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...
Sep 16, 2016

Meet Jering

About 32 miles by motorcycle from Self-Help’s Nicaragua office, lies a small and vibrant community called Las Azucenas. In a small and quiet neighborhood, accessed only by walking down a mud-covered and gravely path, lives a young woman with an idea way ahead of her time. Her name is Jering. At the age of 17, not even having finished high school yet, she sells Avon products and cosmetics after school hours and during the weekends. When she’s not doing homework, Jering is constructing ways to grow her new business of selling clothing with a loan through Self-Help’s micro-credit program.

By inquiring and conversing with other women, she has taught herself how to be successful in the clothing business.  In order to start selling stylish clothes, she has to first take a bus from her small community to the bus terminal in San Carlos (30 minutes away). She then takes a bus to Managua (over 8 hours) to select the clothing. Once she arrives by bus, she has to pay for a taxi to take her to the chain of stores located in the heart of the city to go shopping. If she does not take the 2am bus to get back to her home in San Carlos, she will have to find a place to spend the night in Managua until there is another bus the following morning.

Although she is capable of receiving a hefty profit with this business, transportation is extremely costly. The price for a one-way bus ticket is 150 Córdobas ($5), and a taxi is roughly 120 Córdobas each way ($4). She will have to spend 500 - 600 Córdobas ($18 - $20 dollars) in transportation costs alone for her trip. Because of your financial support, she will be able to make that first initial voyage to Managua. With the money she will receive from selling clothes, she will be able to pay her loan back quickly and increase production to match the current demand in communities.

You may be wondering where Jering learned to have such an ambitious and innovative nature. I was able to find that answer with just a quick visit to her home. The family owns an outdoor oven that not only serves as a way to bake, but also as a mechanism to dry and store firewood during the rainy seasons, and as a personal clothing and shoe dryer.

Yes, you read that right:
a shoe dryer.
The family does a lot with very little.


Instead of trying to use her earnings towards materialistic items, Jering is saving all of her money for her education. Having a father who works tediously as a farmer, and a mother who walks the entire town twice a week to sell baked goods, she wants to obtain a bachelor's degree. She admires her parents' strength, and sees education as a new path forward out of such backbreaking work.

Living with her two parents, two sisters, and an older brother, Jering assists her family with household chores and tends to the animals in their backyard. Like Jering, her mother is a beneficiary of Self-Help’s micro-credit program. Her mother taught her how to sell cosmetics and earns a sufficient salary selling sweet bread in order to purchase school uniforms and supplies for her other children.

Empowered women empower women. 

Jering and her mother are prime examples of the magnitude of the effects of Self-Help’s mission. Self-Help lends a hand to help women and their families get on their feet and start their dream businesses. The women learn important and necessary business skills through several trainings from Self-Help staff. Workshops are also provided to build women’s self-esteem. Most importantly, women learn sustainable practices to ensure the success of their business.  The success of this training speaks for itself—Self-Help’s micro-credit program has a success rate of almost 90%  with the women’s first loan and the program has been thriving since 2011.

Fifty dollars doesn’t just buy a few bus tickets. It provides hope. It provides a way to lift these families out of poverty so that their children will not have to choose between healthy meals and clean uniforms.Jering is the future of women in Nicaragua. She inspires young girls and proves that girls are never too young to start their dreams.

Join us in empowering more women like Jering! Make a donation now, or mark your calendar to make a gift on Wednesday, September 21during the GlobalGiving Match Day! Details on the matching funds are available here

Jering
Jering's oven used as a dryer during rainy seasons
Sep 15, 2016

Got your period? No more school for you.

A few months ago, we hosted our first ever Leadership Summit to celebrate the strongest leaders in our micro-credit program.  We expected that it would enable women to celebrate one another, make market linkages across the value chain, and exchange ideas - and it did! But it also highlighted a challenge for us: we realized that while we're meeting women where they're at, we're not preventing them from being in that situation.

For the women we serve, they don't have access to any other banking or credit facilities, so we're providing an important service. Because of the training and micro-loans, they are able to afford the school fees to keep their children and grandchildren in school. Yet for many of the women, their daughters are already adults themselves, or have already dropped out of school.

It's not that their daughters don't want an education - they want one badly!  But they face many challenges, even if they are among the lucky few whose parents or relatives are able to gather together sufficient funding to cover the school fees.  For example, in the traditional Ghanaian home, girls perform most of the household chores while the boys are always idling about, making it difficult to keep pace with their male colleagues. This heavy chore load, such as fetching water, preparing meals, and caring for younger siblings drains girls’ energies, making their participation and contribution in class lower than that of their male counterparts. Girls go to school tired, doze off in class and become laughing stocks among their peers.  

As girls enter puberty, insufficient knowledge about the changes the female body undergoes during adolescence is a major cause of teenage pregnancy. More than 13% of girls in Ghana give birth between the ages of 15 – 19 years old, a time when they should be completing junior or senior high school, but are instead dropping out to start a family.  Most young girls do not fully understand that the new feelings and changes in their bodies are normal. Neither parents nor teachers spend time educating young girls about puberty, in part because the subject is not discussed and in part because they may not have ever learned about the biological changes at puberty either. Girls easily fall prey when any man gives them little attention or care in dealing with these changes. 

Beginning menstruation adds to the challenges girls face in keeping up at school. It is common for girls to miss one week of school each month due to her period, because she lacks funds to buy sanitary towels to manage her menstrual flows. While girls are working on household chores without any form of allowance or compensation, young men have time to engage in income-generating activities to earn spending money for themselves. They in turn deceive young girls, giving the girls paltry sums of money to finance such needs as school supplies or sanitary supplies, and then take advantage of the girls, leading to teenage pregnancy.

On top of these challenges, some parents, especially fathers, believe that no matter how enlightened a woman is, she will be given in marriage to a man, breed children and that will be the end of her education, so there is no need to educate a girl child. Some marry off their female children at school-going age to rich men for money. Ironically, they justify the practice by saying that part of the money is used to educate their male children.

The situation calls for a concerted effort. For the past few months, we've been meeting with girls, mostly the daughters of women in our micro-credit program, to learn about the challenges they face to staying in school and help them craft solutions to address those challenges.  They have shared with us the difficulties they go through such as inadequate parental guidance and support; parents’ refusal to provide school supplies; and lack of funds to buy to sanitary towels. So, we have begun mobilizing girls of school going age in rural Ghana into groups, and educating them to stay longer in school and away from situations that are likely to lead them to start a family before they are truly ready.

These girls and their parents, especially mothers, are very excited about the program. They tell us, “Our communities shall know what we stand for and the message we preach,” and that, “More of our girls can go to school: this alone will keep the trouble makers away.”  We plan to officially launch the first girls health education workshops later this month and to distribute reusable sanitary kits to all girls present.  With sufficient funding, we will continue to offer additional trainings to the girls in small income-generating activities so they don't have to depend on boyfriends for spending money, and perhaps even take them on college visits so they can be exposed to life outside of their rural villages, and the possibilities that their future could hold if they stay in school.  Together, we can give a future to these young girls.

Join us in empowering young women in Ghana! Make a donation now, or mark your calendar to make a gift on Wednesday, September 21 during the GlobalGiving Match Day! Details on the matching funds are available here

Girls discuss barriers to staying in school
Girls discuss barriers to staying in school
Listening to girls from Timeabu share challenges
Listening to girls from Timeabu share challenges
Sep 9, 2016

Building a More Peaceful World

Martin & Nazareth, pupils at Beposo Islamic School
Martin & Nazareth, pupils at Beposo Islamic School

Ghana is blessed with many natural resource but remains underdeveloped partly because the citizens are overly dependent on the central government. It is therefore heart-warming to see a group of people take their destiny into their hands.

Beposo is a rural community with a population of about 400 in the Atwima Mponua District, Ashanti Region, Ghana. Despite being a farming community, one in three children in Beposo is stunted from poor nutrition.  

It has had one basic school, Beposo D/A Basic School, for over two decades. Then on July 14, 2014, the Islamic Community in Beposo decided to establish a school, Islamic Primary School, in the community to bring about diversity and competition to improve the overall quality of education in the community. It was an uphill task.

On a ¼ acre parcel of land, a wooden hut was built in 2014, and Beposo Islamic Primary school was started with just five pupils: 3 boys and 2 girls. It had no toilet facility, no kitchen, no separation between the three classrooms, and the classrooms were dusty and without cement.

In December 2014, Self-Help began supporting the school by teaching farmers in the area how to grow Quality Protein Maize (QPM) and supporting the school to turn the harvested maize into a high-protein breakfast porridge.  This led to rapid increase in overall enrollment and daily attendance.  Enrollment quickly grew to 89 children: 40 boys and 49 girls. The need for a kitchen and a toilet became very pressing. With local raw materials, the PTA constructed a kitchen and a toilet.

Though encouraging to see that more children were getting a quality education, this rapid rise in population worsened the classroom conditions. The dust pollution was unbearable. It had adverse effects on the health of children as well as on teaching and learning. Children looked dirty all the time, respiratory related cases were rising, and teachers complained about poor environmental conditions. 

The parents, teachers, and pupils never gave up. They stayed and worked together. In May 2016, thanks to your donations, we were finally able to respond to their cry for help with a donation of ten bags of cement to add floors.  The fathers in the community hauled the sand and stone to the site, while the mothers fetched water to cement the floors. The children now study in a dust-free environment.

Conditions at Beposo Islamic School are still not the best – they lack enough desks and chairs and have few school supplies – but the can-do spirit exhibited by the community and the pride they take in their school is comendable.

Beposo is also home to a public school. We offered to introduce the school feeding program in the public school at the same time as the Islamic school, but they public school initially declined the offer.  Seeing the success of the breakfast program at Beposo Islamic, the Beposo public school is now ready to join the school feeding program, and we will bring them on board this semester. Now that there is healthy competition between the two schools at Beposo, it is improving the quality of education for all students.  

Through the school feeding program, parents are taking a greater interest in their children’s education, taking pride in what they are able to contribute to their community, and they send their thanks to you - their friends abroad - for helping make these improvements to their communities possible.

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr. Norman Borlaug cautioned us long ago, “We cannot build a peaceful world on empty stomachs and human misery.”  We at Self-Help are working to do our part to partner with all people who wish to fill those empty stomachs and build a more peaceful world. We thank you for joining us in this mission. 

Many more schools are requesting to join the school feeding program than we can currently accept.  When you make a gift of $30 or more, you'll ensure that one more child gets a healthy breakfast every day of this semester! Mark your calendar to make a gift today - Wednesday, September 21 - during the GlobalGiving Match Day! Details on the matching funds are available here

A new latrine improves sanitation in Beposo
A new latrine improves sanitation in Beposo
Dusty classrooms make learning difficult
Dusty classrooms make learning difficult
New concrete floors reduce respiratory illness
New concrete floors reduce respiratory illness
 
   

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