I am doing something that I thought I’d never do. On January 23rd, I will be running my first ever marathon!
When I first learned that Feed the Children was the benefiting charity of the Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon in New Orleans this month, I made the commitment to run a full marathon on behalf of the children we serve.
I am 46 years old and prior to this experience have never considered myself much of a runner (though I have played other sports).
In fact, it had been several years prior to my current marathon training that I had even put on a pair of running shoes with the intent of running in them. The longest distance I had ever run prior to my commitment was 6 miles and that was a lifetime ago.
Number one question that my friends and family have asked over the last couple of months has been is this difficult? Absolutely!
In order to run 26.2 miles you have to train for months. Marathon training requires a lot of time, dedication and hard work. You have to be prepared to run in all kinds of conditions, the heat, the cold, rain and snow. Adding to the difficulty I experienced a fairly significant groin injury, had cortisone shots in both knees, and had muscle soreness like I have never experienced before, even during all my years of sports.
But, do the hardships that I have faced in my training compare to those faced by the children we serve each and every day?
Absolutely not! I accepted this challenge because I want to do my part to raise awareness on the issues of hunger.
Our vision of “no child going to bed hungry” will not happen on its own.
It will take each and every one of us to take a stand, make a commitment and unite together to defeat hunger.
As a father of four children, I cannot imagine my children having to worry about when or if they will eat again. Every child deserves to experience the awesomeness that goes along with being a kid and should never have to spend one second worrying about their next meal.
The fact that nearly 16 million children in our own country live in a food-insecure household is simply unacceptable to me. New Orleans is no exception with 1 in 6 people facing hunger issues on a daily basis. Yet, I believe the awareness we are bringing to hunger in New Orleans can change this!
What can you do to help Feed the Children realize our vision of no child going to bed hungry? Join Team Feed the Children as we run to end childhood hunger and make our miles meaningful. Join us or donate toward our efforts on our website.
Chris is the Senior Director of Corporate Donor Relations at Feed the Children.
Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love! – Hamilton Wright Mabie
Since 2009, I’ve been traveling the world with musicians, singers, songwriters and their teams in hopes of this very thing: to engage the world with love and involve as many people in this lofty pursuit as possible.
In 2013, I joined the team at Feed the Children as Director of Artist Relations, Child Sponsorship and Media excited about how I could champion Feed the Children’s mission that no child goes to bed hungry!
After all the miles flown and countries visited, I still believe that one idea, like this, can change the world. We’ve seen it happen throughout history and continue to see it today. But ideas alone do not bring about change. This is what I’ve come to know through my work: change happens when WE engage the world around us and come together with a common goal. Partnership is the key! When we work together, lives are impacted and change is evident.
Over the past year at Feed the Children, we have seen the ripples of change turn into waves through child sponsorship. With over 20,000 kids sponsored in 2014, these simple single acts of kindness have created a tsunami of love for children and families all over the world. Your gracious monthly gifts have not only provided necessities to sustain life but they’ve given hope and the opportunity to dream big.
Kids are laughing.
Kids are smiling.
Kids are playing.
Kids are being kids!
So, if you are a child sponsor…THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!! This is the message the children have for you!
You have chosen to impact the life of a child and to unite with us as we together engage the world around us with love.
From the entire child sponsorship team, know how grateful we are for you! Merry Christmas and have a Happy New Year!
I’m honored to represent Feed the Children at the 2nd International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) and at the Civil Society Organizations (CSO) Pre-Conference this week in Rome, Italy. I’m joining 10 Ministers (e.g., Ministers of Health, Ministers of Agriculture) and representatives from 160 governments there. The last ICN was held 22 years ago to urge governments around the world to commit to very specific actions designed to improve nutrition, both in the Global North and Global South (these terms are the preferred way to refer to what we used to call the Developed and Developing world or First/Third-world).
Right now, the framework for action being promoted at ICN2 contains a list of 60 policy and program options. We need to prioritize the options on this list if we expect measurable improvements in child nutrition.
One of the reasons that UNICEF’s child survival revolution was so successful in lowering child deaths is that they prioritized. They agreed to focus first on four specific actions, or interventions (referred to by the acronym GOBI – Growth monitoring, Oral rehydration, Breastfeeding, and Immunization).
This is more difficult to do in nutrition, but it’s still possible. I believe that in developing countries at least, we could (and should) focus on promoting three things : Essential Nutrition Actions, Essential Hygiene Actions, and women’s empowerment. This is entirely doable. I have also suggested language changes in the CSO Vision Statement about the importance of water interventions (e.g. purification) and improved sanitation which can improve child nutritional status, and those changes have now been incorporated into the document.
2. The need for research
No nutrition program/project conducted at scale (e.g. with 1 million or more beneficiaries) in a developing country has come close to normalizing child growth. We still need more research, and formative research (e.g. Barrier Analysis), but there has been little discussion here about the need for that. In spite of everything we throw at it, malnutrition remains a problem and any reductions are often much less than 50% in 4-5 year projects. That shows us that some of what we need to be doing is not being done, even when funding is available.
An example of the sort of interventions we may need:
Reduce maternal depression. One study by Pamela Surkan found that we could potentially reduce stunting by about 19-23% through elimination of maternal depression, and a randomized trial has been done that shows that depression can be reduced 93% at low cost in a developing country.
Eliminate open defecation (when people don’t properly dispose of human waste, it contaminates their water and soil and sickens their children). In many countries, this is a huge problem, and it’s one of the main causes that we see so much stunting in children in Asia despite the number of calories that they take in. When children live in a dirty environment, their immune systems are chronically activated, and they don’t absorb the foods that they eat as well. We know that is a large underlying cause of stunting. Learn more here. To see the sanitation conditions many children face around the world, look at these photos curated by photographers from Panos Pictures and Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor for World Toilet Day.)
For that reason, we need to push countries to conduct more formal and formative research to find what works in reducing malnutrition, and the barriers and enablers to behaviors that we know can reduce malnutrition.
3. Access to nutrition promotion as a right
We need to affirm that access to nutrition promotion is a right in the same way that access to formal education of children is a right. We know the lives it can save, and how it can decrease malnutrition at low cost, especially through the use of volunteer peer educators (e.g. Care Groups).
At Feed the Children, we focus our work on things that will help kids be kids. That means allkids. Not just kids in a certain country. Not just kids from a particular faith. Not just kids of a given ethnicity. Not just kids with specific ability.
When we say we have a mission to provide hope and resources for those without life’s essentials, that’s what we mean. No exclusions.
But that’s easier said than done for kids like Ester.
Ester is a happy 10-year-old—you’ll often see her with a smile. She lights up when she’s with her friends and cousins, or when she’s watching her family’s ducks waddle and peck, or when she’s listening to a good story.
Ester lives in the economically depressed community of Quezalapa 2, El Salvador, about 16 miles outside of the capital city, San Salvador. The community’s diet is based on rice, beans, vegetables, eggs, and tortillas, but Ester’s family can only afford to eat once a day, and most of their meals are limited to tortillas and beans—hardly the building blocks for a healthy child.
Most of the areas of the community have piped water service at home, but during the summer months, the water shortage reduces the service to only once every six days. But even that would be better than the non-potable water Ester’s family has to work with. They live on the edge of a ravine, where no public services reach.
The family is large and close-knit, 13 of them in all. Ester lives with her parents and little sister in a tiny house on the same land as her cousins and aunt, but they essentially live together—the kids all call each other brother and sister. Their houses are made of adobe and bamboo walls, sheet metal roofs, and dirt floors. They don’t have electricity or toilets—outside of the houses there is a latrine that they share with three neighbors.
But they’re a family, and that means they do everything they possibly can for each other.
Ester’s siblings and cousins learn and eat every school day at the center that Feed the Children runs in their community—but she has to stay home. Ester has cerebral palsy.
She doesn’t have the strength to hold objects in her hands, so she can’t feed herself. She can’t walk, so she’s wheelchair bound. And although her mind is absolutely there, Ester can’t speak. So her disability prevents her from attending a regular school. And unlike the resources available for kids with disabilities in the U.S., there are no accommodations, no special schools, and no affordable therapies for Ester in Quezalapa.
The areas where free therapy is provided for people with disabilities are out of reach for Ester. The main road that leads to San Salvador is inaccessible for her family: They would have to carry her 2.5 miles from the edge of the ravine, up an extremely rocky, twisting path. And even if they made it all that way to the road, they might have a very long wait for the sole bus that serves their community, which could very well be too full to accommodate her wheelchair. Besides, who can really choose bus fare over food?
So while Ester’s dad works as a farmer, earning around $2 a day, her mom and aunt take care of her at home. Ester loves the “home therapy” her mom gives her while she’s getting her dressed each day. She massages Ester’s hands, legs, and feet to relax her always-tensed muscles and to prevent blood clots from forming. She cleans and feeds her, and she’s deeply grateful for the meal that comes for Ester at noon:
“I’m happy because you are a big help for us. It’s very difficult for us to get food for this big family, and before you came we didn’t have a way to provide the nutritious food that you provide to our children.”
When Ester’s cousins come home from the feeding center, they bring her meal back with them. Because we fortify food at our center with vitamins and nutrients that kids need to grow healthy and strong, Ester’s mom has help in battling her daughter’s malnutrition.
“Thank you, Feed the Children, for the food—this is a blessing from you and from God, and I hope you can keep helping us with our children.”
We want to keep helping Ester until she doesn’t need help anymore, but with the limitations of her disability, that could mean her whole life. So that’s why we do more than just provide food.
At Feed the Children, we pursue advocacy initiatives that get us closer to our vision to create a world where no child goes to bed hungry. We are a global family, and that means we do everything we possibly can for each other.
One of our recent advocacy campaigns is the Disability Treaty. The Americans with Disabilities Act is the gold standard for the non-discrimination, equality of opportunity, accessibility, and inclusion for children and adults with disabilities, and the Disability Treaty is a 130-country-strong push to get those same protections for people worldwide.
According to the U.S. Department of State, “The challenge now is to ensure effective implementation and enforcement of the Treaty for the benefit of the world’s one billion disabled people.”
At the beginning of this school year, Henryetta’s youth pastor, Jeff Williamson, started a conversation with his students about the fact that every day 1 in 5 kids is at risk of going to bed hungry in the United States. He told his students: “How can this be here in America? There’s a need in our own city. We need to do something about it.”
His students agreed.
On October 11-12, Pastor Jeff and the students selected Feed the Children as their partner and planned a “fast” to raise money for hungry kids in their town.
Students asked church members, teachers and friends to sponsor them for every hour that they thought the student could go without food. Each student had to find 20 sponsors to donate $10 each. When the kids doubted they could find 20 sponsors, Pastor Jeff told them to count how many Facebook friends they had. That made the project seem easier.
Then they considered how the students would spend the hours of their fast. Pastor Jeff encouraged the group to gather at a local park and sleep outside for the night, like the homeless often have to. They agreed to sleep out, and not in tents or on air mattresses either. They slept in cardboard boxes. Even though it was colder than usual that night in the park, 25 students and 7 adults outlasted the night.
We asked Pastor Jeff how he got his students to sleep outside in the cold for a night. He said: “I challenged them to experience something new. I told them about all the people I’ve met in our town who camp out in the woods on a regular basis.”
Over and over, the students said the same thing about the experience: “I never knew how it felt to be homeless.”
In the end, their efforts raised over $10,000, which they have designated to bring one Feed the Children truck, filled with boxes of food and everyday essentials, to their community. The truck will arrive with a week’s supply of food, along with personal hygiene and household items, for 400 families in need. It is scheduled to arrive before the Thanksgiving holiday.
They’ve also approached several major grocery stores in their community asking them to donate turkeys. They hope to enhance the Feed the Children boxes with a free turkey and loaf of bread.
On October 20, members of the church visited with Feed the Children staff in Oklahoma City and presented the check for the funds they raised to Feed the Children President and CEO, Kevin Hagan.
Pastor Jeff said, “We want the community to know that we see them. They don’t have to be hungry over the holidays. God never intended the church to sit still while people are hungry in this world.”
When asked how families will be chosen to receive the food boxes, Pastor Jeff said they’re already working with school administrators in their town to select those who will receive the help.
We’re so proud of their efforts and what this group is doing to defeat hunger where they live!
While important, food will not satisfy all their needs.
Kids need to learn, in good schools, with well-prepared teachers—teachers who can offer kids every tool they need to grow into a successful future.
Feed the Children walks alongside teachers to help make this happen, as much as we are able.
Thanks to generous partners like the Office Depot Foundation, for the past three years, we’ve operated a Teacher Store within our distribution warehouse in Oklahoma City. (We have recently opened similar stores near Nashville, Tennessee and Elkhart, Indiana as well).
Two afternoons a week during the school year, the Teacher Store opens for instructors to shop for free for their classroom. They are given reusable bags to fill with whatever supplies they feel they need. They find everything from sets of books for reading groups, to markers, labels, bulletin board materials and classroom furniture, all available on a first come, first served basis. Feed the Children staff members greet each teacher and assist as needed.
Charme and JoAnn, teachers at Shawnee Early Learning Center in Shawnee, OK have been coming to the Feed the Children Teacher Store for the past two years. They both say that their kindergarten classrooms are better equipped to help kids learn thanks to the supplies from the Teacher Store.
Charme told us, “With budget cuts, money is tight at our school. Often we are spending our own money to buy supplies. But thanks to the Teacher Store, we are doing less and less of this!”
JoAnn added, “We love coming here because we can give our kids so many more opportunities to learn.”
Once a month, the teachers can return to shop again. Many do, and they bring their colleagues.
Debbie, a kindergarten teacher at Windsor Hills Elementary in Oklahoma City says she loves coming to the Teacher Store because, “The selection is great, especially the books. I find so many things here that I don’t have to buy on my own.”
The sad truth is that many kids in America arrive at school without the most basic supplies. How can children learn without paper, pens, computers, and books? How will they be prepared to make it as adults without adequate training in school? They won’t.
One special education teacher, Yeneer who works at Western Heights Elementary in Oklahoma City, told us that because the challenges her students and their families face are so great, school supplies are quite low on their parents’ priority list. Because of the Feed the Children Teacher Store, she’s able to provide her students with basic supplies.
“I love that my kids don’t feel less than,” she said. “With your help, my students feel more like all the other kids.”
That’s why it’s so important to us to support these teachers. When teachers receive the best resources possible, they’re free to focus all their energy and resources on teaching. And that gives their students every opportunity to learn and achieve great things.
We are indebted to the corporate donors who help stock our Teacher Stores each month, including TOPS Products, School Specialty, Excelligence Learning Corporation, BIC, Hachette Book Group, First Book, Disney Publishing, Scholastic and The Creative Company. They believe in our mission of providing hope for those without life’s essentials.
Together, we’re helping more kids be kids and learn to their fullest potential in school this year!
We’ve told you that to end childhood hunger, we need to empower children, unite forces, and attack the problem from all angles and that it takes all of us in the fight: donors, experts, organizations, communities and leaders.
But we haven’t yet told you more about values. At Feed the Children, these values motivate us:
Challenge convention: we believe that a future without hungry children is possible.
Defend dignity: we believe in treating each child and family in the communities where we work with value and worth.
Champion partnership: we believe collaboration is the only way to end childhood hunger.
Value every donor: we believe in donors playing an active role in ending childhood hunger.
Drive accountability: we believe in making changes when something isn’t working and building on the success when it is.
When some look at this list they may ask, “What happened to the word ‘Christian?’ Wasn’t ‘Christian’ one of your values before? Are you no longer a Christian organization?”
To answer these questions, we need to tell you bit more of our story.
In 1979, a group of Christian leaders sensed a calling to care for, protect, and feed children in need around the world. They read the exhortations of Jesus as recorded in Matthew 25 to feed “the hungry” and give water “to the thirsty” and provide “clothes” to those without.
In response, these Christians knew they needed to act. How could they not? Collectively, they began raising support and organizing leaders toward this cause, eventually founding the organization called Feed the Children in their hometown of Oklahoma City.
For over 35 years, Feed the Children has served thousands of communities all over the world and in the United States motivated by this same fact—Jesus teaches all of us to look after the most vulnerable citizens of this world.
And we’ve done so without discrimination. We’ve fed children with Christian parents. We’ve given water to children in Muslim nations. We’ve helped children learn in the slums of Central America. We’ve given children permission to dream big for their future in America’s inner cities.
We’ve done so because it is the right thing to do. How can you see a hungry kid and turn away? Jesus couldn’t. And many of our employees have joined our team out of their own faith calling. They work tirelessly on behalf of the children not only because they believe in the mission that no child go to bed hungry but because it is what Jesus said to do.
This is our faith story: Feed the Children is a show, not tell, organization.
The great saint of the church, Francis of Assisi once said, “Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words.”
This is why you no longer see the word “Christian” in our values statement. We believe we don’t need it.
In fact, we believe all of our value statements reflect who Jesus was and what he taught:
Didn’t Jesus challenge convention when he overthrew the money tables in the temple courts?
Didn’t Jesus defend dignity when he pushed the unlikely to the front of the line: the women, the children, and the sick?
Didn’t Jesus champion partnership when he chose 12 followers to journey alongside him for his teaching ministry on earth?
Didn’t Jesus value every donor when he taught the 5,000+ gathered on the mount and then fed them a plentiful meal too?
Didn’t Jesus drive accountability when he challenged the popular teachers of the day who were more interested making a dollar than they were caring for souls?
For these reasons and many more, our team is proud of our brand values. To live into a mission that loves, protects and defends kids is a worthy and exciting calling.
We believe the world needs more Christians who put feet to their faith and act on what they believe. Or as James 1:22 tells us, “Do not merely listen to the Word of God, but do what it says.”
This is most what we want you to know: Feed the Children is motivated by Jesus’ teachings every day. But you won’t find us congratulating ourselves from the mountaintops. With every child we feed, with every parent and caregiver of children we empower, with every community we engage with hope, we seek to BE Christ’s hands and feet in the world.
If you live in the United States, you’re reading this on our biggest patriotic holiday — Independence Day. We celebrate on July 4 with fireworks, cookouts, flags and bunting, apple pies, and parades.
We enjoy celebrating our national holidays, but we also find them to be good days to take an honest look at how we’re doing as a nation. The USA is a wonderful place to call home. But as the following infographic shows, we still have some work to do to ensure liberty and justice for all.
Who says a person is too young to make a difference? James Williams came to partner with us several months ago after a life-changing trip to Kenya while a college student. Afterwards he started his own company called udu. We asked him to share with our readers his story with hopes that it might inspire you to support his work and/or put feet to your dreams of changing the world!
The idea for udu began when a college friend brought me a gift from Kenya several years ago – a hoodie. It peaked my interest. Not only did the crazy colors and patterns make it a great product, but it was a piece of clothing that created a connection between me and the craft maker on the other side of the world.
A couple months later, I met Dr. Tony Ahlstrom of Feed the Children. Dr. Ahlstrom told me about all of the incredible work being done around the world and specifically about the impact they were having in Kenya.
I thought carefully about the connection between these two experiences.
After digging a little deeper, I discovered a widespread entrepreneurial spirit among the Kenyan people. The hooded shirt my friend had brought me served as an example, but the fact that no one else could buy one, no matter how desirable it was, served as a testament to the economic limitations those self-starters faced.
Eager to test my schooling in a real world setting, I set out to start a company centered on the mission to alleviate those limitations.
While studying abroad in Spain the next summer, I continued to develop my plan for how I would actually do this. This was my plan:
Step one: I bought a plane ticket to Nairobi without knowing a soul there and having no real plan of what to do once I got there. I would have four days in Kenya to figure out how to get this thing rolling.
Step two: I emailed Dr. Ahlstrom telling him I would be visiting Kenya and asking if he would put me in touch with the Feed the Children staff there. He graciously entertained my request and introduced me to Seintje, the regional director of African programs.
Step Three: I traveled to Kenya to begin work!
When I arrived, my first meeting was with Jude, a friend of a friend who lived in Nairobi. Jude showed me all around Nairobi and helped me begin looking for tailors like the one who had made my hoodie. We also checked out fabrics and talked business with some local dealers. Then we visited Jude’s neighborhood, Dandora. Here we found a plethora of local tailors and fashion entrepreneurs.
Eventually we came upon George. George has lost the use of his legs and lives and works from his shop in Dandora. He was excited by the opportunity I presented and agreed to make samples of the hoodie for me to take back to the US. With my samples now in progress, Jude and I made our way to Feed the Children to share what I’d already learned.
I showed the Feed the Children staff in Nairobi my hoodie and asked if any of the women who are a part of their tailoring program might be able to make something like it. They said yes, and I told them I would buy all the hoodies the women made. The next day I headed home with 14 sample hoodies and a partner in Feed the Children that would prove to be invaluable.
After the trip and a few months of product development over weekly Skype meetings with Feed the Children staff back in Nairobi, I created a company called udu, named for the traditional African drum because I have learned that with any experience like this, you don’t always know exactly where you are headed and that’s ok- you just learn to keep following the beat.
Today, things are going great with udu. In addition to George, we employ four tailors who are Feed the Children beneficiaries and have recently joined forces with some other Kenyan entrepreneurs to explore new products and opportunities.
Thanks James, for showing us all that we can be the change we want to see in the world! Want to learn more about udu? Connect with them on Facebook.
Shoes are more than a fashion statement or an effort to appear taller. Shoes keep us healthy. On April 29, 2014, we are going without shoes to help more people understand just how important shoes are to creating a world where no child goes to bed hungry.
Poverty is complex and can’t be solved any one single way. We all need to work together to help children get and stay healthy, go to school, and find opportunities for a better future. Wearing shoes is an important part of that.
One condition, called podoconiosis, is very debilitating, causing extremely painful swelling of the feet and legs. Podo affects more than 4 million people in at least 15 countries. (Source: WHO, 2013)
Podo can be prevented by wearing shoes and practicing good foot hygiene. Feed the Children gives shoes along with health education to children at risk of podo.
Feed the Children distributes TOMS to children in many of the schools where we work, enabling children to attend school regularly. Providing shoes with uniforms improves school attendance by 62%.
When we go without shoes on April 29, we will write the name of one of the children in our programs on our feet. We hope people will ask why so we can share how important shoes are for helping children stay healthy, grow strong, and go to school. Shoes really do help create a world where no child goes to bed hungry.