Today we launched this year’s World Development Appeal of the PCI under the title of “Credit where credit’s due”. As the poster says, its goal is to help Tearfund and Christian Aid give modest financial aid to self-help groups (SHGs) in a number of countries in the developing world.
The idea of self-help groups was begun in Bangladesh following the 1974 famine when Professor Muhammed Yunus began working with small groups of poor people whose abilities, he believed, were being under-utilised. It resulted in the creation of the Grameen Bank and resulted in Professor Yunus being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.
Many Christian relief and development organisations have picked up this strategy and are applying it all around the world. The fundamental idea is that small groups, made up of 15-20 individuals, save a small amount of money each week and when a reasonable sum has accumulated they give small loans to members of the group to develop a small business which will provide them with an income.
In our trip to Ethiopia in August we saw several of these small groups at work and heard many testimonies and reports of the benefits which membership had brought to individuals and families. Some of the money from this year’s appeal will go to support men and women who facilitate and coach these self-help groups in their activities.
In Ethiopia, each facilitator looks after 10-15 SHGs. That means that up to 200 people benefit from the advice and support of each facilitator. Given that each SHG member represents a family of 4-6 people, the facilitators’ work benefits and blesses a large number of people. And yet it costs only 20 pounds a week to support a facilitator. What impressed us was the large number of people whose lives were transformed and helped by such a modest amount of money. They are well-trained people whose work is closely monitored and recorded.
If you are a Presbyterian, you will be hearing more about this appeal in your congregation in the weeks before Christmas as each congregation is invited to take up a Christmas offering for this fund. Do give as generously as you can. If you are not a Presbyterian, I can assure you that any money you give directly to Tearfund or Christian Aid is well-used for the benefit of those who live in extreme poverty. With regard to these organisations, it’s also a case of “credit where credit’s due”. They do a marvellous job as thousands of lives are transformed through their work.