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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