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!

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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

The Importance of World Water Day

Written by Caitlin Duncan, Government Relations Fellow

For World Water Day 2017, we at Feed the Children (FEED) would like to invite you to imagine a few simple scenes. First, imagine a sweltering summer day and how much you would savor a cup of cool water. Next, imagine finally getting to bathe after a long day of work or travel. Lastly, think of getting up early to cook a big pot of oatmeal for your family’s breakfast. Now in your mind’s eye, was the cool water you drank a cloudy yellow color? Did you have to walk a mile or more to bathe in a murky river or pond? Did you consider that your family might become ill from the food you cooked with contaminated water?

The UN has declared access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) a human right. And for many who read this, clean water is so readily available that we may have never considered how different our lives would be without it. Our water is always clear and clean, which is something to be grateful for. However, for the estimated billions of people around the world without easy access to safe, clean water, this lack puts a constant strain on their health and time. Ensuring adequate WASH practices is a key global health initiative, and FEED works diligently to develop and maintain Health & Water program activities to this end. These activities vary from building water pans to collecting water from underneath dry riverbeds; from capping springs to providing safe water containers and water-treatment products.

The following anecdote provides a snapshot of the difference that such interventions can make.

In Northern Uganda, four-year-old Kidega Julius lives in a community where food insecurity had long lingered and the only water source used to be a stream in a swamp, a good distance from his home. The milky-white water was shared communally with all the people and animals in the village. It contained snakes and frogs, and it was unsafe for domestic use. With donor support, FEED constructed two shallow wells in Kidega’s village so that clean water is no longer scarce. Children can drink it, parents can cook with it and everyone can wash with it.

Clean water and proper hygiene also make a huge difference in nutritional outcomes. It doesn’t matter how healthy a child’s diet is, if all the child drinks and washes with is dirty water. That is why our Health & Water projects include presentations, home visits and campaigns to encourage proper hand washing and to teach communities how to avoid common waterborne illnesses.

While Kidega’s life has changed for the better with access to clean water, the UN estimates that more than 2 million people die every year from diarrheal illnesses linked to poor hygiene and unsafe water, and that 1.8 billion people still get their drinking water from a source that is contaminated with fecal matter. So this World Water Day, we at FEED hope that you are inspired to take action on WASH issues. You might decide to generate awareness in your community, donate to programs that provide access to clean water or keep abreast of how your congressional representatives vote to fund WASH initiatives. So how will you celebrate World Water Day?

Read more about our Health & Water work, and consider shopping our gift catalog to provide clean water to communities around the world.

FEED Celebrates National Agriculture Day

Written by Andrew McNamee, Manager of Public Policy

Today is the Agriculture Council of America’s (ACA) National Agriculture Day! The ACA began the National Agriculture Day program in 1973, and it has continued during National Agriculture Week every subsequent March. National Ag Day celebrates the contributions of agriculture to our everyday lives, and encourages Americans to understand how their food products are produced and the role agriculture plays in the economy.

At Feed the Children (FEED), we gratefully recognize the critical role America’s farmers play in our shared prosperity. Thanks to continual innovation and research, the U.S. enjoys an agricultural surplus unrivaled in human history. However, on this National Ag Day, FEED recognizes that there is still room for improvement, because prosperity in food production does not guarantee food security or a nutritionally aware population. The fact is that we still struggle to ensure that our most vulnerable children—even children in the same rural farming communities where so much food is produced—have access to a healthy, nourishing diet. FEED has spent nearly four decades working to fill in the gaps, whether through food distribution by our trucking fleet, the delivery of backpacks containing food and hygiene essentials, or the provision of summer meals to food-insecure kids when school is out. FEED works with donors, volunteers and corporate partners to make sure that our country’s food security and nutritional health match our agricultural accomplishments.

FEED is also active internationally, with programs in 10 countries, working to share America’s agricultural abundance with the world. You can learn more about our domestic programs here and our international programs here. You can also learn more about U.S. agriculture and National Ag Day here!

International Women’s Day

Written by Caitlin Duncan, Government Relations Fellow

International Women’s Day was initially meant to bring the plight of working women’s rights and issues into the public eye. It has since grown into a global movement to promote women’s rights as human rights and to rally for equal inclusion in political, social, and economic spaces. Whether living in the savannahs of East Africa or an apartment in East L.A., all women should have equal access to justice, education, health care, safety, economic opportunities, political influence, and every other tool necessary to reach their full potential.

At Feed the Children (FEED), we strive to provide hope and resources to those without life’s essentials so that they can reach their potential. We also believe that wherever there is adequate support for women, the whole community stands to benefit. This is why the four pillars of FEED’s international programs—Food & Nutrition, Health & Water, Education, and Livelihoods—all include aspects that benefit women, especially mothers. This year, the theme for International Women’s Day is “Be Bold for Change,” and FEED is proud to be part of the bold work to advance gender parity around the world, and even more proud of the hard work and tenacity of the women we serve.

The following descriptions highlight FEED programs that aim to attain inclusion and empowerment for women and girls.

Empowering Women as Public Health Advocates

In an effort to improve public health outcomes in underserved communities around the world, FEED organizes Care Groups in which community health workers train a core group of local women in topics such as nutrition, family planning, safe food preparation, stigma reduction, and HIV prevention. These local women become community health leaders, regularly teaching 10 to 15 of their neighbors and helping households adopt positive behaviors, so that entire families and communities have improved health and wellness outcomes. The success of Care Groups is driven by empowered women and their capacity to share and support positive change.

 Expanding Educational Opportunities for Girls

FEED recognizes that women and girls often face difficulty in achieving academic goals for a host of reasons. According to UNICEF, in cases when a family cannot meet the direct costs of schooling (school supplies, clothing, etc.) and must choose between sending a boy or a girl to school, the boy’s education often takes priority. Part of our work at FEED is pushing back against the factors that lead to such a decision in the first place.

In El Salvador and the Philippines, FEED provides regular tutoring to both mothers and children in reading and comprehension; this means that women who may have missed such instruction in their youth recapture the opportunity to attain this life-changing skill. Additionally, in order to encourage caregivers to enroll their children in school (especially girls), FEED provides educational training and community sensitization through talks, visits, and campaigns. To make attendance more attainable, FEED’s work includes school meals programs that encourage children to go to school and improve academic performance. In the same vein, FEED works with corporate partners to provide school supplies and backpacks in eight program countries and shoes in seven program communities, to directly benefit children in our programs—we strive to break down barriers that keep all children from receiving an education.

Organizing Village Savings and Loan Groups

Village savings and loan (VSL) groups are an effective approach to increasing access to capital, particularly for women. These small groups of community members save and pool their funds together in areas where formal financial institutions are not otherwise available or feasible. VSL groups incorporate women into community efforts at capacity-building, leadership development, and community solidarity. While men and women are both invited to be members of a VSL group, at least three of the five elected committee members are women, ensuring leadership across genders. FEED supports VSL groups in Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania and the Philippines, reaching more than 27,000 individuals in 2015.

Supporting Small Business Development

FEED is involved in various community-driven livelihood activities that give women the traction they need to create both sustainable income and social capital, such as business development in El Salvador, Malawi, and Nicaragua. Currently, FEED provides ongoing training and support for business development in areas such as bakeries, natural medicine, tailoring and fabric shops, cosmetology, and community recycling centers.  In FY 2016, FEED trained nearly 5,000 adults in El Salvador, Honduras, Malawi and Nicaragua in bakery enterprise and more than 9,000 adults in other income-generating activities. And in some cases, the women who run the bakeries become suppliers for our school feeding programs. Thus, when women are empowered to gain skills and use their talents, the effects ripple through the entire community.

 For more information about Feed the Children’s international programs and our support of women internationally, head here, and for more info on our work in the US, head here. For ideas on how you can “Be Bold for Change” as an individual, head to the International Women’s Day site.