Self-Help International Leader to Receive 2014 Robert D. Ray Iowa SHARES Humanitarian Award


Merry Fredrick has exemplified leadership in fighting global hunger; the Sept. 26 award announcement coincided with Governor Ray’s 86th birthday, honoring his legacy in humanitarian work. Earlier today, Ambassador Kenneth Quinn presented the Iowa SHARES Humanitarian Award to Nora Tobin, Executive Director of Self-Help International, while Governor Terry Branstad presented the award to Merry Fredrick, former Self-Help Executive Director for her long-time leadership of the organization.  The original press release from the World Food Prize is reposted below.

Des Moines, Iowa (Sept. 26, 2014) — The World Food Prize today announced that the 2014 Robert D. Ray Iowa SHARES Humanitarian Award will be presented during the Iowa Hunger Summit on Oct. 14 to Merry Fredrick, former executive director for 15 years of Self-Help International, an Iowa organization that works to help people in Africa and Latin America improve their lives through education, empowerment and agriculture.

“Self-Help and Merry Fredrick represent a quintessential Iowa story: a dedicated team operating from a small town, exhibiting Bob Ray-like concern and commitment, reaching half way around the globe to alleviate hunger for thousands and thousands,” said Amb. Kenneth M. Quinn, President of The World Food Prize.

542f05eab782a-image“Thanks to Merry’s leadership and constant commitment to alleviating hunger, Self-Help International has improved lives for countless people around the world and in so doing, carries on Iowa’s incredible and historic hunger-fighting legacy,” Quinn continued. “It is especially fitting to honor Merry’s work this year, as we culminate the Norman Borlaug Centennial Year. Dr. Borlaug was involved closely with Self-Help International, helped guide their work in Ghana and Nicaragua, and greatly valued the work they do.”

The World Food Prize Foundation established this new award in 2013 in recognition of the exceptional leadership that former Governor Ray demonstrated in dealing with multiple situations affecting refugees in Indochina, honoring him on his 85th birthday. In doing so, the award was named after the Iowa SHARES campaign, which the Governor created in 1979 in order to send desperately needed food and medicine to suffering and dying refugees from Cambodia. Iowa SHARES stands for Iowa Sends Help to Aid Refugees and End Starvation.

The award is given annually to honor an Iowan who has provided significant leadership in confronting hunger and alleviating human suffering, both at home and abroad.

Self-Help International is a Waverly-based ecumenical non-profit organization dedicated to providing opportunities to poor farm families in Ghana and Nicaragua in an effort to “improve their quality of life with dignity.” Its mission: to alleviate hunger by helping people help themselves. Self-Help International completes its mission by not proselytizing, but focusing on doing good works for humanity.

Through education and training in farming, micro-credit, and improved healthcare, Self-Help offers long-term solutions for families, especially women and children, to escape poverty. Self-Help has received consistent and important funding from Iowa churches for decades. Also, while under Merry Fredrick’s direction, Self-Help more than tripled its budget, and an endowment fund was established. She is credited with “having the vision to vastly increase the number of people served.”

dsc00723web_ca0c2a23ba7fdFrom 1979 to 1999, Self-Help worked mostly in Ghana. In 1999, at the urging of Dr. Borlaug, the organization introduced Quality Protein Maize (QPM), a type of corn that produces nearly twice as much usable protein, to Nicaraguan farmers. With Fredrick’s leadership, the program in Nicaragua grew from five farmers to nearly 35,000 farmers cultivating QPM, increasing nutrition for farmers, their families, and consumers. Today, 75 percent of the maize grown in Ghana is QPM. In addition, the Ghana Women’s Micro-Credit program funded nearly 2,000 loans over the past 11 years. In both Ghana and Nicaragua, more than 2,500 children over the past five years have participated in Self-Help’s feeding program to alleviate malnutrition.

Most recently, Self-Help International built and opened training centers in both Ghana and Nicaragua, thanks to Fredrick’s determination. The centers provide a venue where farmers are instructed in ways to improve farming practices, where women learn about micro-credit enterprises and more.

dsc02034_8358ba3410f14Fredrick retired in December 2013. She is a 1966 graduate of Waverly High School. She attended Wartburg College, and later received both her bachelor’s degree in cultural anthropology and her masters in gerontology from George Mason University. With her husband, David, she traveled the country and the world, living in Thailand, Senegal, Utah, Zaire, Yemen, Morocco and Virginia among other places. Merry and David Fredrick have three children, Erika, Adrian and Andre, and five grandchildren.

The second annual Robert D. Ray Iowa SHARES Humanitarian Award will be presented on Tuesday, October 14, at the Iowa Hunger Summit, a free, grassroots event organized by The World Food Prize to unite all Iowans working to alleviate hunger at home and abroad. More information, an agenda and registration is available at

Fredrick will also give a public lecture the night before on Monday, Oct. 13, at 6 p.m. at the Des Moines Social Club’s Viaduct Gallery, where the FarmHer photography exhibit showcasing women in agriculture will also be on display.

More information about Self-Help International is available at




Media Contact: Megan Forgrave, Director of Communications, 515-245-3794
Interviews with Merry Fredrick: 319-230-0890 (Mobile)

ABOUT THE WORLD FOOD PRIZE: The World Food Prize was founded in 1986 by Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, recipient of the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize. Since then, The World Food Prize has honored outstanding individuals who have made vital contributions to improving the quality, quantity or availability of food throughout the world. The Prize also hosts the annual Borlaug Dialogue international symposium on global food security issues and a variety of youth programs that aim to inspire the next generation to work in the fields surrounding global agriculture.