Learning from Each Other
Rita farms mangos and harvests them twice each year. Before she joined Freedom from Hunger's Credit with Education program, she worked hard to stretch her modest profits to the next harvest. In that last month before the mangos ripened, however, her family never seemed to have enough to eat.
In Ghana, people call this the "hungry season." This is the time each year when children grow thin and common childhood illnesses become deadly, especially for the youngest ones. This is the time of year when having money to see a doctor and buy medicine is more important than ever. The hungry season is the time of year when the money just isn't there.
Fortunately, Freedom from Hunger was able to both bring Rita an $80 loan and educate her on how to diversify her business so that money comes in year-round. Rita now farms chili peppers, beans and okra in the field next to her mango grove. These crops can be harvested throughout the year, ensuring a steady income. In the process, Rita has also learned how to save money.
"The biggest thing for me was starting to save," says Rita. "I had never saved before. Now I have savings to tap when it's time for the school fees and other needs, including more food. My family is better now. We eat better."
Many people who meet Rita might assume that she is too poor to repay a loan. Five hungry children and a small plot of mango trees don't amount to much collateral. Fortunately, Freedom from Hunger knows that women like Rita are ready to end hunger in their own families and communities.
We work with groups of women, asking for no more than a shared commitment to repay their loans and a promise to attend weekly education sessions. Since joining the program five years ago, Rita has borrowed and repaid 10 loans. Education sessions brought her the skills to manage her business, the knowledge to safeguard her family's health and the courage to try new things.
There was something else that Rita also received from her involvement with Freedom from Hunger: a sisterhood. "I live out on our farm. The program has allowed me to meet with women and share ideas, learn from each other, take risks and imagine a better future, especially for my daughters. After my family, my group is the most important thing to me. I look forward to the weekly meetings."
Rita is one of millions of women Freedom from Hunger serves—women who keep proving that the power of both credit and education in the hands of a mother is unstoppable. "I want to save more so I can use my own money for the farm instead of taking out loans," Rita says. "And I want to meet people who earn more money so I can learn from them."