School Supplies Last a Semester; Micro-Loans Last a Lifetime

To help a child out this school year, consider providing a $75 loan to their mom.

The school year is about to begin and you have likely been inundated with flyers advertising the latest specials on everything from backpacks to locker décor. You purchase all the basics on the school supply list, and concede your children’s requests for a few “upgrades” to the coolest designs on the notebook.

Nicaraguan mothers are no different. They know education is the best option to move beyond poverty. However, most women earn less than a dollar a day and face the dilemma of deciding how to spend their limited funds: do they buy school supplies but no backpack to carry them in? Do they buy a school uniform so the kids aren’t teased, or send them with lunch money so they can concentrate during the school day and get the most out of their education?

How can you help mothers like those in Nicaragua? Your first thought may to buy as many school supplies as you can afford from your local stores and send a big box overseas. Because school children need school supplies, right? Of course they do. But what if you could make the funds you use to buy the school books and school supplies and ship them to Nicaragua and buy 10x more?! You’d do it, wouldn’t you? Of course you would.

Often times what we can buy for a dollar here in the US, families can buy for a dime in Nicaragua. So what if you sent the funds and bought the school supplies locally? You’d be able to help 10 times as many families!

But what happens next semester when the pencils are down to nubs and the front and back of every page in the notebook is full? Will they need you to send more school supplies again next semester? Next year?

Don’t be discouraged. Do what you can, when you can, with what you have. But think long term too!

Why is it that the parents of the children can’t afford school supplies? What if you supported the mothers directly so they could have the dignity of buying the school supplies their children need for themselves, without relying on your support in the future.

By supporting mothers with the money they need to start up a small business, they can generate their own income so they can supply their children with both school supplies and nutritious meals for years to come.

And the cost? A mother can start up a small business with just $75. That’s probably about the same as the cost to ship one box of school supplies to Nicaragua.

Self-Help International offers free training classes where women learn about basic financial literacy, income and expense, and good business practices. Most of the women we serve are living on $2 – $3 a day. Banks refuse to offer them start-up capital, due to lack of collateral or credit. But at Self-Help, we’re so confident that after completing our training course, she’ll be set up to succeed in her new business venture, that any woman who successfully completes the training course is eligible to access a start-up loan. Maybe she’ll even start a business selling school supplies – after all, as her neighbors start up small businesses, there will be a growing demand locally for school supplies for their children too.

By making a donation of $150 to Self-Help International, you’ll sponsor training for a mother and her initial start-up loan. She’ll invest the funds in the supplies necessary to get a business started – perhaps an oven or bulk ingredients for her baking venture, or jars for her new food preservation endeavor – and then repay the loan little by little. Our trained micro-credit program specialist is there to advise and support her along the way. Once her first loan is repaid in full, she can access a higher loan level if she’s ready to expand her business further. The loans are also particularly helpful for cashflow for farm families who tend to have big expenses at planting season and struggle to get by until harvest. Businesses eventually generate sufficient profits to self-finance, and the repaid funds are then issued to other women ready to join the program.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to poverty. Consider what is most appropriate for the people you seek to help. Are you able to get the books the students need at the appropriate grade level and in the right language and send them by mail? Would those same funds go further if you sent the money to a trusted individual to buy supplies locally? Can you find a partner organization such as Self-Help (or others) who are skilled at offering education and micro-loans to mothers so they can earn the income they need to buy their children school supplies for years to come?

For every $75 you contribute, you provide a mother with either the training or the micro-loan she needs to start up her business ($150 covers both!). You’ll not only one child has school supplies for one semester, you’ll ensure that mother has the dignity of providing school supplies for all her children for years to come. No matter the which option you choose, you’ll be equipping mothers with the ability to supply their children with their necessities throughout the school year – and many more.

Have questions? We welcome your calls to our office at 319-352-4040 or write to Self-Help International 207 20th Street NW Suite A, Waverly, IA 50677.