  The grade is more congested this year due to increased enrollment associated with the introduction of the feeding program last year – a very good problem to have.

Finally, the chief appealed to Self-Help for continued assistance in building a library and information communication technology (ICT) center in the coming year, since the community has recently gained electricity.  This heightened interest in children’s education is new and an exciting sign of the community’s dedication to their children’s success.  An appropriate building has already been identified, so Benjamin and I agreed that if the community continues to demonstrate support for the QPM feeding program by consistently donating the necessary maize, we would set about working to provide assistance in filling the ICT center/library with computers and books.

Your donations, which brought the feeding program to Kontomire in the first place, have made the difference in encouraging this community to better invest in their children.  Thank you for your ongoing support!

Auntie Nana, caterer, serves students QPM porridge
Auntie Nana, caterer, serves students QPM porridge
Woman answers call to support community programs
Woman answers call to support community programs

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