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.
In January 2010, I visited Freedom From Hunger's microfinance with education program in Mali, West Africa. It was inspiring to see the commitment by the women who were able to save and borrow safely and affordably, sometimes for the first time in their lives. By combining savings and lending with education - in this case education related to malaria prevention and other health-related issues - FFH is helping poor women and their families develop tools to strengthen their families' basic financial sustainability. As a board member, I felt moved by the quality and impact of Freedom From Hunger's work.
I've been an active donor to Freedom from Hunger for at least 15 years and follow their work and new initiatives closely. I was drawn by the emphasis on empowerment of poor rural women in developing countries for economic self-sufficiency. I particularly like the combination of micro-loans with education in health and nutrition as well as managing a micro-business and developing savings. I am convinced that when women become earners, their priorities are food and education for their children. This enables more of their daughters, especially, to stay in school. Through all their partnerships, Freedom from Hunger multiplies many times every dollar contributed. With fewer than 50 staff worldwide, they serve over 2 million women today. I am so committed to their work that I talk about the organization to my friends, women's organizations I am part of, and my church's international outreach. Most recently, with a goal of helping more local women make a link of giving to women internationally through NGO's they can have confidence in, I established an endowed fund connected with the Women's Fund in our local Community Foundation. Freedom from Hunger was one of the 2 organizations selected to be major recipients of the yearly grants.
I chose this organization to send hard earned money to because their goals and programs parallel my ideas for real change in this world. I firmly believe that empowering women is the best way for true change in individuals and the ripple effect in families and then into communities. Microfinance loans combined with education is a win/win situation. The fact that their payback rate allows more money to be loaned is admirable. It is really a high return investment. I will probably never meet any of the women my donations have helped but knowing that my money is being used wisely by careful concerned people makes me glad to do what I can.
Freedom from Hunger changed me, the day I first heard of their work in providing adult education along with microloans. This was not charity, but a chance for families to study and work their way out of systemic poverty; and it was not a top-down smug attempt at development, but a 64-year history of asking what is needed in specific global communities, listening, and adapting programs and services to fit real people's needs. I'd been working as a writer and just gave birth to my first baby, Benjamin. I wanted all moms and dads to be able to give their babies nourishing food, vaccinations, books and school, a safe warm home, and a shot at living their dreams. Now Ben just started at his first-choice college, and I work in development and write about innovative solutions to poverty. Freedom from Hunger started small too, with 100 women in 2 countries (Thailand and Mali); they now serve over 2 million clients in 16 countries. Somehow they manage to combine a legacy of care, deep research, and tested methodology, with cutting-edge innovations in how to deliver services to the poor. For example, FFH brings savings circles ("Saving for Change") and health education to geographically remote areas; and malaria, HIV, maternal and infant health training and services ("Microfinance and Health Protection") to areas hardest hit by disease. The first to link loans with education, FFH now provides training and curriculum materials to local partners all over the world, so that families can work smarter and advance faster out of poverty into opportunity.
Freedom from Hunger provides funding and technical assistance to the least served, generally rural populations, in Asia, India, Africa and Latin America. They create local organizations and then support them over time with best practices information. We visited a pilot program in Bolivia that brought MD's to rural locations to perform colposcopy exams to ensure early detection of uterine abnormalities. This program demonstrated that there is high trust of this group. The need is to better articulate their impact and unique contributions in the field. In Bolivia there are over 100 micro-finance organizations and they are one of only two that reach into the rural areas.
Freedom from Hunger has been helping women for over 50 years. They know how to partner with local organizations in each region - a crucial part of a successful program. I am particularly proud of the "Credit with Education" program, which has reached so many women and by extension their families in rural regions of developing countries. I am proud to be a long term sponsor of this particular program.