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...
May 25, 2016

Healthy Competition Improves Quality of Education, Feeding Program in Bedabour

Students line up for porridge at Bedabour D/A
Students line up for porridge at Bedabour D/A

Bedaabour is a rural village of about 1,000 people within the Atwima Mponua District in the Ashanti Region of Ghana. There are two schools in the community, both of which benefit from the Quality Protein Maize (QPM) feeding program: Bedabour District Assembly (D/A) Basic School and Bedabour Islamic School. 

Bedabour D/A School is a public school supported by the District Assembly. The government initially provided meals for the pupils under the Ghana National School Feeding Program, but the program was cut due to limited state funding.  So in early 2013, Self-Help introduced the QPM school feeding program to fill the gap, and the community initially embraced it knowing its importance. As the program started, the chief of the community supported it by donating QPM and funds for milling so the maize could be turned into porridge. This went on for some time, but the support ceased when the chief became ill.  

The school feeding program follows a partnership model whereby the community is responsible for donating the maize, milling it, and preparing it into porridge daily, and Self-Help provides the additional inputs such as sugar, cups, spoons, training, and support with construction of a proper kitchen. The community members were used to the chief taking care of everything on behalf of the community, and for a long time, no one else stepped up to donate the maize or milling fees during his illness. Without the community’s support, the program began to falter. There was apathy and lack of commitment.

In 2014, the neighboring Bedaabour Islamic School joined the school feeding program. The school saw significant improvements in both enrollment figures and academic performance, which they attributed to the feeding program. Both parents and teachers were committed. The strong performance by the Islamic school caught the attention of the community, and many parents began transferring their children out of the public school and into the private school, regardless of the family’s religious affiliation. The D/A school was therefore losing many of their pupils in the lower grades in particular to the Bedaabour Islamic School.

The D/A school PTA realized something had to be done before the school collapsed, so in March 2015, the PTA chairman met with the school staff and Self-Help representatives to discuss the challenges the school was facing. They decided to call a full PTA meeting so that members could contribute to raising up the school’s image and getting the QPM feeding program back on track. All teachers and most parents attended the meeting to discuss the issues, and by the end of the meeting, solutions were found.

Realizing that the quality of their children’s education, and therefore their futures, were at stake, all present agreed to support the feeding program in one way or another:

  • The assistant headmaster volunteered to attend the training sessions organized by SHI on how to cultivate maize so that the school would be able to establish a small farm on a plot of land in the school grounds, with the harvest going to support the feeding program.
  • Since there was no maize in March and the program had halted for some time, the parents donated various quantities of maize to re-start the feeding program immediately until they were able to get the first harvest from the new school farm.
  • The wife of the PTA chairman volunteered to cook for the children each school day.
  • The chief and headmaster agreed upon a plot of land to be cultivated, and the parents contributed greatly in cultivating the QPM school farm to ensure regular supply of maize.

All of these actions were necessary to get the feeding program back on track, but the community didn't stop there:

  • In addition to the QPM plot, the junior high school students began cultivating crops including pineapple. Through their commitment, they achieved such high yeilds that the farm was named the Best School Farm in the Atwima Mponua District during the annual National Farmers’ Day celebration in December 2015!
  • All work and no play makes jack a dull boy. Realizing the revived spirit in the children now that they had daily breakfast again, the PTA decided the children should get something to play with, and raised funds to install a Merry-Go-Round, the school’s first ever piece of playground equipment!  All of these improvements have attracted a number of children and enrollment has improved.
  • The new volunteer cook realized that while the QPM porridge was good, adding groundnut would make it even more substantive and nutritious. The headmaster and PTA quickly met on this and they concluded that every child should contribute 50 peswas (13 cents) every week to maintain the constant supply of groundnut and also add millet occasionally to boost nutrient levels in the porridge and to bring variety to the daily breakfast. The PTA Chairman dreams of one day adding all of these nutrients each day to better meet the caloric needs of the students so they are healthier still.

The commitment and spirit of togetherness that the PTA is now demonstrating towards the feeding program has brought about a lot of improvements at the Bedabour D/A School. Enrollment has increased, malnutrition has decreased, and the children are healthier and good looking. Truancy is low since every child wants to come to school and eat QPM prepared breakfast.

Thank you for your support of the school feeding programs in Bedabour community.  This initiative is much more than a breakfast and source of nutrition: it is a catalyst for engaging parents in the nutritional and educational well-being of their children. With your continued financial support, we will be able to help the PTA chairman achieve his dream of regularly adding more nutrients to the porridge. 

QPM porridge with groundnuts for added nutrients
QPM porridge with groundnuts for added nutrients
A new merry-go-round brings joy to the children
A new merry-go-round brings joy to the children
Bedabour D/A students enjoying their porridge
Bedabour D/A students enjoying their porridge

Links:

May 23, 2016

Secret Family Recipe the Key to Success

Andrea, Alyssa & Queensley taste-test & approve!
Andrea, Alyssa & Queensley taste-test & approve!

Last week, Susan Cornforth a staff member from Self-Help's Iowa office, led the Wartburg College May Term Experiential Leadership Course to Nicaragua, where she and the students had the opportunity to visit with women active in the microcredit program in Las Azucenas, Nicaragua. Here is an excerpt from her journal from the week:

On Tuesday, we went to Magdalena’s house to see the oven that she built using funds from the Self-Help microcredit program. She bakes bread and cookies, then sells them in the local community.  

She took her time explaining to us how this new oven works. She likes that it doesn’t heat up the house like her old one did because it’s outside now, and that the firewood that fuels it is positioned in a way that means the oven is more efficient, so she doesn't have to buy or find as much. She also likes that this new oven is safer because the design reduces the amount of smoke and fumes she and her family are exposed to from the fire itself. Then she showed us how the racks are welded into a barrel that forms the actual baking cavity, and how the barrel is supported and covered by an adobe-style plaster made from mud and compost.

Magdalena told us all about how Self-Help’s training program has taught her business practices like budgeting, managing her costs vs. income, and figuring out what people will buy. She has also learned some marketing skills – she very carefully washed her hands in front of our group, then handed out warm, fresh sample cookies to each of us. We all found them so delicious that we bought bags of them from her right away!

Our next stop in the village was to visit Magdalena's sister, Bernarda. Bernarda also bakes bread and cookies, although her cookies and sweet treats are different from her sister's, an excellent marketing decision since they sell their products in the same small village! I asked Magdalena how she and her sister decided what each of them would bake since they serve the same customers in the same community, and she shared that her mother was a well-known baker in the area, which inspired their baking businesses. The two sisters agreed to split up the best of her recipes, rather than compete directly with one another, so they each specialize in different recipes and both find they have high demand!

Bernarda just joined the microcredit program in February, and she told us she is so thankful to have her own oven so she can actually bring in some income to support her family. Before her oven was built, Bernarda had to rent the oven of another person in the village, and by the time she paid for a day with that oven plus transportation to San Carlos, the larger town nearby where she used to sell her goods, there was very little income left for her family. 

But, now that she has her own oven and doesn't have to pay rent anymore, she is able to use the proceeds from her business to support her 5 children, including one who attends college in San Carlos every day.  My first question was whether it was difficult to repay her loan for the oven, but she said no, it is very easy to make her loan payments out of her income AND support her family at the same time.  Soon, she will be finished repaying her loan and able to invest all of her proceeds into the family!

Bernarda was working on a new batch of goodies, so she invited one of the students in our group to work alongside her. Kourtney got to learn a little about making pastries, and got a delicious treat to take along with her too.

On Wednesday, we went to another village to build a new oven for a new microcredit participant. While it was very hot, the work was so rewarding, as the woman and her family members pitched in to help in the process. Usually it takes two days to complete and oven, but with about 15 people working together, the job went fast and we built it in only 5 hours!  

It was such an interesting and engaging experience to meet these women, one well-established, one halfway through her first loan, and one just starting out, and to see the clear contrast in knowledge between the ones who have had access to the training SHI provides and the one who has only had her first class but is all excited to get her business going!  

These women work so hard to support their families.  It is very rewarding for me to be part of the work SHI does to help them lift themselves out of poverty.  Thank you for all of your support, which gives these women these lifechanging opportunities!

Magdalena & husband with their new oven in March
Magdalena & husband with their new oven in March
Bernarda teaching Kortney how to bake bread
Bernarda teaching Kortney how to bake bread
Sharing skills & starting new friendships
Sharing skills & starting new friendships
Learning from Magdalena
Learning from Magdalena
Helping construct a new oven
Helping construct a new oven

Links:

May 18, 2016

170 families with clean water thanks to you!

CAPS leader builds water chlorinator
CAPS leader builds water chlorinator

Wow!  Thanks to the generosity of the seven families who invested in this project, the 170 families in Providencia, Nicaragua now have clean, safe drinking water! 

Thanks to your seven families, the children no longer suffer from regular bouts of acute diarrheal disease.  Thanks to you, they now spend their time in the classroom, not the health clinic.

Several months ago, members of the of the Providencia Clean Water Committee came together with other Clean Water Committees (CAPS) in Nueva Guinea municipality to learn from the Self-Help about the CTI-8 water chlorination system and how it works to eliminate biological contaminants in the water. The committee was eager to get clean water to their community, and to install this PVC-pipe-based system in particular for its affordability and effectiveness at purifying up to 14,500 gallons of water per day from the community's water storage tank.

Because of your sponsorship, Self-Help’s Clean Water Program Officer, Orlando, has been able to conduct the preliminary study and analysis of the characteristics of the existing water tank, determine the best way to construct and install the CTI-8 system, and teach a CAPS member (pictured) how to install and maintain the system to ensure that the whole community can access clean, safe drinking water on a daily basis.  He also taught the community about basic handwashing and sanitation now that they have regular access to clean water so they can take advantage of all of the health benefits that access to clean water provides.

Providencia is more than 90 miles away from the Self-Help offices, and it takes about 3 hours to reach the community by car or motorbike due to poor road quality.  Your generous financial support covered the costs associated with fuel and transportation to and from the community during the analysis, installation, educational, and follow up visits, as well as the time and materials for staff to train the clean water committees, and for the chlorinator system itself.

The community will repay the cost of the chlorinator ($150) in installments over the coming months to ensure community ownership over the system. Those repaid funds will be placed into a revolving fund to purchase the materials for to construct a CTI-8 chlorinator for the next community in need, so your gift will keep on giving!

Already, your gift of clean water has reduced the incidence of acute diarrheal disease, enabling children to spend time in school, not the health clinic, and empowering their parents to live healthier, more productive lives.  On behalf of the the Clean Water Committee of Providencia, thank you for this life-changing gift! 

CAPS leader installs water chlorinator
CAPS leader installs water chlorinator
Distance from Self-Help offices to Providencia
Distance from Self-Help offices to Providencia

Links:

 
   

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