“I can’t explain enough what Self-Help International’s Micro-Credit program has done for me. Who would have thought that I could also have a university student in my house?” 

Ayishetu Kassim is a mother of 8 children and lives in Worapong, a small community in the Ashanti Region of Ghana. She’s been the community’s food vendor for years. She began by selling koko, a popular porridge made from millet. She had always planned on expanding her business to also sell other foods, but her resources were limited, and because of the size of her family, she felt that establishing a personal savings account at a traditional bank was not possible.

Ayishetu was introduced to Self-Help about four years ago through mutual friends. “Initially, I was nervous to join because I have witnessed similar programs [not work]. But, I also realized that life was a bit less burdensome for the ones who mustered courage and committed to the program. Besides, the people from Self-Help were very nice and polite; and after attending one of their meetings, I decided to join. They gave me GHC 200 (approximately $50 USD) for a start; it was too small for me but I gratefully accepted it and decided to commit to the program.”

Ayishetu has diligently managed the loans and accessed higher amounts to continue to grow and expand her business, and recently received a loan of GHC 1000 (approximately 200 USD). The financing has allowed her to diversify and add four other menu items in her food vending business: banku, abetee, emo-tuo (rice ball) and waakye, all popular local dishes, to her previous koko. 

“I started selling waakye with the initial GHC 200 I received; patronage was very high and thankfully, they taught us how to save, even with a small income. I started saving small amounts everyday with the rural bank in our area. By the end of the payment period, I was able to generate the initial capital from my savings, even after repaying my loan. They increased the loan a bit and I added the GHC200 that I have saved to the GHC300 they gave in the second disbursement. I started with the banku and abetee in addition to the koko and waakye. I continued to intensify my savings to add my final venture, rice-balls.”

Ayishetu now operates five different food vending businesses. She has also hired extra hands to help with the preparation and selling of the meals, creating new jobs in her community. “The children used to help me a lot, but when our income started improving, my husband and I decided to enroll them in school. Through this program, we have been able to send our first child to the university; it was a miracle. Now I can also boast of a son who is a university student in the capital.” Two of her children have completed senior high school, and they want to continue to the nursing training college. Her other children are enrolled in Junior High and Senior High Schools. 

When Self-Help International staff last visited her home, they observed another endeavor Ayishetu has been able to pursue with the proceeds from her business. “I am renovating this room to await my son’s return from the university. I want him to feel welcome when he returns home.”

Though she was initially wary of the program, Ayishetu now fully endorses it and encourages others to join as well. “I am encouraging my fellow women to use me as a yardstick to measure the successes and the improvements in my family’s life. If they are ready to help themselves and improve their living conditions, Self-Help will help them to help themselves.”