(Self Help is a long standing conference advance special and Thanksgiving Ingathering project. Dennis Preslicka represents UMM and Richard Neal represents CBGM on the Self Help board.)
Merry Fredrick, former executive director of Self-Help International (SHI), will be the 2014 recipient of the Robert D. Ray Iowa SHARES Humanitarian Award.
Fredrick is a Waverly native and only the second winner of this award, established in 2013 by the World Food Prize in honor of former Iowa Governor Robert D. Ray. It is presented annually to an Iowan leader in the fight against hunger at home and abroad. The awards ceremony will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 14 in Des Moines at the 2014 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.
dedicated to providing opportunities to poor farm families in Ghana and Nicaragua in an effort to improve
“I am humbled and honored to receive this prestigious award,” said Fredrick. “The accomplishments over my 14 years of work with Self-Help International could not have happened without a dedicated, loyal staff in Ghana, Nicaragua and in Waverly. Furthermore, Self-Help's excellent Board Members provided guidance, support and trust. We did it together.”
Fredrick, who worked at Self-Help International for 15 years until her
retirement in 2013, is a longtime advocate in the fight against hunger and poverty. Self-Help International is a Waverly-based 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. Through education and training in farming, micro credit, and improved healthcare, Self-Help offers long-term solutions for families, especially women and children, to get out of poverty. Under Fredrick’s direction, the organization opened its second country program, established an endowment fund, and tripled the annual operating budget.
“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,” said Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn, president of the World Food Prize Foundation.
Self-Help International was established in 1959 by Waverly businessman Vern Schield. The organization developed a small tractor that was built and shipped in nearly 50 countries. In 1989, at the request of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr. Norman Borlaug, Self-Help shifted its efforts to training farmers in Ghana in sustainable agricultural practices. Self-Help worked with Sesakawa Global to introduce quality protein maize (QPM), a variety of corn that contains nearly twice as much digestible protein over traditional corn varieties. Today nearly 75 percent of the corn grown in Ghana is QPM. In 1999, Self-Help expanded, introducing its successful program model to rural farm families in Nicaragua. With Fredrick’s leadership, the program in Nicaragua grew from five farmers, to nearly 35,000 farmers cultivating QPM. In addition, the women’s micro-credit program in Ghana funded nearly 2,000 loans in the past 11 years. Over the last five years, in both Ghana and Nicaragua, more than 2,500 children have participated in SHI’s feeding program to alleviate malnutrition. In 2013, Self-Help International opened training centers for young farmers in both Ghana and Nicaragua.
According to Ambassador Quinn, given the special and important connections and history Self-Help has with Dr. Borlaug, it is especially fitting to recognize Fredrick with the award in 2014 – the Centennial Anniversary of Dr. Borlaug’s birth.
“Merry Fredrick's leadership, hard work and passion for helping others has changed the lives of many people, especially children, who now have a brighter and healthier future,” said Fran Mueller, past president for the Self-Help International Board of Directors. “I can't think of anyone who deserves an award for humanitarian work better than Merry.”
On Monday, Oct. 13 Fredrick will give a public lecture titled “Let Their Voices Be Heard” detailing her experiences and work with Self-Help International. The talk will take place at 6 p.m. in the Des Moines Social Club’s Viaduct Gallery, where the “FarmHer” photography exhibit showcasing women in agriculture will be on display.
Fredrick 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 while he served as a Foreign Service Officer on behalf of the U.S. Department of State. Merry and David Fredrick have three children, Erika, Adrian and Andre, and five grandchildren.