What Makes Feed the Children Unique? A Look at Kenya

Feed the Children recently interviewed Ben Greene, Vice President of Sponsorship and Media, after his first trip to visit the communities we serve in Kenya. 

FTC: Could you tell us when you joined the staff at Feed the Children and what your role is on our team?

BG: I joined Feed the Children in November of last year. I serve as the Vice President of Sponsorship & Media. This simply means that I work with our child sponsorship team to find ways to ensure even more children in developing countries are given the opportunity to thrive in life.

FTC: You recently traveled to Kenya to visit our staff and field programs there. Could you tell us when and why you made this long journey?

BG: Yes, from January 28- February 5th I traveled to Nairobi alongside one of our artist partners, Warren Barfield and his team. As a new member of the Feed the Children staff I was eager to get to the field and see the work myself. And because artists like Warren will be telling the Feed the Children story at events to potential child sponsors, they need to see and experience firsthand what we are doing on the ground. Together with Warren, it was wonderful to see the children we serve in the Dagoretti Children’s Center orphanage, those we serve in the slums in the city of Nairobi, and also those in Maparasha, a rural community.

S94A3872

FTC: You came to Feed the Children after having worked with two other similar large international non-profits. What stood out to you as you experienced Feed the Children’s programs first hand in Kenya that distinguishes Feed the Children from other organizations?

BG: In my work with organizations, I have been all around the world. And I know this: it seems that most organizations choose to either meet immediate needs and deal with the pressing issues of a community, or they decide to participate in development which helps the communities think long-term. I see a unique distinctive with Feed the Children in that we do both.  We do feed children, especially in schools. Full tummies means effective learning for the day. But we also work with community leaders to develop better systems of healthcare, agriculture and education as well as livelihood development for the future. While in Kenya, it was wonderful to see communities engaged in all sorts of projects dealing with beekeeping, greenhouses, and water and sanitation. We truly are doing the work of holistic development— or as many folks in our industry like to say “giving a hand up and not just a hand out.”

FTC: Could you tell us more about a memorable experience you had while you were in Kenya.

BG: Being in this line of work for a while now, I’ve always said I aim to support the work of an organization that looks after the most vulnerable in our world. But, what an eye-opening experience it was visiting with the “Hardy Boys” in Nairobi! I realized I still had much to learn about what this means. The Hardy Boys are a group of 10 young men in their 20s who have aged out of our orphanage, but for whom Feed the Children will have a life-long relationship with because they are unable to care for themselves on their own due to certain disabilities.

S94A4131

As soon as we walked into their home, I was overwhelmed by their joy as the smiles never left their faces. After sharing a meal together, Warren began to play his guitar as we sang the song, “Everlasting God.” When we got to the words that said, “You’re the defender of the weak and You comfort those in need” I couldn’t help but think about the poignancy of those lyrics in that moment.  I realized that these “boys” are what my work is all about. You can’t get much more vulnerable than living with special needs in the developing world. But even with all of their challenges the Hardy Boys couldn’t help but sing. This is what my work at Feed the Children is all about—protecting the most vulnerable like them. I think about them often now.

The Journey of Hope Begins with the End of Violence

Today, we’re honored to partner with International Justice Mission on the launch of IJM president Gary Haugen’s book “The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence.” When they spoke with us about the book and the video below, they asked us to share a story of the impact of violence on the children we serve. We immediately thought of a poem and story we received recently from Seintje Veldhuis, Feed the Children’s Regional Director of Operations and Programs for Africa. But before we share her words with you, please watch this video.

***

People ask me all the time, “How can one person make a difference?” And when they ask, I hear what they are saying. The problems of this world are so huge and our despair so great. It can be overwhelming. I know this from personally dedicating over 19 years of my life to communities in need in Africa.

However, in the end, I believe it is always just about one child. It’s about making a difference in one boy or girl’s life. It’s about doing what we can to ensure he or she has a better future. Acts of violence can steal the innocence of a child and take from them the security that all of us deserve to have.

I’ve seen this loss of innocence, security, and hope over and over in the children we serve. My years of work among the poor have taught me this: our work is to love.

I wrote this poem to introduce to you one of the babies that recently arrived at Feed the Children’s Abandoned Babies Center in Nairobi. She came to us because a senseless act of violence took her family away. Her story, while unique, is not completely dissimilar from many of those who come into our care. Without the support of Feed the Children, children like this would not have hope for a better future. With all our support, their future is boundless! We proclaim loud and clear that violence will not win, but hope does!

baby blog crop

“Journey of Hope”

I was tightly wrapped in a blanket and my sister’s arm; newly born,
Mother next to me on a rough road, in a bus keeping me safe and warm.
Just discharged from the hospital, on our way home,
Hardship and poverty ahead, but at least not alone.

Before I could even make one choice
My family was housed in a slum, filled with junk and noise.
One sister wheel chaired for the rest of life
And a brother fighting AIDS to survive.

But all of us were building hope on Faith, the educated one we adore,
As she was completing this year in form four.
She was our only source of hope, for my brother in despair,
And my sister in wheelchair for my Mum with no income
Is there a way out from this slum?

Suddenly, I am shocked and shaken by a loud bang and blast
It all happened very fast,
No longer was I hiding in my sister’s embrace,
Or could I gaze on loving eyes of my Mother face.
People screamed, cried and died
The terrorists, El Shabaab were as killers identified.

I was later found by my Auntie as a miracle child.
She took me to ABC Home were everyone was so kind.
I was cleaned, fed, cuddled and loved from the very start
Though my beginning was forever marred.

I cannot tell you my real name, as I became the Media’s fame,
And news spread very fast about this criminal blast.
I don’t know why I was born in such misery
Losing my Mum and sister in this tragedy.

But terrorists who throw grenades and bombs
Will not forever murder babes and Mums.

As long as you will stand up, and join the voiceless loud and clear
Your work will shine, spark and speak without fear.
I have joined the homeless, fatherless and motherless just after my birth
But the poor of Spirit will inherit the Earth.

Feed the Children became Christ to me
As hope and light came into my tragedy
As I now walk the Journey of Hope with you today
Knowing that all children will be found and freed one day.

I will be found by a Mum and other Home
Dream of a better slum, and never be alone,
His Kingdom come,
His will be done
On Earth
As it is in Heaven.

Baby Blessing.

Seintje Velduis was born in Holland and has worked for Feed the Children for seven years. She currently serves as Interim Director of Operations and Programs – Africa, based in Kenya.

TOMS and Feed the Children Bring Smiles to Honduras

Shoes and Hunger

Feed the Children has learned many lessons while pursuing our mission across 23 countries. Among the most important: countless factors contribute to poverty, and they are all interconnected. We can bring nutritious meals, clean water, and education to a child, but all that progress can be halted by one unforeseen event.

A difficult roadblock on the path to health are the infections and diseases children contract when they don’t have shoes to protect their feet. Parasites can easily invade a shoeless child and steal all the nutrition our food provides. Feed the Children administers medicine that fights these parasites, but it’s vital to prevent the child from contracting them in the first place.

Help from TOMS

TOMS knows the central role adequate footwear plays in long-term wellbeing. Through their One for One concept, every pair of  shoes TOMS sells means a pair of new shoes is given to a child in need. And it doesn’t happen just once — in partnership with Feed the Children, TOMS is committed to continue helping kids as they develop and grow.

Feed the Children, a TOMS Shoes Giving Partner, distributes shoes to school children about twice a year. Last month, we had the pleasure of giving the shoes to children in our Honduras education programs while giving the Honduras Minister of Education a tour of these schools.

The children’s smiles told the story as they happily received their new shoes.

The children lined up to greet Francisco Torres of Feed the Children - Honduras, as he brought some very special guests on a tour of schools participating in the Feed the Children Honduras Education program.
Schoolchildren lined up to greet Francisco Torres of Feed the Children – Honduras and his very special guests.
The children created signs and decorations to welcome their honored guest, Marlon Escoto, the Minister of Education of Honduras.
The children created signs and decorations to welcome their honored guest, Marlon Escoto, the Minister of Education of Honduras.
Feed the Children staff organized the new pairs of TOMS as Minister of Education Escoto helped by measuring the children’s feet.
Feed the Children staff organized the new pairs of TOMS as Minister of Education Escoto helped by measuring the children’s feet.
Our staff repeated the process throughout the day as Mr. Escoto and the staff brought the shoes to children at several Honduran schools.
Our staff repeated the process throughout the day as Mr. Escoto and the staff brought the shoes to children at several Honduran schools.
New TOMS = smiles!
New TOMS = happy faces!
As he walked through the community, Minister of Education Escoto was greeted by children wearing their new pairs of TOMS.
As he walked through the community, Minister of Education Escoto was greeted by children wearing their new pairs of TOMS.
The children in this preschool are much less susceptible to disease and nutrition-robbing parasites with their new shoes.
The children in this preschool are much less susceptible to disease and nutrition-robbing parasites with their new shoes.

School-based Meals Bring and Keep Children in School

In addition to receiving new shoes, the minister of education joined the children for the meal provided by the Feed the Children education program.
In addition to receiving new shoes, the minister of education joined the children for the meal provided by the Feed the Children education program.
lunch 1
350,000 children are fully engaged in our child-focused programs, which provide nutritious meals every school day.
As part of his visit, Minister of Education Escoto thanked the mothers who volunteer to help Feed the Children prepare healthy nourishing food.
As part of his visit, Minister of Education Escoto thanked the mothers who volunteer to help Feed the Children prepare healthy nourishing food.
He also visited a school’s thriving vegetable garden, a good example of Feed the Children’s Four Pillar approach to poverty.
He also visited a school’s thriving vegetable garden, a good example of Feed the Children’s Four Pillar approach to poverty.

The Four Pillars address food and nutrition, water and sanitation, health and education, and livelihood development, all with the goal of helping people out of the cycle of poverty.

At the end of his visit, Minister of Education Escoto met with the staff of Feed the Children – Honduras.
At the end of his visit, Minister of Education Escoto met with the staff of Feed the Children – Honduras.

Cooperation between Feed the Children, local government, and generous companies like TOMS multiplies the positive effects we have on a community.

With nutritious food to sustain them, shoes to help protect them from infections, and education to guide them through tomorrow, these children in Honduras have the opportunity to improve their circumstances in ways that will last for generations.

Your support of Feed the Children continues to make it possible.

Beyond Bowls of Beans: How We’re Defeating Hunger Overseas

Today’s post is the first in a four-part series introducing you to our proactive, sustainable approach to ending international poverty and improving livesOur Four Pillars—Food & Nutrition, Health & Water, Education, and Livelihoods—comprise an 8- to 10-year, integrated program that equips and empowers impoverished families and communities to achieve self-sufficiency.

Today we’ll take a look at the Food and Nutrition pillar, where we work toward positive, lasting change by making nutritious food consistently available in some of the poorest communities in the world.

It’s not about shock and awe—it’s the truth: Poor nutrition causes nearly half (45%) of deaths in children under five – 3.1 million children each year. So this is where we begin the battle. The development of positive, lasting change is untenable as long as malnutrition is taking lives—so our first step when we arrive in an impoverished place is to defeat hunger.

That’s a huge mission.

But we bring an arsenal of effective weapons and a precise strategy for defeating this enemy. Our approach in each situation depends on a community’s particular needs. So from Africa to Latin America to the Philippines to Haiti, we take aim where it’s needed most:

  • We construct or improve kitchens or feeding centers and energy-efficient stoves
  • We provide regular, hot, nutrient-rich meals through our school and community feeding centers
  • We offer nutrition education that includes the basics of achieving healthy, balanced diets, as well as training for children and adults about proper food preparation, handling, and storage
  • We distribute take-home rations, cooking pots, and utensils
  • We give agricultural training for the improvement of farming and irrigation, and we teach organic vegetable gardening to families, schools, and communities to help them establish and improve their own plots with healthful, indigenous produce
  • We distribute food supplements for pregnant and lactating mothers, deworming medication for children who can’t absorb nutrients, and vitamin supplements for malnourished children

And surely, steadily, with your help, we advance our cause.

school children at lunch in Guatemala

In El Salvador, we zeroed in on Ahuachapán, one of the country’s regions with the highest number of malnutrition cases among children under 12 years old. VitaMeal rice is a staple of our direct feeding program because it contains the vitamins and nutrients that malnourished children need to become healthy. We partnered with the Municipality of Ahuachapán, who brought in a nutritionist to work with the mothers of the 82 children who were starving in three of Ahuachapán’s poorest areas. We delivered 82 bags of VitaMeal, which she taught them how to prepare.

But this is not a one-and-done deal. We will continue to send each child one bag of VitaMeal every two weeks until they are no longer malnourished. Once all the children in those three areas are healthy, our El Salvador staff and the Municipality will move the project to other poor communities in Ahuachapán. And with every move, we win another battle against hunger.

In communities where we’ve implemented school- and community-based feedings such as these, we’ve seen attendance and enrollment increase more than 60%. This means that rather than spending their days scavenging through trash dumps or searching the streets for food, children come to school for the food they so desperately need—and with their meal, they also receive an education.

And education means hope.

Roxanna and her sister carry water for their family
Roxanna and her sister carry water for their family

Nine-year-old Roxana lives in the mountains, a treacherous 75-mile hike from Guatemala City. She and her six siblings crowd into a single-room cement block house with their parents, and her father tries to support them on four dollars a day by laboring hard to plant and maintain coffee trees for crop owners. Four dollars—the cost of a cup of coffee—is what Roxana’s father earns to harvest it.

They have no running water. The only water source the community has is a hike down to a tiny spring that they’ve rigged a rubber pipe to. The water is often dirty and sometimes they barely get a trickle. Several times a day, the women and children of the tiny community haul the water in jugs up and down the mountain. It’s a daily struggle just to get water—never mind food.

So our feeding center at her school is literally a life-saver for Roxana. Before we built the center, Roxana was severely malnourished. Now she and 130-150 other children receive regular, nutritious meals, medical care, and education when they walk through our doors. Roxana is fed—not just with food, but with hope. At school, she’s discovered that she loves math—she wants to be a teacher. And with a healthy body and hopeful heart, Roxana is a victory.

Hunger will not win.