Livelihoods: Giving a Hand Up, Not a Hand Out

Honey production kit given to Lebanese farmers as part of MH Livelihoods scheme

What is in a livelihood? We've all heard the familiar saying:

Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for life. 

And, it is in that spirit we run our livelihood projects. The sad reality is many times people in poorer countries have the skills, enthusiasm and support to generate an income for themselves, yet lack the opportunity to put it into practice.

Muslim Hands Livelihood Projects are designed to empower the individual into training and work which will give them an independent, sustainable and long-term income. In this way, livelihoods revolves around providing for communities because when you have a breadwinner in the family, children are able to afford school fees and families can afford medical expenses too.

A livelihood to suit every need

The nature and scale of the businesses have been as varied as they come, but what they do have in common is that they are all focused upon meeting the needs of the local people, using a beneficiaries expertise and skills base and turning over a reliable and steady income.

Here is a small snapshot of some of the livelihoods schemes that have taken place and the impact they have had on the lives of whole communities:

Rolling on two wheels


I use mine to sell newspapers, she uses hers to get to school, they use theirs to get their daily trading deliveries done and his saves him a 25km daily walk to the market selling veggies.

These two wheeled wonders are one of the most simple, yet practical means of individuals being able to  generate income for themselves, free up journey time and pack more into a single day (not to mention keep fitness levels up and the planet happy with this eco-friendly way of getting around!)

"All my troubles have now come to an end. I remember for the past 35 years I used to walk 25km daily from my home to the market to sell my vegetable goods, this unimaginable gift will facilitate my petty trading business. Believe it or not I'll take care of this bike as I do my life".

(Mr Fabakary Mass, sole trader, Gambia)

Bicycles were distributed to the neediest of petty traders, students, teachers and community workers in Gambia and Senegal.

Further bikes were also distributed in Nepal, Sri Lanka, Niger and Afghanistan. 

Breaking taboos


When medical care is scarce and social taboos are strong, the fate of many leprosy patients is bleak.

Commonly regarded as the 'untouchables', lepers in India are segregated from and often ostracised by the mainstream community and have little chance of supporting their families or earning an income.

As part of our livelihoods project, Muslim Hands gave leprosy patients convenience stores where they are able to earn their own income selling daily goods such as milk, eggs, and oil,  develop their business acumen and provide for their family, in particular their children's educational needs.

Sewing on forward


India suffers from soaring rates of HIV and AIDS and the epidemic continues to debilitate millions of lives in a country where poverty, illiteracy and lack of access to medical care are rife.

The severe social repercussions of suffering from AIDS in India leave many destitute and hopeless. The newest, and perhaps most disturbing, phenomenon to hit India as a consequence is the rise of a black market blood, often taken by force or from dubious sources.

Often swept under the carpet is also the forced prostitution of women AIDS sufferers who are told there is no alternative source of income. This spreads the transmission of the AIDS virus and often branches out into drug abuse and homelessness.

In areas on the outskirts of Delhi such as the Najabgarh area, Pahar Ganj, Darya Ganj, Karol Bagh area, Muslim Hands provided women suffering from AIDS with sewing machines and vocational training in order for them to earn a dignified income free from exploitation and harm.

These AIDS victims are supported by a handicrafts centre where they are given training in needlework and tailoring and are then able to sell their textile work to local markets. This allows them to be an active part of the community, harness their skills and create an independent livelihood for themselves.

Why is providing livelihoods important? 

  • 1/2

    Almost half the world live on less than $2.50 a day

  • 40%

    of the world’s population accounts for 5% of global income

  • 7

    The 7 richest people have more wealth than the GDP of the 41 poorest countries

In pictures

All around the world, MH is empowering people to become self-sufficient and independent earners. Most people in the developing world simply want to use their skills and talents to earn an income suited to their needs.

Take a look at the many different ways MH Livelihoods gives the opportunity to do just that.