Malawi: Something to Be Excited About

A Conversation with Trevor Moe, Senior Director of Government and International Relations

For us at Feed the Children, it’s always exciting to hear stories from the field first hand—whether it is from those who are on the front lines of defeating hunger in communities where we work or from our staff visiting programs in countries different from their own.

Recently, Trevor Moe, Senior Director of Government and International Relations based in Washington DC traveled to Malawi with Edna Onchiri, Public Relations and Communications Manager in Kenya. He came back thrilled about what he saw and experienced, and we thought you’d like to know about it too.

1237155_10201627258700445_1527329178_nBEYOND: Describe your role at Feed the Children and why you visited Malawi this month.

Trevor: In our Washington DC office, I wear a number of hats connected to both our domestic and international program offices. But the two main goals of my position are 1) business development—to help fewer children go to bed hungry around the world 2) public policy—to influence those in positions of leadership to make decisions that care for the most vulnerable among us. I went to Malawi under the umbrella of business development – to find out how we can do our work more effectively there.

In Malawi, our programs receive funding from three sources: corporate donors (we are especially thankful for our partnership with NuSkin), private donors, and U.S. government grants. We received a USAID grant for our work in Malawi that continues through 2015 and recently we received a grant to support some of our water programs.

The scope of my trip focused on how we can continue to be good stewards of all of our partnerships.

BEYOND: What about your visit to Malawi surprised you?

Trevor: I was surprised by how kind and welcoming the people were to me, an outsider. They say that Malawi is the friendliest country in Africa, and now that I’ve been there, I have to agree. Strangers on the street came up to talk, genuinely interested in me and my visit there.

I also was surprised by how devastating the poverty was! The people have so little. Children in Malawi are at risk of dire malnutrition. As a nation, they are eager for help, for knowledge, for methodology—for any wisdom that could improve their lives.

BEYOND: What do you think our donors would most like to know about our work in Malawi?

Trevor: I’ve been a lot of places in the Global South, but what I most want to say is that the work we do in Malawi is wide-reaching and very effective. We serve 842 communities! Feed the Children is fighting hunger all over Malawi in places others are not.

And I learned this: every child who receives deworming medication anywhere in Malawi gets it from Feed the Children. We are on the front lines stomping out hunger. Donors, you should be proud of the world you are creating there!

BEYOND: As you reflect on your trip now, what are the hopes of the people of Malawi? What do they want for their future?

Trevor: I think Malawians want what everybody wants for their lives. They want a better life for their children. They want to know that their kids will be taken care of and have opportunities to grow up strong.

In one of the villages I visited, I met William who is a carver. I asked him what he hoped for and he told me, “I want be able to provide for my family a tin roof.”

I asked, “Why that?”

“A tin roof would keep my wife and my two boys dry during the rainy season.”

He wants a tin roof. That’s all.

BEYOND: Anything else you want to share with us?

Trevor: I love my job. Every day, I’m seeking to connect resources to the Williams of this world. People who have dreams the same as I do and who just want to have a better life.

 

You Have a Role – Advocacy

Every day you and I actively participate in advocacy, influencing and shaping how we live life. Whether you’re trying to convince your friends and family to go to Chipotle over Qdoba, or you are leading a community or work project, your individual values and life goals influence how you lead and make decisions for yourself and others. You may not realize it, but you’re already an advocate.

At its heart, advocacy seeks to change the game and reconfigure the dynamics to improve a situation by engaging with community agents and decision and policy makers.

At Feed the Children, we pursue advocacy initiatives that drive us toward our mission to ensure that no child or family goes to bed hungry.

The great thing about advocacy is that anyone and everyone can play a role. You don’t have to be a lobbyist or policy maker to influence legislation or systems that affect child nutrition or foreign assistance. In fact, every time you cast a vote for an elected official or you educate your community on an issue you care about, you act as an advocate.

Advocacy by nature engages systems – schools, governments, organizations and companies. An issue as severe as hunger requires every facet of the community to be involved to formulate a solution that addresses the root cause.

advocacy march
Image credit: Glynnis Jones / Shutterstock.com

Feed the Children is only one part of the solution to ending hunger. By incorporating advocacy into our work, we collaborate internally and externally to bring together everyone – children and families vulnerable to food insecurity, governors, members of Congress, church leaders and volunteers – all to inform an improved local and national response to hunger and poverty.

As a value-driven organization, Feed the Children has the unique opportunity to carry out its vision by elevating the voices of children and families we serve to influence positive change and to help break the systemic cycle of poverty in their local communities. And you can be a part of this vision.  

A great way to begin participating in advocacy is to find your own, individual identity in the issue of hunger. Whether you, a family member or friend at one point were vulnerable to hunger and poverty, or you know of a community anti-hunger organization, it is important for us to be familiar with the stories and nature of hunger in our own community. Once we better understand how hunger impacts our own lives, then can we take the next step to tell the stories of struggle, hope and courage to our community and to key decision makers.

Stories are a powerful tool to influence change, especially on hunger. You can leverage and harness those stories to influence a passionate response to providing more nutritious meals for kids who struggle with hunger in the summer. You can influence how your member of Congress and Governor protect our nation’s number one defense against hunger – the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). You can educate your schools, faith communities and friends on SNAP in their area and how it serves the most needy.

These are just a few examples of how you can join Feed the Children in addressing the root cause of hunger and poverty through advocacy.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Sending America’s High Standards Around the World

Moses Odhiambo proved that disability is no excuse to one’s goal when he won the 21k wheelchair half marathon at the Standard Chartered Nairobi Marathon held on 27th October.
Moses Odhiambo proved that disability is no reason not to accomplish your goal when he won the 21k wheelchair half marathon at the Standard Chartered Nairobi Marathon held on 27th October. He grew up in Feed the Children’s Dagoretti Children’s Center in Kenya and received his first wheelchair from Feed the Children.

Disability prevents self-sufficiency

A child in Guatemala receives immediate relief from hunger with regular meals from Feed the Children. Her village’s water supply is made clean and safe; disease is kept at bay through proper sanitation. As she grows, she learns in Feed the Children-built schools.

When she enters early adulthood, many of her friends discover self-sufficiency through work at a local factory. But she does not. Cerebral palsy limits her appeal to employers, and there are no laws protecting her from discrimination based on her disability.

The final pillar of Feed the Children’s approach to breaking the cycle of poverty — livelihoods — is out of her reach.

Disability prevents valuable participation in relief

An Army veteran who lost both legs in Afghanistan wants to impart the skills he learned while deployed. He joins an international relief organization, eager to teach civil planning in emerging nations. But he finds that countries with the greatest need for his skills are the least friendly to people in wheelchairs.

This wounded warrior’s wealth of hard-won experience can’t be shared because of the simple yet insurmountable roadblock of inaccessibility.

An international necessity

“I visit the center often because FTC is my family, when I have personal problems, FTC always helps me,” Moses said.  Whenever his wheelchair needs repair, FTC-K take care of it. Moses is married and lives with his family.
Moses said, “I visit the center often because Feed the Children is my family.” Whenever his wheelchair needs repair, Feed the Children takes care of it. Today, Moses is married and lives with his family.

Each of these situations represents a breakdown at the most crucial point of a charitable process. And each is addressed by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities currently being discussed in U.S. Senate committees.

Ratification fell short in 2012 by just five votes. Feed the Children strongly believes the Disability Convention must be ratified in the current congressional session.

The Disability Convention contains provisions modeled after the United States’ own Americans with Disabilities Act, and it will bring the ADA’s spirit of justice and equality to all nations who sign on.

America’s gold standard for the treatment of disabled people will be exported across the globe, encouraging a uniformity of opportunity for those who need assistance in realizing their full potential.

A chance for America to lead by example

What the Disability Convention does not do is impose any added regulations on American businesses or private citizens. It simply provides a framework other countries can voluntarily use to bring their standards for treatment of disabled people up to our level.

So why should the U.S. lend its full support to this convention?

Because we are leaders who should be at the forefront of ensuring that opportunities are available to those with disabilities. Ratifying the Disability Convention will strengthen our credibility as we participate in international conversations that influence global legislation.

And as Secretary of State John Kerry says, we should set an example as we urge other nations to “be more like us.”

Vital to Feed the Children’s mission

At Feed the Children, we support that which supports our mission: providing hope and resources for those without life’s essentials. This mission extends to all who need our help.

We must not allow disability to keep people from self-sufficiency.

We must not allow disability to prevent those with hearts for service from serving others.

Feed the Children urges you to join us and over 750 other organizations in supporting this vital agreement. Make your voice heard today at DisabilityTreaty.org’s Action Center.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities won’t guarantee an easy road for the world’s one billion disabled people. But it will help organizations like Feed the Children fulfill our mission — for everyone.