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 batt...
Feb 14, 2017

Empowered Women Empower Women

Sandra shows off her beaded sandals
Sandra shows off her beaded sandals

In addition to offering general business training and micro-loans, from time to time we are able to offer women skills training so they can learn new trades.  The most recent skills-based training session we held was on beading for women in the villages of Bedabour, Beposo and Kwame Dwaa, and it was a great success: 8 more women are using their new skills to start new beading businesses!

Back in May 2015, we taught several micro-credit trust groups from Kwaso village how to develop enterprises involving beaded products, such as making necklaces, bracelets, and beaded flip flops.  These sandals, locally called “charlie” are mostly used in the bathroom or when attending funerals. With beads added, they become multi-purpose and can be worn to church services or the market as well.

Sandra experienced great success with her beading business following that training session and also taught the trade to a friend who now earns her living from making and selling beads products. As her business grew, she demonstrated creativity in creating innovative designs to set her sandals apart from the standard ones sold in the market. Women from other villages began requesting to learn beading as well, so we invited Sandra and her friend to serve as the skilled trainers to teach others the trade and enhance their leadership development.  

The training was offered to any who were interested, whether they were already involved in our micro-credit program or not, and we expected about 15 women to attend the training session based on conversations with women leading up to the training day. To our surprise, thirty one women showed up to the three days of training sessions, demonstrating the demand and interest from community members!

Training on the first day was mind blowing as women tried their hands on what was being taught. Eager to learn and make a business out of the training, their attention towards the training was impressive. Unperturbed about making mistakes or not getting it right both young and old women tried their hands. All participants had the chance to make one, two, or three pieces of slippers and necklaces depending on their speed. It was also an excellent opportunity for Sandra and her friend to develop new leadership skills. It was beautiful to see how far Sandra has come from needed training to now offering the training. 

At the end of the third day, eight women decided to make and sell bead slippers and necklaces as their new business. We assured them that upon completion of the financial literacy training sessions, funds would be available to initiate the new business ventures and put their new skills into action.

Thank you for your ongoing support, which makes training sessions like this one possible, and enables women to start up new business ventures. We had funds to issue the eight women start up loans of $50 each. Your continued support of this project will provide the funds to help the women expand their businesses with higher loan amounts in the coming months. 

Trainees show off their first pairs of sandals
Trainees show off their first pairs of sandals
Learning beadmaking
Learning beadmaking
The final products: "charlie" sandals
The final products: "charlie" sandals

Links:

Feb 13, 2017

Finally! Safe drinking water for school children in Marlon Zelaya!

Jairo installing the new CTI-8 system in the tank
Jairo installing the new CTI-8 system in the tank

Marlon Zelaya is a rural community of about 600 people living outside of El Castillo in the southern state of Rio San Juan, Nicaragua.  Today, thanks to you, the all 96 households and the local school have clean, safe drinking water!  

The leaders of Marlon Zelaya have been aware of the importance of clean water for several years now, but keeping the water clean has been a struggle. In 2014, the Mayor's office implemented a project for Marlon Zelaya that brought them an electric chlorination device system. They were thrilled to finally have clean drinking water, but ongoing challenges meant that their excitement was short lived.  The community leaders had difficulties obtaining the necessary products, such as granulated chlorine, to make the chlorination process work.  It was inconvenient and costly to travel back and forth to Managua, an eight-hour bus ride away, to buy that form of chlorine. It was not cost effective since they would often spend $70 per month for the tablets and travel expenses in order to keep their drinking water safe.

Jairo, president of the Marlon Zelaya  Water and Sanitation Committee (CAPS), contacted me a few months ago to discuss alternate possibilities to access clean water that wouldn't be so expensive, so I traveled the 62 kilometers to meet him and inspect the current system.  Jairo told me, “I heard that in Buena Vista and Laureano Mairena communities there was a purifying device.  I wanted to learn more about this so I went to the mayor’s office to find out more information. There, I spoke with Amer, the UMAS technician.  He informed me about the new device that operated in those communities, a CTI-8 system, installed by an organization named Self-Help International.  He said he’d contact them to get a similar project into my community in Marlon Zelaya.  Now, this has all happened, and here you are talking to me about applying the device!”

Together, we examined their water storage tank and I saw that it provided water not only to the households, but also to a nearby school, where more than 100 students ages 6-14 get their water every day.  This increased the importance and potential for installing a safe, clean system since children who are drinking dirty water are often sick and unable to go to school and learn. After careful examination, we determined that the CTI-8 chlorinator that Self-Help promotes would be an appropriate replacement since it's both effective and less expensive for the community.

Jairo was excited about the opportunity to ensure safe drinking water for his family and community and we discussed the logistics of implementation. He voiced concerns about installing the system as quickly as possible because of all the flooding his community experiences in the rainy season, saying, “I am worried because it has been almost a year since we had a functioning system in place, but now that I can see the CTI -8 chlorinator, I know that we can save money on the purchase of the chlorine and avoid transportation expenses to Managua. I have hope that we will be able to protect the population from contaminated water during rainy season from the contamination from the runoff waters that filtrate into the well right now.”  

After talking with Jairo, I explained and demonstrated the importance of the CTI-8 technology to the community, and the community approved the proposal to proceed with installation.

Now Jairo thanks Self-Help International and its water program for bringing this CTI-8 chlorinator technology to his community since this chlorinator is easier to handle than the previous system. “Before using this new technology of a CTI-8 chlorinator, we would spend almost $70 dollars per month for 20 pounds of granulated chlorine and travel expenses. Since the new installation, we only spend $5.17 every month to buy chlorine tablets because each tablet lasts approximately 12 days.”  

Grinning, Jairo told me,“In addition to saving money, we are confident because the new system is working properly.  We can already see it improving the health of the population in Marlon Zelaya.”

The CTI-8 system technology helped the Marlon Zelaya community and individuals like Jairo in many ways, and it has the potential to save money and help similar communities across the globe.  Thank you for your continued support, which is enabling more communities like Marlon Zelaya improve their health. This life-changing work is only possible because of the compassion and generosity of supporters like you. 

Need a last minute gift for Valentine's Day? Not sure what to get for that special someone who already has it all? Show your love what a big heart you have by giving the gift of clean water to those who don't! Be sure to select "Make your donation in honor of someone" to print a free card.

Marlon Zelaya
Marlon Zelaya's 2,600 gallon water storage tank
Self-Help
Self-Help's new system installed
Feb 13, 2017

Is it safe to eat eggs when you have your period?

My period won
My period won't make me skip school anymore

That was one of the genuine questions asked during the women's health training session we held in Timeabu last September. I was visiting our team in Ghana, and was lucky to have a particularly talented group traveling with me to teach teen girls in Ghana about women's health and inaugurate the new Teen Girls Clubs in three villages.

Karen Skovgard and Margy Towers, both retired educators, had taken the Days for Girls online training course in women's health, as had our local staff, Victoria and Elizabeth. We arrived to Timeabu village that morning and found more than one hundred teens girls from three villages gathered with their mothers (and a few grandmothers) to learn about about puberty, what happens in a woman's changing body, what to expect, and how to manage monthly menstruation in a safe and hygeinic way.

Together, the four women taught the lesson in both English and Twi, the local language, Twi, to ensure that they fully understood the information being shared.  Women of all ages listened attentively.  No one had ever taught them about their bodies before.

A little while into training session, a rain storm came through and the noise from the drops on the tin roof made even yelling the training informatin futile, so we took a lunch break. Once everyone had eaten, we began a review of the morning's lessons, and the girls stood and repeated back to us all they had learned - they didn't miss a thing, and we had covered a lot!  

They concluded the health training portion of the program, highlighting strategies for girls to stay safe from sexual violence (such as walking in groups), while emphasizing that if a girl is attacked while walking alone, it is not her fault. Studies indicate that women in Ghana are most at risk of sexual violence between the ages of 10 - 18 years old, and that for 20% of women in Ghana, their first experience of sex was against their will. If that trend continues, it means that 25 of the girls in that room have had or will have an involuntarily first sexual experience. Experiencing sexual violence is not the victim's fault. 

Then the girls (and several mothers) began asking questions. Is it safe to eat eggs when you have your period? Should you drink charcoal? Is it safe to bathe? They were eager to learn scientifically based knowledge about their bodies, how to manage cramps, how to stay safe and healthy, what does and doesn't work.

When all questions were answered, we introduced the Days for Girls kits.  Each kit contains panties, two reusable, waterproof shields that snap around panties, and washable inserts that together function as reusable pads. They come in a cute backpack that the girls can carry to school each day, so no one needs to know what's inside - sanitary supplies, school supplies, or anything else they may need that day. They also include a washcloth, soap, and plastic bags so you can soak and soiled inserts without any mess. They've been designed and re-designed with comfort and practical use in mind. These particular kits were made by volunteer sewing groups from Des Moines and Cedar Falls, Iowa (special thanks to Kay Hertz and her whole team for their countless hours of kit construction!).

We taught the girls how to use and care for the kits. Kelly, a 16-year-old volunteer from California, demonstrated how to snap the pad around the panties in a particularly comical way. She stood on the stage, stepped into the panties, "realized" the girls wouldn't be able to see the demonstration with her long skirt on, and dropped her skirt! It took a moment for the girls to realize she was wearing shorts underneath her skirt and then the laughter erupted! She pulled the pad and panties up over her shorts and laughter continued - and the girls made a connection. Anywhere in the world, 16-year-olds aren't so different. She was a hit the rest of the week. 

After the demonstration, we sorted the kits into panty size, and as each girl came up to get her kit, we sized her and she was given a kit.  Each kit was a different color of fabric, and the girl's name was written inside so she wouldn't lose it.  This was hers, not anyone else's. I was amazed that not one of the girls asked for a different color - they were just so grateful - and eager to return to their seats and look through the kits themselves.

We'd taken enough kits that there were several left over at the end of the distrbution, even factoring in the ones that would be distributed to girls who would attend a "make up session" of the training and get the kits later in the week. The mothers and grandmothers present - may of whom serve as leaders of the teen clubs - asked if they would be able to have a kit, and we were glad to be able to offer the kits to them too.

As more people learn about the kits and there is a greater demand for them, we plan to offer a sewing training course to teach local seamstresses in Ghana how to construct the kits themselves. That will both create a new income source or enterprise for local women and ensure that all women and girls in the area have access to the kits and aren't dependent on Self-Help to bring them over.

Before we left for the day, the girls shared with us the Teen Girls Club slogan: “Girls stand for education, empowerment, and fairness!” Check out the Instagram link below to see for yourselves.

When I asked Victoria and Elizabeth about the slogan, they said, “We want the girls to focus on their education, and to know that men and women can equally do their best wherever they find themselves...We talk about fairness in the sense of gender fairness.  Girls should not think of themselves as lower than boys. They are special too and they should feel free to shine wherever they are!”

They should indeed.  Stay tuned for the story of the official program launch that took place a few days later!

Victoria and Margy discuss women
Victoria and Margy discuss women's health
Kelly demonstrates amid laughter and applause
Kelly demonstrates amid laughter and applause
Checking out their new Days for Girls kits
Checking out their new Days for Girls kits
Even the mothers of the teens wanted kits!
Even the mothers of the teens wanted kits!
Building goodwill and better friendships
Building goodwill and better friendships

Links:

 
   

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