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, has exemplified leadership in fighting global hunger.
"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.
“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.”
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.”
From 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.
Fredrick 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.
More information about Self-Help International is available at www.selfhelpinternational.org.