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.
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.
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.
It was quite the catch-phrase in its heyday. “What would Jesus do?” appeared everywhere – wristbands, coffee cups, t-shirts, tchotchkes, and more. It was supposed to remind people of faith (or so the story went) to ask themselves what Jesus would do in any given situation and do that, rather than what the person would do.
Michael Boggs is a Dove-award-winning contemporary Christian musician formerly of FFH. He told Feed the Children it was in a conversation with a friend that he realized it. “What would Jesus do” does not get all the way into the heart of how Christians ought to look at the world and live their lives. He asked himself, “What would Jesus UNdo?” That question forced him to confront the pain and brokenness in the world – things like hunger, poverty, abuse, disease, and hopelessness. Michael says he believes that Jesus came to undo them. But not only that, he also believes that Jesus calls his followers to join him in the undoing. This is the inspiration for Boggs’ newest single by the same name: “What Would Jesus Undo?” In collaboration with Feed the Children, he is offering FREE downloads of the single for a limited time. Will you help spread the word about the free download and encourage your friends and family to join? Share this post on Facebook to invite your friends and family to join. Tweet it with the hashtag #WWJU. Post an Instagram of yourself with a sign showing what you would undo, and make sure you include #wwju in your caption! All photos tagged #wwju will appear in the photo stream below.
What do you think Jesus would undo? Tell us in the comments, and include how you think you might help undo it, too.
Last year I attended a conference of several thousand Christians who were engaged and wanting to learn more about the ministry of caring for orphans. Many of the attendees were adopted themselves or were adoptive parents. Most everyone in attendance had visited or prayed for an orphanage at some point in his or her journey.
You could easily leave such a conference floating on a cloud as if the ministry of caring for orphans (and widows) as directed by the book of James was the equivalent of laying in a bed of roses.
Not that there weren’t breakout sessions about the difficulties that older adoptive children face. I encountered adoptive parents walking the halls telling about their emotional battle scars of grueling attachment processes. But the general message of the event was “Love conquers all. As people of faith, we must learn to love orphans.”
It’s easy to believe this is all it takes: willingness to love. But during my visits with Feed the Children’s orphanages around the world, I’ve experienced a different story. Love, while essential, is not always enough.
In November, I spent time at the Dagoretti Children’s Center in Nairobi, one component of Feed the Children’s work in Kenya. On a sunny afternoon, I walked to the playground on the compound with about 12 children ranging in age from 3-12 years, both boys and girls. I was excited to jump rope and kick the soccer ball and hug these precious ones I’d previously only spent time with in more formalized programs.
And over the course of the afternoon, no matter what I did, there was not enough of me to go around. The children’s English language skills were still developing so instead of saying words I was used to hearing on a playground like, “Come push me” I got a lot of my name. “Elizabeth, Elizabeth!” they’d say.
I was constantly running between children. And for as much as I took individual time with one child to push her on the swing and be present in that moment of connection, there was another boy doing a flip on the monkey bars wanting the same attention. When I praised one girl for swinging really high, I could tell by the look on the others’ faces that my actions were making them sad. But this wasn’t a pouty, temper-tantrum manipulative reaction we’re used to seeing in the United States, but a soul-deep internal doubt that asked “Am I worthy?”
Sure, this playground scenario is similar to that faced by parents of multiple children on a daily basis. But these moments laid bare the danger of loving particular children in an orphanage. Even the mildest, most harmless display of favoritism (what any parent would naturally show his or her child) in an orphanage causes pain and suffering in all of the children there. It is not good to be known as “the favorite” in an orphanage – not if that child is to remain in the community of children.
Even as I hurt for these precious ones—what I experienced growing up in a two-parent home is something most of them will never have—I remembered that these kids are the lucky ones. In Kenya, many abandoned children live on the street. The children at the Dagoretti Center receive care, clothes, food and schooling. They live in cottages with housemothers and fathers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They have drivers to take them to school. When you see their faces, you see a hopeful future full of possibility.
Yet even with all of this “privilege,” their hearts still hurt. Even with the support teams the Feed the Children family has formed, even though churches send food and missions teams deliver toys, even though the caregivers in our orphanages love and treat the children like their own (which ours do!), even though we rescue more kids off the street and place them in homes like Dagoretti, it doesn’t heal the wounds in their hearts.
Orphan care is complicated, non-linear, and begs many questions. How do we get through to their hearts? How do we help orphans know, really know, that they are beloved? How do we heal the wounds they carry without creating more? It’s a big conversation, and we need your voice in it.
But despite the unanswered questions, we don’t want to leave you with no way to respond.
At Feed the Children, we like to write and deliver cards to the children in our orphanages. If you visit our break room in any given month, you’ll usually see a box of cards, a pile of pens, and a list of names so that staff can take just a few seconds to write a personal note to one of the children in our care. We would like to include you, too.
Write a note to a child in the comments below telling them you care, and we will hand-write them into cards and deliver them for you. In a few months, we will post photos of them receiving the cards, so you can see how a kind note to say that someone cares brightened their day. And please, share this with your friends, family, and coworkers. Let’s shower these children with affirmation!
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!
“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
As it is in Heaven.
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.
The numbers are overwhelming. One in five American households with children were unable to put adequate food on the table at times during the year. One in eight people around the world regularly do not get enough food to live an active life. These numbers represent precious human lives and millions of children who lack what they need to reach their potential.
If you find yourself looking at these numbers, concluding that the problem is too big, and turning away, you aren’t alone. But just for today, don’t. Sit with it for a minute. Then know this: Hunger is a big problem both in the United States and around the world, but you can help.
We asked our staff to suggest simple things that ordinary people could do to help, not to feel better about ourselves but to truly make life better for the people around us who are going without.
Submitted by Jayme Cloninger
Leverage your skills in accounting, graphic design, business, etc., at your local community anti-hunger organization.
Submitted by Tony Forrest Sponsor a child in a developing country through Feed the Children. If you have them, involve your own children by sending letters and pictures to the sponsored child.
Submitted by Tom Davis and Jayme Cloninger
Track your grocery and other food costs for one week. Then take the Food Stamp Challenge, living on $4/day/person for your food, and donate the money that you save that week to a local food bank. If you can’t make it on $4/day, spend more, but commit to donating the same amount you would have given otherwise plus the amount that you went over the limit.
Submitted by Tamara Johnston and Justin Shumaker
Go in with your coworkers on a purchase from the FTC gift catalog.
Submitted by Jayme Cloninger
Host a movie night in your workplace, faith community or school to show a documentary on hunger (e.g., A Place at the Table). Follow up with discussions and brainstorming about what your group can do together to help.
Submitted by Kristen Mills and Minna Suh
Even if you don’t normally use cash, select certain purchases to pay for with cash this year. Save all the change (or, for an extra challenge, save your singles too). You will be AMAZED at how quickly this adds up.
Submitted by Hogan Thomas
Workplace activities are fun! Participants pay a small fee that you donate to a local charity. Here are some ideas to get you started:
sell 15-minute naps
host a game tournament (players pay a fee to participate)
allow employees to pay to take their dog to work
host a cook-off or bake-off (people pay to sample and vote),
host a Pay To Wear a Hat Day or a Wildest Tie or Most Outlandish Earring contest (entrants pay a fee)
On November 1, 200 million meals were removed from the tables of hungry Americans as cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) took effect.
On December 4, Feed the Children and other organizations are standing to say “enough.”
Contrary to the giving spirit of the season, Congress is now considering a Farm Bill which will bring even more drastic cuts to our nation’s number one emergency response to hunger. These harsh cuts would weaken our nutrition safety net and push the boundary of food insecurity for a staggering number of Americans — including children — who don’t know where their next meal will come from.
Organizations like Feed the Children, while efficient and innovative, can’t feed everyone. SNAP and other federal nutrition programs deliver 23 times the amount of food assistance that private charities can deliver.
Is government always the answer? Of course not. But sometimes, non-government organizations need help. Food banks are stretched as demand has increased nearly 50% since 2006. And 34% of Americans now admit they have cut back on donations to churches and houses of worship. It’s a plain fact: federal programs play a crucial role in the fight against hunger.
Feed the Children believes the private and public sectors must join together in this time of severe need. To that end, we are working with members of Congress to protect SNAP while improving its efficiency and effectiveness.
These next few days on Capitol Hill will be critical for 47 million Americans who utilize SNAP to put food on the table.
And you can help.
Contact your members of Congress at 1-800-826-3688. Not sure what to say? Here’s a place to start: As a constituent, I have strong concerns about the Farm Bill in Congress. I urge you to protect SNAP from more cuts. I understand the need to reduce the deficit, but increasing hunger is not the way to do it.
Here are some more ideas you can share with your members of Congress:
I urge you to protect SNAP from additional harmful cuts.
Cuts to SNAP in the Farm Bill will make it even more difficult for 4 to 6 million Americans to put food on their table.
The proposed cuts to SNAP will have the greatest impact on children and seniors.
Share this post with your social network, friends, and family and encourage them to join The Day of Action, too.
Further cuts to SNAP could be devastating. But it isn’t too late. Right now, at the start of this season of giving, you have the power to affect how Congress treats America’s hungriest people.
Will we allow more food to be taken from children who need it most, or will we make our voice heard?
Jayme Cloninger is Manager of Public Policy at Feed the Children.
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
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.
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.