Five years ago Sarah started sewing clothing to sell through a Self-Help loan. She is a good seamstress and very hardworking, but always lacked the financial support to expand her business. Thanks to loans from people like you Sarah purchased a newer sewing machine, expanded her sewing shop, and started hiring young apprentices to learn the sewing trade.
Today, she has a neat and tidy shop with four apprentices working with her. She has a coal iron to press the materail, and has recently purchased a knitting machine for the business. She has come a long way in a mere 5 years. During the Executive Director visit in July, she expressed 'thanks' to the US citizens for their support. Not only is her business expanding but she is able to take better care of her children and pay school and medical fees.
Thinking ahead, Sarah's goal is to have electricity in her shop so that she can work evenings and during the holiday seasons.
Today was our site visit with Self-Help International. Our wonderful host Rita and her father drove us to the main road where we met Benjamin, the Project Coordinator at Self-Help. First we went to the main office which is in a building owned by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture which Self-Help partners with at times for training and micro-finance operations. We met with Wilberforce, the country director, to discuss the administrative side of Self-Help Ghana. Then Benjamin and 2 of his colleague whisked us off to visit beneficiaries.
We first stopped at a pottery co-op that was using a loan from Self-Help to purchase clay to make high-quality pots for farmers and other locals. It was amazing the work that went into each bowl that would be sold at the market for less than $1. Then we went to a poultry project Self Help worked with the government to set up with its borrowers. This was an example of taking a problem and being creative to develop a solution that made everyone benefit. The farmers were having problems with low maize prices during the harvest time because there was a large supply from all the farmers. So, instead, they introduced poultry farms to these farmers and gave them small storage silos to keep the maize in for 5-6 months to feed to the poultry. This allowed them to decrease the supply on the market, thereby raising the prices, and create another revenue stream from selling eggs in their community. The additional high-quality maize stored in the silo could be fed to the chickens and would not spoil before the next harvest. Self-Help was able to finance the special seeds and other materials needed for this production so the farmers would be able to start the new program immediately and not have to wait until they saved enough money to afford the additional resources.
After we visited with the poultry farmers, we visited another of Self-Help’s local community programs to feed nutritious breakfasts to about 300 children 6 years old and below at the local school. This program allowed local farmers, which were also micro-credit borrowers to provide the school with the cornmeal necessary to make the porridge daily. When speaking with the headmaster of the school, he said that in the 2 terms that the program was in existence, they were able to see a big difference in the performance of the students. Then, we were able to get a little testimony of that ourselves as we went outside to see the classrooms and as soon as we were ready to take some pictures, about 200 excited children came running out to be included in the photo shoot. We decided that the porridge must really work and we wanted some so we could be that energetic too.
The visit was completed with a discussion with a group of the poultry program beneficiaries, where they expressed their happiness with the organization and its program and the things it has allowed them to accomplish, like sending their children to school. The only ways they said the Self-Help program could improve was to be able to lend larger loan amounts, which is a common issue for micro-credit programs that are so successful in helping their borrowers develop good businesses that they need larger loans to expand their profitable businesses, but the micro-credit program is limited in the amount of money they have available to lend to their customers. Overall, we were very impressed with Self-Help’s projects and felt that with more funding, they would be able to expand their beneficial programs to assist more communities in Ghana.
Sarah and four other In-the-Field Travelers are currently in Ghana before they are making their way to Mali and Burkina Faso. They'll be visiting more than 30 GlobalGiving projects in the next month. Follow their adventures at http://itfwa.wordpress.com/.
So far this year Self-Help has distributed 213 loans to women! Enterprises include palm and kernel oil processing, drying and vending beef and fish, pottery making, quality protein maize production and preparation of its edible products, poultry and animal husbandry, to name a few. All of the loans are being reimbursed on schedule, forwhich we are proud!
Women from 40 groups received loans, including four new groups from a remote, impoverished area. As first time borrowers receiving loans. Their gratitude for this opportunity is hard to overwhelming. Self-Help will carefully observe their progress and assess the benefits received from our loans and report back the findings.
One example of the positive impact of our loans is demonstrated by Cecilia below who was able to construct a sturdier, larger house for her family. The old structure is in the foreground which is being demolished.
Thanks for your support! Quality of life is improving for them with each loan!
Merry Fredrick, Self-Help's Executive Director, just returned from her bi-annual trip to Ghana. She tries to visit each women's group to encourage them and to check progress. Here is an excerpt from her recent report.
"I am extremely proud of Self-Help’s staff in Ghana. Their dedication, commitment to development and loyalty to Self-Help is exceptional. And, each staff member wants to achieve ways in which to improve the lives of their citizens.
My trip to Ghana in January reaffirmed this pride when Josephine Amo, District Director of Agriculture for the Ministry of Food and Agriculture asked to meet with the staff and me to discuss our programs in the district. She informed me that she has quietly observed our work in the field for years, and that she is extremely impressed with the ability of our staff to promote programs and to provide training to improve the lives of farm families. She is particularly impressed by Self-Help’s sustainable approach to development, and repeatedly hears positive feedback from her staff.
She told us that she is very concerned about the women in five villages 60 kilometers away. She feels confident that our organization can improve their lives through our micro-credit program. Josephine told us that while women work laboriously in the cocoa fields beside their husbands, they have no access to income because husbands own the land. She asked if we would consider this challenge. Typical of the staff, they immediately wanted to meet the women and learn more!
We later traveled with Josephine to visit two of the villages – Woropun and Adagya – where we will begin work in the spring. There is no electricity, a few bore holes for water, mud huts and very limited schooling. Following our meetings with chiefs, women and elders in each community, it was apparent that the needs are tremendous, and that Self-Help and its staff can make an enormous difference in the lives of these women.
A new, challenging project lies ahead, with the trust and blessing of the Ministry of Agriculture. I am confident that once again the Ghana staff will live up to the challenge to help people help themselves.
I also met with ten women’s micro-credit groups, learning about benefits gained from our loans. Juliana is one or our newest members who received a one-year loan 10 months earlier for a screw press for palm oil production. Her production capabilities far exceeded her expectations. She told me that she uses 50% less wood and water to cook the palm fruits. She travels one-fourth mile to collect water and scours nearby forests for fuel. She eagerly told me that she produces oil in four hours less time, and that her success from sales will allow her to reimburse her loan a month ahead of schedule.
The common thread of change during my interviews with 130 women was that loans allow them the opportunity to send their children to school longer. Increasing numbers are attending post-secondary school education. One woman, Sahara, especially tugged at my heart as she explained that she is a widow with young nine children. Until she began receiving Self-Help loans she was barely able to feed them. Now Sahara is able to feed, clothe and school them adequately.
We are making a difference, and I am proud of the Self-Help staff!"
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