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A self-help project is a bit of a misnomer, as it really has nothing to do with an individual helping himself or herself, and everything to do with helping a community. In general, self-help projects are sponsored either by a local government or a nonprofit organization, and involve a group of people going into a community and teaching members of the community how to better their lives. This may include teaching farming and land management skills; empowering women and girls in various ways; teaching lifesaving medical skills; or any type of important knowledge that the community can then use on its own. This happens in nations and communities around the world, with volunteers sometimes traveling from around the world to assist in furthering a self-help project.
Rather than some charity organizations that simply focus on providing direct assistance in the form of monetary or food donations to communities or individuals, which can certainly be beneficial, the theory behind a self-help project is to give people the skills to help themselves. Theoretically, this is a more sustainable idea, allowing people to benefit from the project long after the volunteers or the nonprofit organization have left, and to really promote lasting change in communities. There are many different types of self-help projects going on around the world.
One common type of self-help project is when a nonprofit organization gets together to build a house for a needy family. Often, the family will assist in building the house; they may then be given the house for free, or will be given the house at-cost, with a very low interest or interest-free mortgage. This is an example of a fairly small-scale self-help project, but many of them take place at the community level, especially in developing countries.
Often, volunteer organizations will go into a specific community in a developing country to teach skills to improve health and productivity of the community. This may include rebuilding sanitation systems, which can help to reduce many preventable diseases, for instance. It may also include teaching agriculture and land management skills, to allow communities to better grow their own food. IN more urban areas, it may involve teaching basic business skills.
Micro-loans, often provided to women to allow them to start their own businesses, are another common type of self-help project. In addition, women are often taught important medical skills, such as safer ways to deliver babies and prevent infant mortality and reduce danger to the mother when giving birth. These are just a few examples of the many projects going on around the world in order to improve living conditions, and empower people.