Haiti: A Spotlight on the Country and Our Work

Written by Andrew McNamee, Manager of Public Policy, and Emily Jost, Program Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist

Haiti is a beautiful country with a troubled history. Struck by a truly devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake in January 2010, the country continues to feel the overwhelming effects of the earthquake today.  More than 230,000 people were killed, and a million others were displaced. Children have felt the negative effects firsthand, and those born in 2010 or later have lived their entire lives in the earthquake’s shadow. We were hard at work in Haiti before the earthquake, and we seek to help children thrive though food, medicine and education.

We use a child-focused community development (CFCD) approach to deliver more than just food to children in need in Haiti. There are four pillars to CFCD: Food & Nutrition, Health & Water, Education, and Livelihoods.

Through the Food & Nutrition pillar, we serve communities through the support of Care Groups, a mother-to-mother peer training approach. Through these groups, mothers learn positive behavior changes to improve the nutrition and health of their children. We have also provided deworming medication and vitamin A supplements for children under the age of five, to treat intestinal parasites and prevent blindness. In 2015, we provided vitamin supplements to nearly 500 children under the age of five.

“A special thanks to the Care Group staff for the work they do with the mother leaders in my community. I want to become a great seamstress to help the poorest parents in making school uniforms for their children.” –Roodmicka, 11-year-old resident of Bon Berger de Macako

The earthquake devastated Haiti’s water and health infrastructure, which left the population vulnerable to the devastating cholera epidemic that continues to trouble the country today. In response, we’ve built latrines and hand washing stations in five communities in western Haiti, benefitting over 1,200 children, through its Health & Water pillar. We also installed new waterline systems to support whole communities, delivering clean water to over 10,000 people and reducing the incidence of waterborne disease.

One of the most powerful methods to promote education is to provide food at school. Through our Education pillar, we provide 2,900 children with regular school meals and backpacks to reduce financial strain on their parents and ensure they’re focused on lessons rather than hunger. One Haitian teacher explained that before our school feeding program began, children arrived at school hungry and unable to focus, forcing teachers to repeat lessons.

“Thank you for the support provided in the community and our schools through the nutrition program. In addition, we want to give a special thanks to the sponsorship program.” – Eliphete, the father of 11-year-old Djenica

The final pillar, Livelihoods, is intended to help the parents of the children we serve by teaching them new ways to generate income and save money. We assist families in building both household and community/school gardens, which promotes nutritional diversity and helps supply our school meals programs. The fruit tree seedling projects have these same benefits, along with added income from the sale of the seedlings or benefiting the environment through reforestation efforts.

2017 Year in Review: Feed the Children Successes and a Look Ahead

Written by Andrew McNamee, Manager of Public Policy

 

Feed the Children had several notable successes in 2017. These included:

  • Meetings with the staff of more than 100 members of Congress – We were in more than 100 meetings on Capitol Hill, with both Democratic and Republican offices, on a variety of topics, including emergency famine assistance funding, summer feeding for American children who receive free or reduced-price lunch at school, and school lunch debt shaming.
  • Supplemental famine spending of $1 billion – Due to ongoing conflicts, there were more people on the brink of famine in 2017 than in any year since 1945. Feed the Children and other internationally-focused NGOs (non-government organizations) pushed for $1 billion in supplemental funding to be included in a continuing resolution to address these famines, and we learned in May that our collective effort was successful! (The supplemental funding and all U.S. expenditures on international relief and development constitutes less than 1% of the U.S. federal budget, but the money is critical to preventing famine and stimulating development.)
  • Hurricane relief – The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was especially active and deadly. When hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria made landfall in the U.S., it caused nearly $370 billion in estimated damage and collectively caused at least 700 deaths. However, it is feared that the lives lost due to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico have been drastically undercounted.
  • Malawi – Tiwalere II – In 2017, we were awarded the largest grant in our history to continue our critical work in Malawi – to end extreme poverty and hunger. USAID gave $19.15 million through the Global Development Alliance mechanism to match the amount raised by our organization and our partners, Nu Skin and the Procter & Gamble Children’s Safe Drinking Water Program. Tiwalere II, meaning “let’s raise them up” in the local Chichewa dialect, follows the success of the smaller Tiwalere I project that improved nutrition for orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi from 2010 to 2015. Tiwalere II will focus on educating pregnant and lactating women, mothers, their young children, and adolescent girls on best practices related to ensuring young children receive adequate nutrition.
  • Summer Food & Education Program – This was the fourth year we operated our Summer Food and Education Program (SFEP) in coordination with USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service. Our SFEP provides meals to children who receive free or reduced-price lunch during the school year to ensure they don’t experience malnutrition throughout the summer. Meal sites are often located at libraries, camps, churches, or schools, where children can participate in educational and athletic programs to ensure they don’t fall behind in school during the summer months.

 

A Look Ahead

  • We plan to build on our success as we move further into 2018. Our Washington D.C. team will continue to regularly meet with Congressional offices. We will encourage them to make vital improvements to nutrition programs outlined in the farm bill. The farm bill is passed every five years. It is the mechanism that authorizes all agricultural and nutrition programs.
  • We will utilize the lessons learned from disaster response efforts to improve our response in the future, and we will increase our partnerships with other organizations focused on disaster response.
  • Finally, we’re looking to utilize the Global Development Alliance funding mechanism to possibly recreate the success of our Tiwalere II project in Central America, Kenya, and Tanzania.

 

The Real Face of the Migrant Route: The Heartbreaking Story of A Mother

Poverty is the common denominator in many Honduran families. The uncertainty of being able to provide for their families can push people to look for new opportunities in the north. Every day, hundreds of people risk their lives to enter the United States in the hopes of finding the “American Dream.”

Olga Marina López, born and raised in the community of San Carlos (municipality of Omoa), was not aware of how dangerous her journey would be when she decided to migrate north. Olga owns a small clothing business, however, her business is not enough to live comfortably with her children. Having recently separated from her husband, as well as suffered the loss of her mother, she was struggling to provide for her children. She lives in extreme poverty with her family, and has twice failed to cross the United States-Mexican border in search of a better life. During her last attempt to cross the border, in a tragic turn of events, her 10-year old daughter Jennifer, drowned in the ocean when their motor boat over turned after being hit by a massive wave.

In the early morning hours of July 18, Olga boarded a bus with her daughter to travel to Guatemala. She considered taking her 16-year old son, however, her daughter begged to come with her pleading, “wherever you go, I´ll go.”

When they arrived to Guatemala, they continued their trip to Mexico on motor boat with eight other people through the Suchiate River. Jennifer was sitting between her mother´s legs when they reached the mouth of the Suchiate River, with the ocean waves growing stronger and taller every minute. Their motor boat was eventually hit with two waves. The second wave overturned their boat and flung all passengers into the water. Olga fought to get to the surface, but every time she tried, another wave pulled her down. When she finally rose to the surface, she frantically looked for her daughter. Jennifer was floating, holding tight to their bag of clothes. Olga screamed to her girl, “Hold on strong and don´t let go.” And she replied, “Yes, mom. I will hold strong.” Just at that moment, a huge wave hit them again. That would be the last time Olga would see her daughter alive.

Olga reached the shore and waited for two hours for her daughter to appear. A few passengers from their boat, a man from El Salvador, along with other men who were in the zone, helped look for Jennifer. When they found her floating body, Olga’s heart broke into a million pieces.

Jennifer was a member of Feed the Children’s Child Sponsorship Program, however, Olga decided to migrate to give her family a better life.

The number of Honduran migrants has increased to 200 people that abandon their communities every day in search of a better future. By the year 2013, the Migrant Attention Center registered one of the highest numbers of migrants, reaching more than 70,000 people.

Child Hunger in America: Anna’s story

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Scraping pennies to try and feed a family

Anna is 10 years old. Her family struggles each day just for the most basic necessities.

Her mom, Julie, says, “Anything we could do to make money, that’s what we did.”

For a while, that meant trying to make a living by “junking.” Julie and her husband would collect anything they could find to sell at the local junkyard — aluminum, copper, metal, cans. It’s hard, backbreaking work.

But when the transmission goes out on your only vehicle, making a living like this is impossible. And when you live in a rural area with no public transportation, so is any other type of work.

Their vehicle died about a year ago. “And if you can’t get out and work, you can’t make money,” says Julie. “So when we are low on food you can’t even buy it because you ain’t got money to buy it.”

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Julie is very handy — she and her husband have even done car repairs to try and make ends meet. But they don’t have the money to buy a transmission and get their own truck working again.

“It’s been really stressful and stuff,” Anna says.

She worries about her family, adding, “Sometimes we get low on food.”

And her older sister, Jennifer, sacrifices like her parents do for Anna and her younger brother, 7-year–old Brian.

Jennifer says, “Sometimes I don’t eat because I want to save food for my brother and sister.”

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Julie loves her children very much. It breaks her heart to know she’s doing everything she can to provide for her family and it’s not enough. Through tears, Julie says:

“It just hurts when you can’t get your kids what they want or anything they need.”

In addition to food, they struggle with household essentials like laundry detergent, toilet paper and toothpaste.

“Yeah, I have to scrape up, sometimes pennies, to get that stuff,” says Julie. “I always get dollar stuff. It’s cheap, but it works.”

“I wish my family had money, food and clothes and things like that.”
— Anna

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This family needs help. Food often comes from the local food pantry — a Feed the Children partner agency. Their clothing comes from what is donated to another social services agency.

You can make a difference for a family that’s struggling

Please give today to help feed hungry children like Anna and Brian.

You’ll provide boxes of food and household essentials — just like what our team was able to deliver to Julie and her family.

Your gift today means food to fill the tummies of hungry boys and girls in poor communities across America.

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DONATE

You can provide food and essentials for hungry children like Anna and Brian!

Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those we serve.

Workplace Giving Recognition: UnitedHealth Group

Written by Rhonda Watson, Director of Workplace Giving

 

Did you know you can double, triple, or even quadruple the size of your workplace giving donation?

By giving at work and asking your employer to match your donation, the amount you give will be maximized and it will have an even greater impact.

Feed the Children would like to thank the employees at UnitedHealth Group for helping us to continue our mission. This past quarter, UnitedHealth Group and its employees raised more than $4,500 to help provide hope and resources for families across the country.

Last year, more than $340,000 was collectively raised by donors who gave through their workplace giving programs. This is because their employers matched their gifts.

Find out if your company has a matching gift program. Assess your eligibility and gain access to detailed corporate giving information about your employer by searching our database of companies with matching gift programs at http://www.feedthechildren.org/workplace-giving/.

We are committed to helping you and we will provide as much information as possible. Such as:

  • Company contact name
  • Contact’s phone and email address
  • Minimum and maximum amount matched
  • Total per employee
  • Gift ratio

If your company isn’t listed in our database, make sure to check with your Human Resources department. Let them know you are interested in learning about their matching gift program.

Again, thank you for all you do to help us create a world where no child goes to bed hungry.

 

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.”
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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

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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.