Freedom from Hunger really makes a difference in the lives of so many women around the world. With a very small staff, they reach over 5 million people. When you support a woman to escape poverty and hunger, you are also helping her to feed her children, keep them in school and give them a good future. I give to Freedom from Hunger because I know that even a small donation makes a real tangible difference in the lives of so many women. Their model of delivering education and financial services to groups of women is simply a really effective and efficient tool for poverty alleviation.
During my time on the Board I visited our program in Kenya, where women were using our small donations to start up self-sustaining businesses for themselves. I also, promoted Freedom From Hunger by speaking about the organization to various groups in Arizona, and presented a slide show about our work in the world. I solicited donations in Arizona from contributors who came to believe in our orgaization's motto, " Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day, but teach a man to fish, and he eats for a lifetime". Freedom From Hunger has the multiplier effect in that we supervise the new enterprises & make sure that they succeed the first year, and after that success follows success from one generation to another. Others who see good outcomes are encouraged to try new enterprises & it goes on and on in that community. It is very exciting to see this happen, and it is impossible to measure the extent of this self impowerment after it begins to take hold. Without question, the long range effect is in building confidence in the people that they will be able to sustain themselves.
I have been on the board of FFH for 3 years and in that time have come to understand the leadership role it plays in the field of microcredit organizations by promoting basic education modules in conjunction with loan repayment meetings. These modules cover money management, basic business skills, basic health care and nutrition. FFH's underlying premise is based on the data that shows women will use the money they make on a small business feel their familes and thus reduce chronic hunger. FFH is a very ethical, sensitively run organization with a big heart.
Several years ago I checked out this program and started donating. I got impressed enough that I now donate monthly. What they do just makes sense to help women in the worst conditions learn how to help themselves an get on their feet to improve the situations of themselves and their families. Educations and a small loan equals empowerment and improved health and life situations.
I was first introduced to Freedom From Hunger about four years ago. A friend involved with the organization asked me if I would like to see what the organization did first hand. He invited me to go to Bolivia to visit villiages where women utilize the services provided by Freedom From Hunger (FFH). For five days I had the opportunity to sit in meetings where women discussed their businesses and carried on the financial transactions in order to keep their 'organizations' solvent. I saw education being delivered on such vital services as basic health care or putting away 'excess money' earned in a savings account. Items so basic it is taken for granted by most people in the U.S. Later at a round table session of the participants who traveld with FFH I was asked what I saw during the trip. My response was I saw hope being created where none likely existed before. I saw an organization creating opportunities for a better life to the women and children they reach. I saw dedication by an organization to those who don't have a voice but need to be heard. It was amazing for me personally and convinced me it was an organization that I wanted to be part of. Great people, great mission, great results!
As a venture capitalist, I have seen first hand what can happen when the flow of capital is directed to energetic and motivated entrepreneurs. When I first heard about Freedom From Hunger and its Credit with Education program, I wondered if the role of microfinance in the third world might possess similar characteristics and if it could help raise living standards. So I traveled to Haiti seven years ago to observe how Freedom From Hunger pursues its mission and to find out if it was successful. I discovered to my amazement that indeed microloans made to women to help fund their small businesses, when coupled with business or health education, are a powerful economic force. Instead of being a program that gives people fish, Credit with Education teaches people how to fish and lends them the capital to make it happen. The result is a sustainable increase in living standards. I joined Freedom From Hunger right after that trip and have been an enthusiastic supporter ever since.
When I first learned about Freedom From Hunger, and their method of combining education with credit for very poor women in developing countries, I realized the tremendous potential for alleviating hunger and malnutrition in countries where extreme poverty exists. I have visited with credit groups consisting of 20-30 women in Mali & Ghana in West Africa, Bolivia, and the Philippines. There I saw first hand what FFH is accomplishing. A lady operating a small store (4’ X 6’) on a busy street in the Philippines, made possible with loans from a FFH credit group, told me what she appreciated most was when one of her two small sons is ill she does not have to decide whether to spend money on Food or Medicine, she can have both. One FFH field trainer told of the woman in West Africa who, after a training session on Child Survival, came up to her crying and said if she had known before what she had just learned her two babies would not have died. Multiply these two examples by some TWO MILLION women and their families. These women through education and empowerment gained via Freedom From Hunger’s efforts will add a very positive power for good in the development of their countries.
As a communications professional, I visited several of Freedom from Hunger's programs and talked to women participants. Some of the women I talked with were selected for the interview by local staff. Others volunteered on the spot. I picked others at random. I will never forget the women I met or the stories they told. Their determination to make life better for their children and themselves was present in every conversation. All they needed was the chance to make their hard work pay off in earnings, savings and knowledge. Freedom from Hunger's programs gave them that chance. There are too many heart-warming stories to tell, but one theme I wanted to mention is the one of empowerment. So many women told me how they believed in themselves and their ability to create positive change because of their participation in the programs. They gave me example after example of change. They were proud of themselves and they wanted me to know it. One thing that impressed me was that most of the women never knew the name "Freedom from Hunger"--only that of the local organization that delivered the services. Freedom from Hunger likes it that way. They train local people and organization to implement their high-impact programs and then they step back. If anything, they are too modest about their impact. I am grateful to have met these women and heard their stories of impact.
As a public health nutritionist I am most interested in helping organizations that help promote nutrition and health of women and their families. Freedom from Hunger does this and so much more! Through their Credit with Education and Saving for Change programs, Freedom from Hunger enables women to develop the skills and knowledge to begin a business, refund the money loaned to them, care for their family through improved nutition and health care, and even save money and loan to other women. I have been most impressed by the professionalism of Freedom from Hunger staff While a relatively small organization, they work efficiently with regional staff to reach women throughout the world to help them develop self-sufficiency along with improved confidence and self-esteem. I will continue to prioritize my support with Freedom from Hunger being my top recipient.
I was introduced to Freedom from Hunger by a friend and was immediately engaged by the power of the credit with education model that Freedom from Hunger pioneered and the staff's commitment to not just doing the right thing, but doing things right-that is, with well documented results. Then, I had the privilege of visiting Haiti, and meeting many of the women whose own dedication, commitment and support of one another makes the Freedom from Hunger model truly transformational. As a result, I am continuously motivated to contribute time and resources to this organization. Of all the philanthropic activities in which I am engaged, I consider this one as yielding by far the highest and best social and tangible return on investment in the work to end poverty in our lifetime.