InterAction Forum 2017: Emphasizing the Need for Accountability, Transparency and Inclusiveness

Written by Anna Rohwer, Director of International Operations & Administration

 

‘United We Stand’ originated from The Liberty Song that was written by John Dickinson during the American Revolution. It’s a simple phase that has lived in different contexts of American history but always means the same thing: we fall when we’re divided, so we must stand united if we hope to stand at all. ‘United We Stand’.

We are living in a critical moment of history. Our world is more interdependent and interconnected now than ever before, yet we are seeing increased polarization across political, cultural and religious ideologies. We have made progress towards addressing poverty and hunger, yet there remains significant need. More than 65 million people have been displaced due to war and persecution—more than at any other time. Millions of people in the horn of Africa are facing a devastating drought. Nearly 3 million children under 5 are still dying from preventable diseases each year, and just 1 in 3 people have access to proper sanitation globally.

The U.S. has always been at the forefront of addressing humanitarian and development challenges, with billions of dollars going each year to foreign assistance. However, the current administration has proposed a significant (31%) reduction to the international aid budget. This has negatively affected organizations like Feed the Children that rely on government funding to address poverty and hunger around the world. Because of this, there is now an urgency for both civil society and the private sector to find opportunities to fill the gap.

IMG_20170620_100126363We had the opportunity to participate in the annual InterAction Forum in Washington, D.C. InterAction is an alliance of U.S.-based international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) focused on disaster relief and sustainable development programs. The theme for this year’s forum—United We Stand—was incredibly relevant given the current climate in which NGOs are operating in the U.S. today.

In his keynote address, President Bill Clinton emphasized the need to be unified in our efforts to eliminate global poverty and empower those who are most vulnerable. He shared: “We’ve never had more potential to spread hope through real learning, through real doing.”

The forum provided the opportunity for “real learning.” Themes like accountability and transparency, inclusiveness, human rights, and gender equality were emphasized by Heads of State, activists, entrepreneurs, and other influencers.  We also heard from experts on technical topics like the economic rationale for investing in nutrition (there’s actually evidence that links investment in nutrition to economic development), the human side of technology (in places like Rwanda and Malawi, drones are being used to deliver medicine in remote places), and organizational transformation to achieve cross-sector programming (in order to reach sustainable development goals, organizations need to move away from legacy business models and build integrated systems and programs that actually work).

The forum also provided the opportunity to interact with more than 100 international NGOs that are working around the world, as well as a number of for-profit companies using business solutions to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. Learning about what others are doing was not only inspirational, but it also created opportunities for information sharing and collaboration. ‘United We Stand’ together in the fight to end poverty and hunger.

As we, along with hundreds of other humanitarian organizations, continues to navigate the increasing challenges we are up against, our role in the effort to alleviate poverty and hunger is increasingly relevant and essential. We will continue our work and strengthen our impact, regardless of the increasing challenges, and we are committed more than ever to creating a world where no child goes to bed hungry.

 

Encourage Your State Officials to Address School Lunch Shaming

Written by Caitlin Duncan, Grants Management Specialist

 

Making a show of throwing away a child’s hot lunch.

Making lunch contingent on performing chores in front of peers.

Sending certain children to a designated area for a cold food item.

Writing debt notices on a child’s arm.

Those examples are just some of the lunch shaming tactics that schools have used to pressure parents to repay school meal debt. The premise is that embarrassment will motivate families to pay the money back quickly. While respecting the need of school districts to recoup a sometimes staggering meal debt, we are against such practices as degrading, which can lead to a negative educational environment for children. Not having enough to eat as a child is already a discouraging struggle. Children who deal with chronic hunger should not also have to worry about public shaming when they have an overdue lunch bill.

Our vision is to create a world where no child goes to bed hungry, and in this pursuit, we believe in treating each child and family in the communities we serve with value and respect. Last summer, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), which oversees school lunch programs, imposed a July 1, 2017 deadline for states to establish policies on how to treat children who cannot pay for food. We applaud the state of New Mexico for being the first state to outlaw lunch shaming, passing the Hunger-Free Students’ Bill of Rights Act. The law requires schools to deal with parents–not children–regarding meal debt, ends practices meant to embarrass students, instructs schools to provide students with a USDA reimbursable meal regardless of debt, and outlines steps for schools to connect low-income families with available school lunch programs. We enthusiastically encourage state legislators across the country to follow suit and to develop similar policies that defend children’s dignity and promote students’ access to food at school.

To encourage positive changes to your state’s school lunch debt policy, find contact information for your locally elected officials here.

For ideas on what to share with your elected official, refer to the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) advocacy toolkit here.

 

“There are times that my family has no food to eat…”

Gerlyn and Nina - Philippines 2017

“There are times that my family has no food to eat, and there are also times that the children get sick, and we don’t have money for medicine or hospitalization.”
– May (Nina & Gerlyn’s mother)

The good news, however, is that because of sponsors just like you, we are implementing programs in Nina and Gerlyn’s community that are greatly improving the lives of the children and families.

Your faithful support is providing feeding programs that provide school meals for the children every school day. It’s a huge relief and blessing for parents to know that their children are getting an education and no longer having to sit in class hungry. The nutritious food they now receive helps them to concentrate and focus better on their studies.

Thank you for making a long-lasting impact that will help families break the cycle of poverty. Sponsors like you are helping implement in this community, the provision of school supplies, TOMS shoes, deworming medication, Vitamin A supplementation, Vitamin supplementation to pregnant and lactating mothers, Village Savings & Loan Groups, livestock provision, homestead gardens, and the installation of a village/community clean water source. Gerlyn and Nina’s family were also one of several families who had a toilet installed—a resource which dramatically improves the health and sanitation of the village and decreases the transmission of disease.

Clean Water Project - Philippines 2017

“I am so grateful for the programs, projects that Feed the Children is implementing in the island … like the provision of school supplies. Every year my children receive school supplies. And then the feeding program, which ensures that my children are going to school every day, because there’s food at school.”
– May (Nina & Gerlyn’s mother)

And we are so grateful for sponsors like you! You are truly changing the world for the better…one child at a time.

There are so many children yet to be sponsored. You can give a gift to help these children, and change the world… one child at a time.

Give Now to Help Children Without Sponsors

Proposed Deep Cuts to Humanitarian Assistance and Domestic Nutrition Programs Prompt Tremendous Concern

Written by Andrew McNamee, Manager of Public Policy and Trevor Moe, Senior Director of Government and International Relations

The Administration’s FY 2018 budget was presented last week, and it includes deep cuts to agriculture and foreign affairs programs. These programs help feed hungry people at home and around the world. We understand the view that deficit reduction is an important national issue, but it’s important to understand that less than one percent of the federal budget goes to foreign aid, and less than a half of one percent goes to federal nutrition programs. As such, these cuts will not provide any significant reductions to the overall budget. The United States of America, as the richest nation in the world and the world’s greatest food producer, has traditionally led the world’s fight against famine and extreme poverty. However, the proposed deep cuts to foreign aid would most definitely mean a relinquishment of that role.

Under the proposed budget, spending by the Agriculture Department, which not only manages the nation’s agriculture programs but also its domestic anti-hunger programs (SNAP, WIC, National School Lunch Program), would be cut by $4.6 billion (a 21% cut). Spending on the U.S. State Department and other international programs (Food for Peace, Feed the Future, USAID) would be cut by $11.5 billion (a 29% cut).

These cuts would come at the worst possible time. Right now, 20 million people in Yemen, Nigeria, South Sudan, and Somalia face famine. This is not the time to squeeze the poor and hungry, especially when these programs represent such a small piece of government spending and their elimination would not solve the country’s fiscal challenges.

How Can We Do More to Help Children in the Classroom?

Written by Rhonda Watson, Director of Workplace Giving

When I was a student, I remember sitting in the front of the class, eager and ready to learn. At the beginning of every school year, I was armed with my No. 2 pencils, pens, and wide-ruled paper.

As a child, I never thought about other kids not having access to the materials needed for class. How can a student be properly engaged without a pen, pencil or paper? Will they be able to participate in the lessons, or will they just daydream? Would they daydream about a prosperous future that’s not achievable without a good education? Would they dream about never being bullied again for being “different” than the other kids who have school supplies?

If you’re hungry, homeless or without life’s essentials, your dreams may be different. I want kids to dream big, and with an education, they can create a path for success. If they have the right tools to succeed in the classroom, their good grades and participation can open the door to infinite possibilities.

In December 2016, the Hunger and Homelessness Survey stated Washington D.C. has 124 homeless people for every 10,000 residents. Nationwide, the rate of homelessness is about 17 per 10,000 people.

When it comes to school-aged children, there are about 3,551 homeless students in Washington D.C. alone. How can we empower the students in our community? How can we give them the materials they need for success? They are the next generation and they deserve the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty and to excel.

Can you join our dream? Feed the Children would like your help to make sure all children in the Washington D.C. area have a backpack to achieve their dreams. Our backpacks are filled with school supplies, hygiene items and healthy snacks  – all for the cost of only $20.

On June 8, we will participate in United Way’s campaign called Do More 24. It’s a 24-hour online fundraiser to help the 1,500 homeless kids in DC. Please join us by logging on to make an investment in the life of a child.

Visit the Feed the Children page on the Do More 24 website for more information http://domore24.org/npos/feed-the-children.

 

Why I Volunteer: Brenna’s Experience in Nicaragua

Written by Brenna Murphy, Feed the Children Volunteer

Nicaragua is an experience that had an immense impact on my life and the lives of so many others. I have always been very fond of Mother Teresa’s quote, “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean, but the ocean would be less because of that single drop.” My experience in Nicaragua really put this quote into perspective. I am beyond elated to be a drop in the ocean for the people of El Crucero, El Callao and any other community members we may have touched. I love the concept that although we may look different and speak different languages, we are all one. Across the world, there is love deep seated in the human heart, and I certainly experienced this in my short week in Nicaragua.

Since I have never traveled out of the country, I had no idea what to expect. When we finally landed, we took a big breath of the warm Nicaraguan air and enjoyed the ever-present friendliness. Throughout the week, I came to know Nicaragua as a home, and I think it will stay that way in my heart. The relationships I built during this trip has a special place in my heart, and I wish we could have stayed longer.

My sponsored child is a six-year-old girl named Ingrid. She has a fervor for life and a beautiful soul. A group of us had our sponsored child visits one day, so we hopped in the back of the truck and made our way down the dirt roads past the school we had been working with in El Callao. Her home was the second stop of the afternoon and I was so excited to meet her. After a short walk, I saw her past a fence of small palm-type trees. She stood there with one of the brightest smiles I’ve ever seen and immediately gave me a tight hug. Her mother was there to invite me into their home for a tour. Her home was no bigger than my dorm room and was comprised of a tin-like material on the outside with the base of the home comprised of wood. In the small room where we sat, there were dirt floors, a few chairs, and a shelf where Ingrid’s pet bird hopped around.

As I sat with Ingrid, I noticed her mood was affected by the commotion of six people in this small room. She immediately became shy and withdrawn. However, when everyone but her mother left the room, she let her guard down. During our time coloring in the Dora the Explorer book I brought her, I colored Dora’s eyes on one page green, and on the opposite page I colored them brown. I said, “Look she has green eyes like me and brown eyes like you!”  She smiled very big at the realization. I was so happy to have been able to experience such a short, but profound, set of moments with her and I loved knowing that she felt comfortable enough to open up to me. Just recently, I came home to a letter from Ingrid and I was beyond thrilled to see that she had written me back! She said, “We all truly thank you and may God bless you. I love you so much. You have no idea how happy you made me.” I hope to stay in contact with Ingrid for the years to come. The blessing of having a sponsored child is something I will carry with me for life.

 

There are many more stories like Brenna’s. Tag us on social media and use #WhyIVolunteer to tell us what inspires you to volunteer.

 

Oklahoma City Bombing: A Personal Reflection on a National Tragedy

Written by Pete Allen, Videographer for Feed the Children

Things sometimes affect us in ways we can never really predict. On April 19, 1995, I was in Durant, Oklahoma helping a food pantry give away a truckload of Feed the Children food boxes. With almost four years under my belt, I was a veteran of Feed the Children and I must admit I really loved my work.

Previously, I had been a television news man for the better part of a decade.The one thing I can tell you is the news business can make you a cynic.  I believed in nothing and I trusted little. And then one day by chance, I was watching television when I saw something that made me realize I needed a change. It was a Kodak commercial. Yes, a thirty second bit hawking the virtues of using that little yellow can of film in your camera. In the commercial, there was a father dancing with his daughter just after her wedding. There, in slow motion, was the culmination of a man’s hopes for his child; a happy life and Kodak 100 speed color film, 36 exposures. I remember sitting on the couch and thinking an ordinary person would be touched by such a thing but I felt nothing. It was in that exact moment I knew I had to make a change.  In just a few short weeks, I found myself at the door of Feed the Children and my twenty-six year odyssey as a humanitarian would begin.

I’m a photographer by title but working for FEED is really much, much more than just a job. It’s a way to help make the world a little better place by helping moms, dads and children who are facing hard times. During those four short years before the Oklahoma City Bombing, I had traveled all across our great country and around the world. Through my work of documenting desperation and hope in ordinary people, I had found that part of myself I had lost; my compassion for my fellow man. I had seen the results of disaster and poverty. I witnessed the uplifting of children and the generosity of people. But on April 19, 1995, I witnessed something very different. I witnessed the very worst and the very best of my fellow human beings. And to this day, it affects me.

I had been out visiting a family that morning. They were in the midst of a family crisis and were having difficulty putting three square meals on the table for their children. Fortunately, I was working for a company that just so happened to provide food to the food pantry in Durant. Funny how life works. After a very nice social moment with the family where we were able to give them a helping hand I drove back to the food pantry. When I got there the pantry operator was very upset. We went to her office and there was a small television on her desk and on it was the smoking image of a building torn apart. I couldn’t believe what I saw. My first thought was it must have been a gas explosion. Then I learned along with the rest of our state and our country just how devastating that smoking pile of rubble was. The people we lost. The children we lost. I say we because I believe we as a country collectively wept that day right alongside the mothers, and fathers and loved ones of those killed in that terrible moment.

As I drove back to the city I was struck by something so simple; headlights. Not wanting to sound like an old man but way back then headlights on most cars were something you had to turn on and off manually. It was a more analog world. Mile after mile, I passed oncoming cars with their headlights on. It was like I was witnessing the longest funeral procession in history and I suppose I was. After getting back to the office, I was immediately thrown into the work of bringing whatever help Feed the Children could bring in whatever way we could. We brought food, clothing, and personal care supplies for the emergency teams from as far away as California who had dropped everything and come to our city to help us. We even had dog food and bowls for the rescue dogs. If something was needed we did our level best to get it for them. I remember we found and flew in a portable pneumatic re-bar cutter because the rescue team needed it to cut apart the remains of the building without using cutting torches. Gloves, shovels, kneepads and a thousand other things. Tooth brushes, undergarments and work boots were just a tiny fraction of the things the brave rescue persons needed when they left everything behind and came rushing from all corners of the country to save lives. I worked on site everyday alongside my fellow Feed the Children team members doing what we could to provide comfort to the emergency personnel. It was an awful time. It was an uplifting time. Just being there watching those men and women struggle to find just one sign of life was heart wrenching. In the weeks and months afterwards we continued our work. We helped the families of those left behind. We cried with them and supported them in their grief. We got to know them personally and they became friends. Our work continued for several years after as the harshness of that day slowly began to soften.

Then, the Oklahoma City National Memorial opened. I have tried several times to go and see the memorial but I have never been able to walk through it completely. I have abandoned the idea of viewing it all. The memories of that day are still too strong within me to allow it.

Things sometimes affect us in ways  we can never really predict. For me, it was a silly commercial about a roll of film that led me to a job where I could be part of a team that brings help and compassion to the world. And sometimes, it lets me bring help and compassion to my neighbors.

Why I Volunteer: Erin’s Nicaragua Trip Reflection

Written by Erin O’Neill, Feed the Children Volunteer      

My week spent in Nicaragua felt surreal, like when you are having a dream you never want to wake up from. We spent most days in El Crucero. My group worked on a variety of projects that included building a fence, teaching the parents the Heimlich maneuver, baking, gardening, farming, and so much more. However, the most important thing we accomplished was connecting with the people in the communities. They had so much knowledge to offer us, and getting to share stories about our different cultures was a unique experience that I’ll never forget.

At the beginning of the week, my group was given a challenge: build relationships with the people in the community. This task intimidated me much more than I would like to admit. I knew we would have a translator with us, but there were 14 of us in the group and I had never taken a Spanish class in my life. Half of the time, I forgot there was a language barrier. They knew our Spanish was not the best, and we knew their English would not be the easiest to understand. However, they did not let that stop them from engaging with us, which brought me comfort.

I’ve spent the last several weeks trying to accurately put into words how truly amazing the week I spent in Nicaragua was. I’m still searching for those words. In those seven days, I felt something I have never felt before. Every single member of the community in El Crucero community opened their hearts, minds, and homes to us. They were incredibly accepting, and they constantly reminded us how grateful they were for our work. They did not let their lack of material items hinder them from dreaming big, which was especially true for my sponsored child.

Initially, I was incredibly nervous about meeting my sponsored child.   Little did I know, meeting him was going to be the best experience of my life. When I got to his house, I was taken aback. It was small and made of wooden boards. The only thing that hung on the walls were pictures of his family. The only light that was present came from the sun. Despite the surrounding environment and my original fears, this child was the perfect match for me.

When we went inside to have a conversation, I asked him about school. He made a face that told me something wasn’t right. His mother informed me that he had hydrocephalus and had to be taken out of school because the activity was too much for him to handle. He told me that he had surgery two months prior to help drain the excess fluid from his brain and he hopes to return to school soon. I started to tear up because I faced something similar two years ago. My heart is smaller than the average person’s and beats at a fast, irregular pace. I told him how I had to give up many things and had surgery to help fix it. I let him know that even though it took some time, I’m back on my feet doing the things I love again. After hearing that, he smiled super wide. He said that when he grows up, he wants to be a doctor so he can help others, the same way people helped him. I still cry every time I think about that conversation. It amazed me how selfless he is. A young boy, living in poverty, wants to be one of the most respected and regarded professions in the world, and I know he will not let anything get in his way of achieving that goal.

Since I’ve returned, everyone asks me the same question, “What was your favorite part of the trip?” It’s not about the best moment, it is a collection of the relationships I built with the community. There is not a singular memory that stands out, but a continual lesson that I learned: trust. Each person trusted us with their equipment, children, land, animals, crops, etc. They trusted us with their personal experiences, hopes, and opinions. Most importantly, they trusted as strangers. We came onto their territory knowing minimal details about their culture and work, but they welcomed us with open arms. They taught me a lesson in trusting and accepting others without judgement, and that is something I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Corporate Matching Gifts Matter

Written by Rhonda Watson, Director of Workplace Giving; Juli Marino, Development Operations Supervisor 

 

What’s better than feeding one child? Feeding two children.

What’s better than providing a backpack for one homeless child? Providing two backpacks for two homeless children.

Companies that match employee donations are helping Feed the Children to do just that!

In fiscal year 2016, we raised more than $340,000 from matching gifts. This quarter, Feed the Children would like to thank American Express for helping us double our impact by raising nearly $7,000 through its corporate matching-gift program.

We appreciate donors who take the extra step to help another child. Find out if your company will double or triple your donation with a corporate matching gift. Once your matching-gift request is submitted, we will follow up on your behalf!

Your donations and volunteer work help children, both domestically and internationally, to receive the food and essentials they need. For every dollar you give, you’re really giving two dollars.

Your contributions help children like Molly. Molly knows what it feels like to go to bed hungry, which is a feeling no child should experience. “When we run out of food, it makes my heart very sad and it makes me cry.” You can read more of Molly’s story here.

Here’s how to make a difference in the lives of children who are like Molly.

Payroll Deductions

Donating through your employer’s payroll-deduction program is a simple way to help children in need and their families. This benefit is very fulfilling and you won’t even feel the pinch from your paycheck. Yet, at the end of the year, every penny is tax deductible and can make a big difference in your annual IRS tax filing.

Single Matching Gifts

Current and new donors can do more by simply sending in a matching-gift request to your employer. A small effort can equal big results. Donors go through three easy steps to submit matching gifts:

  1. Make a donation through check or credit card directly to Feed the Children.
  2. Determine if your employer or your spouse’s employer offers a matching-gift program.
  3. Locate and submit the appropriate matching-gift form, or register the gift through your employer’s gift website.

Matching gifts give employees a voice about where their employer spends its corporate giving dollars.

More than 65% of Fortune 500 companies, and countless smaller employers, offer matching-gift programs. You can immediately evaluate your eligibility and gain access to detailed corporate giving information about your employer by searching Feed the Children’s database of companies with matching-gift programs.

Need more information? Send an email to workplace.giving@feedthechildren.org and we’ll work to help you double your impact.

A Season of Celebration

As the start of another Christmas season begins, it is often welcomed with mixed emotions of reflection from the year that we are about to put behind us. For me, this Christmas will be our daughter’s first Christmas with our family following the completion of her Ethiopia adoption just a few months ago! Unfortunately, this will also be our first Christmas without my Grandmother who went to be with Jesus this past May. Joy and pain, all colliding into one season of remembrance and celebration.

 

When I think about the first Christmas, I am reminded of how Jesus’ birth was cause for amazing celebration during a time of tremendous struggle. Have you ever considered how Jesus was born into poverty while his birth family was traveling as refugees? A stark contrast to my childhood memories of running down the stairs on Christmas morning to a warm, fire-lit living room filled with presents, food, and cheerful music playing…

 

But we celebrate not because of the condition in which Jesus was born into, but because of the world that He dreamed was possible through His Church. A dream in which no child goes to bed hungry.

 

This Christmas, Feed The Children’s artist program is partnering with the biggest names in the music industry to help inspire generosity in the season of giving through child sponsorship! Our goal: Let kids be kids! We want to be a part of building a world where children are empowered to grow, learn, dream, explore, wonder, and thrive! What if this Christmas, you and your family added another “first” to your list? What if the Christmas of 2015 will be remembered as the Christmas in which you sponsored a child at one of your favorite concerts? Join us on the Newsong Christmas Tour and The K-Love Christmas Tour this December to witness some of the best Christmas tours on the road and to hear about the great work that Feed The Children is able to accomplish because of faithful givers like you.

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Newsong Christmas (Newsong, Building 429, Plumb, Reno) 

12.2 – Marietta, GA

12.3 – Charleston, SC

12.4 – Kinston, NC

12.6 – Whiteville, NC

12.6 – Warner Robbins, GA

12.8 – Marion, IL

12.10 – Panama City, FL

12.11 – Pascagoula, MS

12.12 – Tallahassee, FL

12.13 – Woodstock, GA

12.14 – Port St. Lucie, FL

12.17 – Greenville, TN

12.18 – Kernersville, NC

12.19 – Fort Mill, SC

12.20 – Lakeland, FL

 

K-Love Christmas (Tenth Avenue North, Natalie Grant, Sidewalk Prophets, Danny Gokey) 

12.3 – Indianapolis, IN

12.4 – Pittsburgh, PA

12.5 – Reading, PA

12.6 – Stamford, CT

12.8 – Charlotte, NC

12.10 – Chicago, IL

12.11 – Lexington, KY

12.12 – Kansas City, MO

12.13 – Denver, CO

12.15 – Phoenix, AZ

12.16 – Albuquerque, NM

12.17 – Oklahoma City, OK

12.18 – Baton Rouge, LA

12.19 – Little Rock, AR

12.20 – San Antonio, TX

 

*All dates / cities subject to change without notice. Please refer to the artist’s website for the most up-to-date concert and ticketing information.

 

Merry Christmas!