Welcome to the Center for Health and Human Development

Welcome to The Center for Health And Human Development /Mental Health International 

CHHD was set up in 2006 as an umbrella organization to provide funding and capacity building support to innovative, effective programs of health and human development, primarily in low and middle income countries. We also provide advice, consulting, and fiscal management services to start-up and young INGOs. Our Board members bring a wealth of international program development, management, fundraising, best practice, evaluation and research knowledge to the organizations we serve. Currently, board members are involved in projects of global mental health, global health, HIV-AIDS, educational innovation linking learning and research, women’s empowerment, and more.

The programs CHHD currently supports include:

  • Mental Health International (MHI)
  • Congo Village School Project (CVSP)
  • La Linea Scholarship Fund (El Salvador)
  • Seeds for Communities of Peace in (Burundi)

   Please donate to help Launch our Central America

Mental Health Expansion Campaign!

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Our Work this Year

Mental Health International, a project of the Center for Health and Human Development, helps grassroots mental health programs in Central America. We have had an unbelievably successful year to date at MHI. With your help we can continue and expand this success.

This year we:

  • Deepened ties with the National Psychiatric Hospital and the Office of Mental Health Policy, involving these government agencies in a “Basic Needs Alliance.”
  • Helped kick off a new program in Panama on October 25th attended by over 100 people passionate about mental health in Panama– local psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, psychologists, the Ministry of Health, the Pan American Health Organization, and groups of people with mental illness and their families
  • We began collaborations, in El Salvador, with researchers from universities, the Salvadoran National Institute of Health, and the El Salvador office of the Pan American Health Organization
  • Expanded family groups to more Salvadoran communities and received a four- year grant from the Inter-American Foundation (IAF) to support our efforts at a regional level in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama.

Now is the best time to donate as we our proudly running our Central American Mental Health Expansion Campaign! Our goal is to raise $10,000 by December 1st 2014.Your support allows us to obtain large funds that go into program services and support. In fact, during the previous 12 months, for every dollar contributed by individual donors, we we were able to leverage an additional $8.26 in grant funding. The end result? People with mental disorders in low resource countries who get access to services, support and education, including for their family members.

Your donation will be used to:

  • Support travel and in-country costs in the four countries in which we work (El Salvador, Panama, Nicaragua, Costa Rica). This will help provide support to our grassroots organization. Funds will also be used to convene a first-of-its-kind regional networking and leadership conference.
  • Pay for costs associated with grant writing. Most of our funding comes from foundation grant sources for programs in Central America. However, to obtain such funds can take years of work. We must pay staff, office rent and supplies, travel, and other costs that are often not covered by indirects from grants.
  • Increase the effectiveness of the regional program through quality evaluation of our programs. We believe in using and promoting evidence based programs and building capacity for quality mental health services from the local community on up. Evaluation and research are key to achieving these goals.
  • Strengthen the user and family organizations in several countries by filling the funding gaps for organizational development of new programs. Because our work is multifaceted (Mental health services, evaluation, capacity building, and research development) administrative and fundraising costs are ongoing. Grants rarely cover this kind of work. Donors can.

Consider becoming a sustaining donor! When you donate on paypal check the box besides “make this recurring, ‘monthly’”.  By donating a small amount each month, your annual donation can be quite large:  $25/month becomes $300/year. And we can count on your regular donation which helps us with our financial planning.  



Gallery of Our Work

Click on the link to view an interactive map of User and Family Groups in Central and South America. Included in the interactive map are global organizations that provide the same services. You will find information on their location, services, and how best to contact them.

User and Family Programs

We provide capacity, logistical, and financial support to grassroots NGOs dealing with mental health. User and Family Groups are an integral program component of these NGOs. User and Family groups are safe environments for either people suffering from mental illness (users) or their family/caregivers. These groups are multifaceted and include open support groups, art therapy, income generation, and best-practice workshops.

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4. visita a casa de integrante grupo arte 5.Untitled

1. Program participant proudly displaying a new string art project. The art therapy program is crucial to helping empower and raise the confidence in users.

2. Two new participants drawing in the art therapy program, Olvidio and Boanerge.

3.Pedro making a hammock to sell at our program offices. He learned this skill as a patient in the psychiatric hospital in El Salvador but now actually gets paid by selling them through our income generation program.

4. Program participants visit the house of a user who has missed recent sessions. Users realize the importance of continually attending the program.

5. One of the 17 family education and support programs (FESEP), which happen to be running during Sam’s visit.


Global mental health is a serious issue that must be given more attention. MHI/CHHD collaborates with other organizations to provide best practice strategies and techniques for dealing with global mental illness. This collaboration does not end with other NGOs, we strive to include governmental organizations, like ministries of health, in order to share resources and provide the best care across all sectors. We are currently engaged in connecting a regional network of User and Family Groups in order to hold conferences, disseminate the latest in mental health research, and partner in reducing mental health stigma.

6.ACISAM staff and associates like Sam attending a workshop on the current political and economic reality in el Salvador 7.inter-institutional council for mental health research8.photo2

9. Sam w melvin gomez and katrina juarez 10. ??????????????????????????????? 11. DSC_0602


6. ACISAM staff and associates like Sam attending a workshop on the current political and economic reality in El Salvador.

7. Sam with several members of the Inter-Institutional Council for Mental Health Research, a new collaborative to bring attention and evidence based practices to meeting mental health needs in El Salvador.

8. Sam and Nelson flamenco presenting to faculty and students on mental health and mental illness at the pan American university.

9. Sam, Director of MHI with Melvin Gomez and Dr. Karina Juarez, who directs psychiatric treatment across the country, and psychologist Nelson flamenco and Cecilia Almendarez who run our community services program for users and family caregivers. They met in order to coordinate services and research partnerships.

10. Nelson Flamenco standing with representatives from Nicaraguan mental health organizations. This picture was taken during a capacity building workshop.

11. ACISAM group meeting to discuss regional projects.


Our program continues to thrive in Central America, but this does not mean we do not encounter struggles in providing the best care for those with mental illness. Social stigma portrays users with mental illness as second class citizens and as unproductive members of society. Local crime presents problems in rehabilitating and properly medicating users who would otherwise also fall into crime. Lack of familial support systems leave some users destitute and with little recourse.

12. Man with mental illness begging in the street as a bus  spews exhaust on him, El Salvador, September 2014 - med size foto13. Gangs 14. mental illness house

12. A man with mental illness begs on the street while a bus drives by and spews smoke at him.

13. Photo of house wall at entranceway to gang controlled neighborhood ACISAM works in. It says “look, listen, and shut up.”

14. House at the end of street where man with mental illness lives. The whereabouts of his family are unknown. San Martin, El Salvador.



Mental Health International (CHHD) helps Salvadoran partner ACISAM to obtain 4-year $295,000 grant to expand regional mental health work

MHI-CHHD worked with ACISAM in El Salvador to obtain a foundation grant for grassroots work with mentally disabled persons (users of mental health services) and their families who have formed support groups across Central America. The program will provide organizational development and leadership training, a network to advocate together for improved mental health systems, educational curriculums for family and user support groups, mini-grants to these groups to carry out targeted projects including income generation programs, an annual conference, and communication and training tools, including a regional zine/journal that will include advice, best practices, research and inspiration to mental health leaders. MHI-CHHD’s role will be to provide planning, organizational development, evaluation, monitoring and research support. We are excited by the opportunities this new project presents!

Recent News


ACISAM Mental Health Coordinator, Nelson Flamenco, travels to Panama to successfully launch a family to family mental health program.

This week Nelson Flamenco traveled to Panama City for the inauguration of the Family Education, Support and Empowerment Program for family caregivers and their loved ones with mental illness. This opening ceremony was attended and supported by the Pan-American Health Organization, the Panamanian Ministry of Health, and over 100 interested users, family members, psychiatrists, psychologists, and mental health nurses. This program will be run by the professional hands of ANFAPEEM (The National Association of Family, Friends, and Patients with Schizophrenia) and will be supported by the Panamanian government. This program represents a bold step in replicating ACISAM’s Salvadoran Family to Family program throughout Central America. Our goal is to spread this program throughout the area in order to assure families that “they are not alone and we speak your language”. Mr. Flamenco will be traveling to Costa Rica and Nicaragua in order to to meet with other user and family associations and government officials to help spread this program and create a regional partnership for the improvement of global mental health. Good luck Nelson! Safe Travels.

9.1.14 – 9.15.14

ACISAM expands its reach in El Salvador while CHHD prepares to receive funding and coordinate with our Salvadoran counterparts.

CHHD is pleased to announce that ACISAM has now started and is supporting several groups outside the capital city – in rural areas of the states of Cabanas, Chalatenango, and La Union and the city of Santa Ana.

MHI-CHHD Executive Director Sam Nickels traveled to El Salvador in order to hold many different types of meetings to move forward in our goal. The first was a research collaborative meeting with key members from the national universities, national health institute and with representatives of the pan american health organization, El Salvador office.  The second was a university presentation on the difference between mental health and mental illness, this presentation included a meeting with local group users and family leaders. The third was a series of meetings with the minister of health- Dr. Elvia Violeta Menjivar, the vice minister of health, and the new director of the psychiatry hospital. These last sets of meetings were done in order to seek support for various agreements to work together (convenios).

Sam Nickels also traveled to El Salvador in order to set up the evaluation process of the regional network Inter-American Foundation grant for the next four years . This involved incorporating evaluation into a logic model being used for operational planning that includes goals, strategies, activities, outcomes, and indicators all the while keeping everything within the approved budget. This visit was also taken to help train a new administrator in the management skills needed to oversee the IAF regional grant.

Psychosocial group members during a meeting and giving a prayer of thanks at the end of a meeting

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Prior to recording-  “Love is good. It is good to be alive and to feel human.”

Translation: “Thank you lord for letting us come together this afternoon, to share as brothers and sisters, all with the same feelings and needs, and for all the projects that this organization carries out, and for projects on a global level of mental health that are breaking down discrimination, and all the stigma that has really affected and saddened us. Thank you for the physical and mental health we now have, so that we can achieve our real potential as human beings.”



Just back from a two day workshop conference “Solving the Grand Challenges in Global Mental Health: Partnerships for Research and Practice” at NIMH with mental health researchers from USA, Canada, England, Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, India, Pakistan, China, Peru, Colombia, Nicaragua, etc. Inspiring to see what people are trying to achieve across the globe in low and middle income countries to improve life for people with mental illnesses. MHI-CHHD director Sam Nickels will be partnering with several other attendees to further our work in Central America. The opening speaker was Shekhar Saxena, head of mental health for the World Health Organization, pictured below. Sam is also pictured with Shoba Raja, head of research and evaluation for BasicNeeds.

Sam w Shekhar Saxena, head of mental health for WHO                               Sam w Shoba Raja of BasicNeeds



CHHD completes May fundraising campaign for mental health work in C.A.

CHHD ran a 4 week campaign to raise funds for a new collaborative effort in El Salvador, to form a group of national stakeholders who are committed to finding a solution to a very difficult problem – how to provide quality community based services to thousands of Salvadorans in rural areas who have no access to such services. We raised over $9000, which was enough to cover initial costs during the start-up phase. Now that the “Alliance for Mental Health” has been formed and received initial training, we’re beginning to work on grant submissions for a 2-year pilot intervention, including to Grand Challenges Canada, which funds innovative scalable interventions in low and middle income countries. Thanks to everyone who contributed and helped us get this effort off the ground !!!

New study shows importance of medication to reduce violent crime committed by persons with psychotic disorders. In El Salvador this is an important issue, because access to medications is sparse, and violent crime is high. Clink LINK to see a review.


CHHD runs campaign to raise $6000 in 3 weeks for MHI’s mental health work in C.A.

CHHD is kicking off a short term campaign to raise funds for a new collaborative effort in El Salvador. Mental Health International (a project of CHHD) is forming a group of national stakeholders who are committed to finding a solution to a very difficult problem – how to provide quality mental health services to over 200,000 Salvadorans who currently have no access to mental health services. These are people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, anxiety, trauma and other seriously debilitating illnesses, mostly in rural areas of the country. How do we reach these people? How do we provide community based compassionate services for family caregivers as well as people with illnesses? Can we provide integrated services that help people with income generation and employment in addition to treatment and medication? The next set of meetings to build the coalition and receive training from our partner BasicNeeds occurs in mid-May. Only $6000 left to raise before that time! Can you help us out?


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CHHD starts two new initiatives for mental health in El Salvador

Sam Nickels recently returned from El Salvador meetings with a variety of stakeholder partners who are pursuing two new projects. The National Collaborative for Mental Health Research is an effort to identify and prioritize research in El Salvador that engages the necessary parties and funders for longterm impact and sustainability. First priorities include a Delphi process to achieve consensus around treatment / services and research priorities, and an epidemiological study to broadly identify  numbers of persons with mental illnesses, the types and prevalence, and questions of access and types of services available.

The second new initiative is in the exploratory stage. We are holding a series of trainings with BasicNeeds to explore their model combining partnerships mental health and economic development in order to reach the large portion of the Salvadoran population that has no access to mental health services, especially in rural areas. BasicNeeds has over 10 years of success in expanding access and community based programs for people with mental illness and their family caregivers in 12 low income countries of Africa and Asia.



DAF funds CHHD’s Central American regional mental health project (Mental Health International) for 11th straight year.

The DAF Foundation expanded its funding to CHHD for mental health work for 2014 for two projects. One is based in El Salvador and provides education, support and empowerment activities to users of mental health services and family caregivers. The other is a regionally focused project to provide support to established and emerging consumer and family caregiver grassroots civil society groups in Nicaragua, Panama, Costa Rica and Honduras.



CHHD Director Sam Nickels leads board capacity building workshop for Congo program

(Woodstock Vermont)

In November, Sam spent two days with members of the board of the Congo Village School Project to work on board development and organizational capacity building issues. Board members expressed appreciation as they deal with many difficult issues as the organization seeks to move through its start-up phase of development. Topics included role of the board, international communication, team leadership, financial management, and board-ED relationship.



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