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...
Jan 8, 2016

Expanding Her Horizon- Changing Her Future

Self-Help International’s micro-credit program serves several communities of Rio San Juan and Rivas, Nicaragua, empowering hardworking women with the opportunity to improve their skills, knowledge, education and quality of life. All 125 women we serve live in remote rural areas, and most live nearly 200 miles away from the capital city, Managua. Most of the men in these rural communities are farmers and agricultural laborers, so the woman usually stay home taking care of the house and children. The micro–credit program, started in 2005, has provided women with the chance to grow their self-esteem and learn new skills, and to use those skills to generate income and help their husbands with home finances, particularly between harvests when family finances may run low.

Doña Heliodora, from the community of Las Azucenas, was one of the first member of the micro-credit program in her village. She is married with 8 children. When she first learned about the benefits she and her family could gain by becoming members, she immediately agreed to start working with Self-Help International and started looking for more women in her community to start a micro-credit group.

Doña Heliodora used her initial $50 micro-loan to start a bakery business, and to build her own improved oven after learning how to make one from Self-Help International. She started making bread, cakes, and pizza, once a week, and for Christmas, she also roasted chickens to sell for the holiday dinner.

This small business allows Heliodora help her husband support the need of their and the education of her children. Six of the children are grown up, married and have left the house. The two youngest children are still dependents. With the profits earned from her baking business, Heliodora has been able to send one son to study at the university in Managua, a pipe dream for most rural women. Her youngest son is in high school in Las Azucenas and he helps his mother in the bakery business as well as with home upkeep.

Doña Heliodora states, “I have been working with Self-Help International through the micro-credit program for 8 years now and I am very happy to be part of this program because I have been able to get several loans; build an improved oven which means now I am saving more wood, money and time efforts; grow my bakery business by selling the products; and be able to earn some money to purchase several things needed in my house; as well as to help my husband with the school expenses for my children.”

Under the leadership of micro-credit officer Yolanda Fletes, there has been an increased emphasis on training for women and youth to ensure long-term empowerment for those who are committed to helping themselves. In order to join the micro-credit program, women must meet basic requirements, such as demonstrating commitment to working, being honest and responsible, having an entrepreneurial vision, and a willingness to accept changes and learn new skills.

When asked about the program’s shift to emphasizing not only loans, but skills training for women and youth, Heliodora responded, “Since my son and I started getting trainings and classes to learn new skills, things got a lot better and it makes me feel so happy and thankful for Self-Help International and it staff.”

Heliodora and her son have attended several trainings, including:  

  1. Self - esteem and Leadership
  2. Business Management and Entreprenuership
  3. Business Plan (Marketing, Finances, Organization, quality of products, value added, etc.)
  4. Business creativity and diversification

With all those training and skills, I realized I needed to do more for my bakery business, and decided that my next loan would be for a small shelter to use as a small shop where I can present all my bakery products and to welcome my clients.”

Heliodora’s business and capital has grown so she has increased her baking once a week to three times a week. “I always keep clean my space following the instruction and advice taught by the Self-Help International staff regarding hygiene and quality of the products. Now, I have more clients, and even one day I had a visit from a doctor from our local Health Post Center asking me to make a meal for him and the rest of the staff for special activities in my house! When I heard this I was so excited that immediately I agreed to do so. Even though it was total different from what I was doing as a bakery business, I knew I could handle it, and said to myself ‘well, I guess this is going to be a new way to earn money: working in my house while I still have time to continue my bakery business and attend my family.’ I said to myself, ‘Oh goodness! All this is happening because I am really following up all the good advice I have been getting from the micro-credit officer and Self-Help International staff.’”

A couple months later, Heliodora’s son who graduated from university called Heliodora from Managua to tell her there was a person who was looking for a partner to start a business in Rio San Juan, the region where Heliodora lives. The business was to sell used electro-domestic supplies such as toasters, microwaves, and refrigerators with a low price so they would be affordable for the rural people who live in small villages and need this type of equipment to make life easier. Heliodora recounts, “I thought about it and I realized we don’t have here any shop selling these type of products and so I decided to do it. The equipments are in good shape and mostly new, since those are the things people from the city usually purchase on credit in major stores but can’t afford all the payments on. So, the company takes them away from those people and puts them in storage. Somehow, they found out that by selling the products to other people for lower price, they can at least get back their investment and also give chance to other people to buy the items affordably. So I said yes, that is what we need here: technology and chance for better in our life! Now, I am selling things like; TV’s, stove, refrigerator, freezer, toaster, electric fan, microwaves, iron, laundry machine, which is giving me a good profit.”

I have been able to do all these types of business – baking, preparing meals, selling home goods – out of my own house thanks to the support of the Self-Help International, who are the people of good heart that are always here to help me out by providing not only loans but skill and self-esteem classes to grow as a human being, mother, wife, a positive member of this society. I am doing all my best to manage the three small business with the support of my two sons and husband whenever he has the chance. The four of us are more than happy to be able to work at home, share our positive attitude with other people and reach our dream working in our daily duties. I know the other women involved in this program have the same feelings like me: they may have a different type of business, but the main thing is we all know now that nothing is impossible if we have confidence in ourselves and in the organization that is helping us. Thank you so much to all of you!  …by the way, I almost forgot that I also learned with you how to save money from my incomes and also how my son found a great job in the San Carlos Social Security office! I am so proud of him!  But my son, my husband and I wouldn’t have been able to reach this goal without all your support, care and interest for my personal and family growing. Now, I am an empowered woman that is not afraid to confront any type of challenge and change to improve our lives. THANKS!”

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Jan 7, 2016

No More Dengue Fever in El Tule

Clean water gives Aunner
Clean water gives Aunner's son a healthier future

In a majority of Nicaraguan communities, the CAPS  (Comité de Agua Potable y Saneamiento  -- Water Sanitation Committee) leaders typically range in age from late thirties to early sixties. In El Tule, a village in the municipality of San Carlos, the president of the CAPS group, Aunner Alfredo Ramírez, just turned 29. His personality is a mix of youthful fervor with grounded wisdom. Eighteen months ago, he successfully lobbied his community of El Tule to partner with Self-Help to install a CTI-8 water chlorinator. We visited him recently to find out what changes he has seen in his community of 785 residents since the installation of the chlorinator in mid-2014.

When asked about the quality of the water conditions prior to installing the chlorinator, Aunner got a look of disgust on his face and replied, “It was completely dirty and full of sediment – the communal water storage tank was open to insects, the air, animals, and dirt… Many people here knew about it, but thought they were immune to everything.”  This mentality changed soon after a dengue fever outbreak in the houses surrounding El Tule’s water storage tank. The water tank provided masses of mosquito larvae with an ideal open water source to thrive and grow in, causing a dengue epidemic throughout the town. Dengue symptoms are comparable to malaria, including high fever and extreme exhaustion.

Recognizing the immediate need to address the problem, Aunner called a town-wide meeting to address the issue, rallying the unanimous support of the community to purchase a water purification system. Not long before, Aunner had attended a demonstration of the CTI-8 water chlorination system by Self-Help International’s Clean Water Program Officer, Orlando, and the townsfolk agreed that out of all available options to improve the water quality, the CTI-8 was the most affordable and effective. Aunner explains, “The system is super affordable, because it functions via gravity, not electricity like most chlorinators… incorporating the cost of the chlorine tables, each house pays around one Cordoba per month (roughly USD $0.04).”

After consuming impure water for so long, it takes the body a brief adjustment period to acclimate to consumption of chlorine-treated water. Aunner emphatically explained, “Even though it took people in El Tule a week or two to get used to it, everyone says the water here now tastes great and is 1000 times better than it was before!” The change was drastic within the community. Aunner cited the CTI-8 installation as a necessary foundation for El Tule’s development as a whole, saying, “It’s indispensable to life – to wash, to cook, to clean, to drink, to do everything.”

The water purification initiative took time, energy, and resources to unite the people toward a common goal, but when asked how the efforts have most impacted him and his family, Aunner stated, “My entire family’s quality of life is better; mine, my wife’s, and my son’s. I know without a doubt my kids will have a better future because of their water.”

El Tule serves as an example to surrounding villages, demonstrating the communal health benefits of access to potable water. Still, a large portion of these neighboring villages suffer constant sickness from ingesting untreated water – Aunner states that there is still a large education initiative that needs to take place throughout the region. “What you guys [Self-Help International] are doing is excellent… We need to work create a greater awareness of the importance of purified water, either by holding assemblies or going house to house.”

Aunner continues to spread the significance of the water chlorinator’s effects to those in nearby areas, sharing his personal testimony as a beneficiary of the CTI-8 water technology.

Thanks to the tireless support of community leaders like Aunner, and financial support from donors like you, Self-Help has ensured that 58,000 people in 60 Nicaraguan communities have regular access to clean, safe drinking water.  We aim to reach 75,000 by the end of this year, but we can’t do it without you!

Your recurring donation of $15/month will fund a complete CTI-8 Chlorinator system for a community like El Tule by the end of the year.  Click the "give now" button below and be the reason that 1,000 more people have clean water by this time next year. 

Aunner tells Mack how clean water changed El Tule
Aunner tells Mack how clean water changed El Tule

Links:

Dec 18, 2015

The Resources to Make Ayishetu's Dream Come True

Veronica w/ rice straw to use to grow mushrooms
Veronica w/ rice straw to use to grow mushrooms

Ayishetu is a migrant from the north and mother of seven. She has never had any formal education since it is not culturally practiced to send females to school in the north. Like many, Ayishetu and her husband migrated south for better economic opportunities.

For a time, Ayishetu engaged in petty trading, selling fabric, foodstuff, and sometimes traveling to the north to sell. Alas, she had no access to capital to improve or expand her inventory. She poured all of her profits into caring for her children and paying their school fees; so eventually she ran out of inventory and went out of business. Presently, Ayishetu and her husband cultivate rice and maize in Atwima Boko.

After one of Self-Help’s trainees, Solomon, discovered that mushroom composting can be done very effectively using rice straw as a substrate, Self-Help’s Training Center Manager, Justice, began visiting rice farms nearby and reaching out to rice farmers he met to share this new opportunity available to them: they can now use rice straw waste to grow mushrooms. With relatively little startup capital, they can generate additional income to support their families. Even if they have no other formal qualifications, they can attend training sessions free at the Fran Mueller and Virginia Lageschulte Young Adult Training Center (YATC) to learn mushroom production and other enterprises, and after successful completion and demonstrated interest, they are eligible for a micro-loan for startup capital.

Ayishetu visited the YATC for the first time on Monday, September 21, 2015. When asked why she was seeking the training and what she hoped to gain from learning a new enterprise, Ayishetu shared that her dream is to keep her youngest two daughters in school as long as possible to ensure they get the education she never had. “You can hardly accomplish any dream if you do not have the necessary resources,” she said. So she is there to learn, and the center is there to provide access to those resources.

Out of Ayishetu and her husband Mustapha’s seven children, their eldest daughter never attended school, as educating girls is still not common practice in the north. Like many girls in rural villages, her eldest daughter was pregnant by the age of 17. After migrating south, their second daughter made it all the way to her first year of Senior High School. Then she fell in love and dropped out. She is now a farmer as well. Their third daughter made it to her second year of Senior High School, before becoming pregnant. Pregnant girls are not allowed to attend school, so she left for a year. She is now trying to return to complete her last two years of high school, if she can find a new school that will admit her.

Ayishetu and Mustapha could not afford to send their fourth daughter to high school, so she attended trade school and is now a seamstress. Their fifth child, and only son, had little interest in school and dropped out after 5th grade to become a driving apprentice like many of his friends. Their final two daughters are now in 5th and 4th grade respectively. Ayishetu hopes that the pair will see all the way through high school graduation if family finances permit.

Ayishetu and Mustapha recently had to relocate, but despite the move and long journey to visit the training center, she is persisting in learning about mushroom production.  So far, she has completed two training sessions in mushroom production, and looks forward to the day mushroom production may become an additional source of income for her family so they can see their youngest children through high school graduation.

Thank you for your support, which is ensuring that women like Ayishetu are able to complete training courses and access a loan to start mushroom production upon successful completion of all training sessions. This combination of knowledge and funds to put that knowledge into practice will improve quality of life for Ayishetu's entire family, and enable herto cover even high school fees to ensure her daughters get the education she was never afforded. We look forward to sharing further updates once Ayishetu's new venture is up and running. 

Please consider giving the gift of knowledge this holiday season, to ensure illiterate women like Ayishetu can access the resources they need to accomplish their dreams and help their children achieve the same. 

Veronica with rice harvested from her family farm
Veronica with rice harvested from her family farm

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