In August of 2013, a new PEF Self Reliance Center (SRC) opened in Kaneshie, Ghana. This is the second such center in the Greater Accra area. The center provides Career Workshops and Self Employment Workshops for people living on the west side of Accra. The volunteers in the center contact members who have registered on ldsjobs.org to help them create a profile that can be viewed by potential employers. Volunteers also help those who are applying for loans from the Perpetual Education Fund (PEF).
The new PEF/Self-reliance program was launched in March this year. Data suggests that there are about 1.5 million adult members in International Areas including tens of thousands of people in West Africa who are unable to provide basic necessities of life such as food, clothing, shelter, and medical care. The goal of this new program is to help these people to become self-reliant.
Each Center has a mobile manager who is assisted by a coordinating couple and volunteers. The Center Managers develop resources that would benefit members. The Stake Self-reliance Committees identify members in need and assist them with one of the three legs of self-reliance namely: Education, Jobs, or Self-employment. Self-reliance Centers have been set up in Coordinating Councils in Ghana, Nigeria, and Ivory Coast.
The Perpetual Education Fund (PEF) was established in 2001 during general conference when Gordon B. Hinckley, then President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, announced a “bold initiative” to help youth in developing areas 'rise out of the poverty they and generations before them have known.' He spoke of returned missionaries and other ambitious young men and women who have great capacity but meager opportunities:
“I believe the Lord does not wish to see His people condemned to live in poverty. I believe He would have the faithful enjoy the good things of the earth. … In an effort to remedy this [lack of opportunity], we propose a plan … which we believe is inspired by the Lord. … We shall call it the Perpetual Education Fund.” President Hinckley further declared, “Education is the key to opportunity” (“The Perpetual Education Fund,” Ensign, May 2001, 52–53).
The PEF program is patterned after the Perpetual Emigration Fund, which helped more than 30,000 early Church members journey to the Salt Lake Valley from Europe in the mid to late 1800s.
The program is funded through contributions of Church members and others who support its mission. It is a revolving resource in which money is loaned to an individual to help pay for training or advanced education. When a student has graduated and is working, he or she then pays back the loan to the fund at a low interest rate.
Self-reliance is the ability, commitment, and effort to provide for the spiritual and temporal well-being of ourselves and of our families. As we learn and apply the principles of self-reliance in our homes and communities, we have opportunities to care for the poor and needy and to help others become self-reliant so they can endure times of adversity.
We have the privilege and duty to use our agency to become self-reliant spiritually and temporally. Speaking of spiritual self-reliance and our dependence on Heavenly Father, Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has taught: “We become converted and spiritually self-reliant as we prayerfully live our covenants--through worthily partaking of the sacrament, being worthy of a temple recommend, and sacrificing to serve others.”
Elder Hales counseled us to become self-reliant temporally, “which includes getting a post secondary education or vocational training, learning to work, and living within our means. By avoiding debt and saving money now, we are prepared for full-time Church service in the years to come. The purpose of both temporal and spiritual self-reliance is to get ourselves on higher ground so that we can lift others in need.”