WASHINGTON – Amanda Crook Zinn established a peer-lending program to help poor women in Baltimore set up their own businesses. She modeled the program after one in Kenya.
Joe Jones started a prenatal care program in Baltimore that teaches men parental responsibilities. His program is modeled after one in Jamaica.
Penny Borenstein worked to increase Baltimore’s immunization rates for children from 62 percent in 1994 to 96 percent in 1996. Her ideas came from a program in Kenya.
Under the leadership of Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke and the U.S. Agency for International Development, Zinn, Jones and Borenstein have brought USAID’s economic and health care programs back home.
The mayor was honored Thursday with a Domestic Partnership award for his initiative. The award is given each year by USAID for outstanding leadership.
“No one has done more to promote the agency and to translate its programs to benefit people’s lives,” said USAID Administrator J. Brian Atwood.
Since 1994, Baltimore has been participating with USAID in a program called Lessons Without Borders. It connects business and health leaders here with those abroad to improve the plight of low-income families.
The program started after USAID realized its work in underdeveloped countries also could benefit people in the United States.
“We want to show people that foreign assistance can help at home to help build the economy,” said USAID press officer Corey O’Brien.
Baltimore was the pilot city for the program. Schmoke selected a handful of business and health practitioners to be sent to underdeveloped countries that had successful health care and economic programs set up by USAID.
“Communities in the most richest, powerful nation on earth now are looking to less-developed nations for help,” Schmoke said.
Zinn, head of Women Entrepreneurs of Baltimore, discovered how a peer-lending program in Kenya has allowed women to start small businesses ranging from catering to family day care.
WEB’s program takes women on the poverty line through an eight-week course to teach them how to manage and save their money so they can establish credit.
The women in WEB’s program agree to save a certain amount of money each week and then combine it with a loan from the Foundation for International Community Assistance and the American National Savings Bank.
“I was doubtful in the beginning that I would be able to learn the information that would be valuable in the states because the economy is so different,” Zinn said.
But, she said, she is impressed with the impact the program has had.
Borenstein returned from Kenya with several techniques to improve Baltimore’s immunization rates against childhood diseases. The city’s heath department developed an outreach program that locates children who haven’t received shots for measles, mumps and rubella.
A counselor goes to the house of the child to counsel the parents about the need for the shots, which are given free.
Immunization clinics also were set up, and a Winnebago travels to predesignated sites to make getting a shot more accessible.
In Jones’ Healthy Start program, women go door to door in Harlem Park and Sandtown-Winchester, southwest Baltimore’s housing projects, looking for expectant mothers in need of prenatal care.
The program works with the expectant fathers, teaching them parental responsibility and the importance of a strong work ethic. The program is designed to counsel men so they do not turn to domestic or street violence, said Jones, men’s services coordinator for Healthy Start.
With funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Healthy Start also established a program in which the unemployed fathers can help repair Baltimore’s housing projects. The men work under a contract with the owners of the project.
“Then little children can see men working instead of on the street corners selling drugs,” Jones said.
Lessons Without Borders last year expanded to Boston, Seattle and Washington, D.C., and Schmoke said he has encouraged other mayors to participate.
“The program is a vehicle for sharing knowledge,” he said. “I’m confident we can widen the circle of influence.” USAID was created in 1961 under former President John F. Kennedy to deliver economic, health and environmental aid to underdeveloped countries. -30-