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.

 

One Dollar at a Time: Fifteen Year Old Raises More than $15,000 to Fight Hometown Hunger

Written by Samaiyah Islam, Communications and Media Relations

When you ask Peyton Olinski (15) about what motivates him to give back, his answer is simple, “I know that I have been very fortunate in my life with school and family. Knowing that there are kids out there who don’t have life’s essentials is really shocking and I want to do what I can to help.”

Peyton is a Fairport High School sophomore who raised more than $15,000 to feed 400 families in the Rochester area. Peyton has been focused on two things his entire life: baseball and giving back to his community. From working in various local soup kitchens, to being a part of Asset Leaders, LEO Club, and winning a humanitarian award at his school, Peyton has been thoroughly dedicated to helping his neighbors.

He started his campaign in November 2016, when he learned about Feed the Children’s work through a former Major League Baseball player who lives near Peyton’s grandfather. He then spent six months raising the money to sponsor a Feed the Children semi-truck. Each truck supplies families with a week’s worth of much-needed food and essentials. In order to raise funds, Peyton called local companies, he talked to fellow peers and he got many Fairport teachers involved in his work. “It was hard to get some companies involved in our mission,” said Ryan Olinski, Peyton’s father. “We got a lot of no responses, and it stalled for a second, but we really owe the bulk of our campaign to the generous people who donated in our community.”
IMG_2361

Despite a few no’s, Peyton stuck with his mission and sent individualized thank you notes to each and every donor. The campaign officially hit its goal when Mulconry’s Irish pub & Restaurant hosted a raffle of local donations and a band to play for three hours while Peyton’s former and current teachers worked for tips. All money generated that night was donated to his campaign. That night alone, they made $3,000, pushing them over their $15,000 goal.

In late May, Peyton and many volunteers and baseball players from Elite Performance/PAC Training Center worked together to distribute boxes of food to those in need. With 34 percent of Rochester citizens living below the poverty line, Peyton’s actions meant the world to many local families.

“I feel like everyone should give back on some level,” said Peyton. “The feeling that people are benefiting from our actions is wonderful. I want to always give back to my community.”

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.

Michael and His Brother

michael_and_bernard

All eight of them crowd into a tiny, one-room, aluminum shack in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. Their grandmother has been crippled since childhood from a severe case of Polio. Her only means of making money is to beg on the streets—something she’s had to do her whole life—but wishes she didn’t have to do. Sadly, for a handicapped person in this part of the world, employment opportunities are pretty rare. On a good day, Rose may get $2 – $3. But with so many mouths to feed on so little money, running low on food, or completely out, is a common problem for this family.

Because of generous child sponsors like you, the tragic circumstances Bernard and Michael are living in would look completely hopeless. Your faithful support provides a lifeline of help and hope for children like these brothers. Your on-going monthly gift is helping your sponsored child receive things like healthy meals every school day, deworming medication, educational supplies, shoes, water and sanitation, livelihood development and other life-changing assistance. These necessities and tools are helping children to grow up healthy and strong. They’re also receiving the support and motivation they need to attend classes every day, pay attention to their teachers and study hard.

When we asked Rose how the food and other assistance that Michael and Bernard receive is helping her grandsons, she told us …

“Without it, it’s not a life.”

Think about that … you are offering children a chance for a better life, a brighter future and giving them hope and courage to reach for their dreams, like other boys and girls. It’s hard to put into words how much of a difference you are making. Without your compassion and commitment, who knows what will become of children like Michael and Bernard. But with your help … you are changing the world one child at a time!

Give Now

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.

FEED’s Drought Response in Samburu and Turkana County

Written by Edna Onchiri, PR & Communications Manager (Kenya)

 

SAMBURU COUNTY

Feed the Children has been working in Samburu County – Samburu East Sub County since 2011.  Our programs are implemented in Archers Post, Weso West, Sereolipi and Ndonyo Wasin locations.  This region does not have reliable water supply, hence there is limited water access in the region which makes both the indigenous population and wildlife seek and share the resource from the same area.

The communities in the four areas where we work relies on River Ewaso Nyiro, a body of water that is mostly relied upon by the wildlife in the area for their crucial survival.  There are a variety of wildlife in the area including elephants, zebras, giraffes, lions and a variety of different species of wild animals.

In response to the water problem in Samburu, FEED has so far constructed four water pans in the area.  The water pans provide water for community members and to their domestic animals.  Before construction of the water pan, residents of Waso location used to walk long distances (20 – 30kms) to get water from River Ewaso Nyiro.

The water pan can hold water for up to seven months after every rainy season (April – May, Oct-Nov).

When the rains fail or they are inadequate like they were in 2016, the water pans are not able to adequately serve communities.

 

Current Situation in Samburu

A Food Security Short Rains Assessment report that was conducted between December 2016 and January 2017 in Samburu indicated that, rainfall cessation was early and below average with situation predicted to worsen. The available pasture expected to last for less than 4 weeks with milk production below normal. Food security status and prognosis showed that the current situation is at stressed phase (phase 2).

The major water sources (R. Ewaso Nyiro and springs at Kom) have dried up posing serious water problem for both human and livestock. People have migrated with the livestock to the neighboring counties and some as far as Mt. Kenya in search of water and pasture. Water access has been major challenge with sanitation and hygiene conditions also deteriorating.  Mothers are forced to walk up to 15kms in search of water for their children. Young boys have also joined their parents in search of water and pasture leading to the high dropout rate of boys from schools. With no water in some of the schools and ECDEs children have been forced to stay at home with some ECDEs being closed.

 

TURKANA COUNTY

Feed the Children has been working in Turkana County since 2013.  FEED programs are implemented in Namukuse and Kalokol locations.  Although Lake Turkana lies in this county, it is far from where FEED has implemented its activities.

The location has a limited number of water points with communities travelling over 10Km to collect water from shallow wells along river Lochor Aikeny (seasonal) and Nasura well. The community has been depending on these far distant water sources for domestic use.

Feed the Children constructed an infiltration gallery in Lochor Aikeny in 2014 with support from Turkana County water office.  The water from the gallery is clean and safe for consumption and was meant to benefit Lochor Aikeny Primary School and the community at large.

Although the infiltration gallery was to provide water for the community throughout the year according to the tested yield, this has not happened due to technical challenges.

 

Current Situation in Turkana

The drought continues to bite in Turkana. In the past weeks there have been responses from the national and county government. Communities have received maize and beans but the supplies won’t last for long. Water shortage is critical. Turkana County Government has been conducting water trucking in selected points, however, the delivery is irregular and does not serve the hard to reach areas. FEED distributed CSB to all the schools we work in and hope to truck water trucking to the same schools. There were minor showers this week but the water sources have not re-charged.

Providing Emergency Support to Drought-Stricken Northern Region of Kenya

Written by Edna Onchiri, PR & Communications Manager (Kenya)

 

As the drought that has caused water and food shortage in parts of Kenya continues, Feed the Children’s office in Kenya is busy working with communities, and the county governments of Samburu and Turkana to address water and food shortage in primary schools and Early Childhood Development Centers (ECDCs).

Focused on some of the hardest hit areas where FEED has implemented programs, the organization is ramping up a number of key activities to assist with emergency response.  Some of the ongoing interventions include logistical support to provide at-risk children and their families with nutritious porridge flour and water.  Providing health education to communities about water treatment, and working with communities to ensure correct hygiene steps are taken when preparing porridge.

The major water sources in Samburu and Turkana counties have dried up posing serious water problem for both human and livestock.  Water access has been a major challenge with sanitation and hygiene conditions deteriorating.

Mothers are forced to walk long distances in search of water for their families, and children have taken to joining their parents in search of essentials which leads to school dropouts.

With no water in some of the schools and early learning centers, children have been forced to stay at home with some ECDC’s closing down.

In responding to the drought situation, FEED has partnered with the County Government of Samburu and Turkana to provide Corn Soya Blend (CSB) flour and water to more than 9,000 children.

Primary schools and ECDCs continue to benefit from the three-month supply of porridge flour and water.  The supply began in March and will run through to May when it is expected that the rains would have fallen for crops to grow and water to fill their sources.

According to a March 2017 report by OCHA highlighting the impact of drought and conflict on women and girls, the drought has forced women to make agonizing decisions on whether children can continue to attend school.  The report says that in Kenya, 180,000 children dropped out of school due to drought with a majority being girls.

We are prepared to do all that is possible to help communities minimize and address the effects of the drought and subsequent food shortage, and save lives.

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.

$6 A Day is Not Enough

$6 a Day is Not Enough

Thankfully for this family however, there is a lifeline – And it’s YOU!

Because of your compassionate support, there are some exciting projects going on in their village that are bringing help and change for children like Pedro and Jose. Our school meals program provides children with a hot, nutritious meal five days a week. Children like Pedro and Jose now have a large, nutritious meal every school day that is helping them to grow healthy and strong.

Your faithful support as a child sponsor is impacting the community where your child lives by providing help like deworming medication for children, education and literacy programs, sanitary water, and other educational activities that are building a healthier, thriving community.

Every dollar you generously give – every month – is an act of love that is truly transforming communities, families and the futures of children like Pedro and Jose. Without your help, their chances for a better tomorrow would be slim.

Thank you for your generous support. Children like Pedro and Jose are smiling and filled with joy because of friends like you. You are changing the world… one child at a time.

Donate to Unsponsored Children