Pay-It-Forward from Australia to Nicaragua to the Neighbor Next Door

They say it takes a village to raise a child — sometimes it takes a few. A recent visit by His Excellency Tim George, Australian Ambassador to Mexico and Accredited to Nicaragua, revealed how teamwork around the world is inspiring Feed the Children’s work in Latin America.

Mr. George met Angelica when he visited our Productive Training Center in El Crucero last month. She received a chicken module several months ago through our pay-it-forward process.

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At its most basic level, a chicken module is simply 10 hens and one rooster that we give to a family to raise. But it’s much more than that. A chicken module is a life-changer. It provides fresh eggs, meat, and income for a family that is otherwise severely limited in resources. Even beyond this, it is help offered to a neighbor. Each family we give a chicken module to will then raise another module to give to a neighboring family, creating a positive cycle of self-reliance for an entire community.

Angelica has been able to triple the number of hens we gave her. She has done so well with the chickens that not only can she feed her family fresh eggs every day, but she has enough extra to sell in the local market.

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Angelica has branched out beyond the chicken module into vegetable gardening. This is chayote, a Nicaraguan squash.
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Australian ambassador Tim George with freshly picked eggs

The families in El Crucero thrill to show off what they’ve accomplished with the chicken modules. They made the ambassador’s visit an opportunity to thank their donors for supporting a program that’s made such a difference in their lives. Today, the community of El Crucero is raising healthy chickens, producing in the greenhouse, and running their new bakery facilities.

El Crucero illustrates how people from the U.S. to Australia to Nicaragua can come together to build community self-sufficiency programs.

Since partnering with Feed the Children in 2011, the Australian Embassy in Mexico has played a key role in helping families in need in Latin America. In just the last couple of years, their donated funds have made a measurable difference:

  • In Honduras we built two bakeries, benefiting 540 children and their families.
  • In Guatemala we provided 20 chicken modules, benefiting 244 children and their families.
  • In El Salvador we provided 20 chicken modules, benefiting 110 children and their families; and we provided another 20 chicken modules, benefiting 174 children and their families.
Veronica’s family received their chicken module two months ago!
Veronica’s family received their chicken module two months ago!

Community building takes teamwork between generous donors, effective programs, and willing participants. Without any one of these elements, this kind of community strengthening can’t happen. But it is happening—and it’s exciting to see. With funding from partners like the Australian embassy, our programs are making a real difference in helping families in El Crucero to develop new skills and earn income.

El Crucero is full of success stories like Angelica’s:

  • Brenda sold the first pick of eggs and, from those earnings, she was able to purchase a pig that she’s now fattening up to sell later for a significant profit.
  • Leticia and Veronica received their chicken modules just two months ago and their families are able to eat fresh eggs for breakfast.
  • Veronica’s new livelihood has created quite the demand—her neighbors come to her house looking for the delicious bread she makes at our center. 

This means their children have food for today and hope for the future.

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Years ago, we tested this community-development program in El Salvador. An Australian official visited, was impressed with our work there, and spread the word. Our international office staff worked together, shared their experiences, and helped each other craft proposals and reports to send to others willing to consider supporting this program in additional communities. Soon we got funding for Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua too.

Cooperation is how this program began, and cooperation is how it thrives.

Teamwork, both between our international offices and with partners from Australia to Alaska, demonstrates that we are a competent and professional organization. We will continue collaborating with each other, with our partners, and with the communities we serve, so that we continue see people moving toward self-sufficiency and sustainability.

Together, our hope grows.

If you’d like to partner with us in providing hope, learn more about the chicken modules HERE.

From Donor to Dinner: How We Feed American Children

It’s easy to claim we provide tens of millions of meals to children each year. It sounds simple – your gift of $20 a month provides $100 worth of food and essentials to children in need.

But making that happen requires generous donors, hard work, and people who are determined that no child or family should go to bed hungry.

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Today, we’ll take a tour behind the scenes at how Feed the Children makes good on that claim.

Our story begins with three donations:

Mary’s $20 enables Feed the Children to purchase the discounted spaghetti sauce from Ragu or send a truck for the entire eight skids . Next month, her $20 donation sends sauce to food banks in Ohio and Florida.

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Mary’s donation and others like hers are multiplied by Marcus’s donation of time.

When product donations and purchases arrive in the distribution center, Marcus spends his donated hours unpacking the pallets, adding essential items like shampoo, spaghetti sauce, and toilet paper to hundreds of boxes, and loading filled boxes onto trucks bound for community partners like the Salvation Army in downtown Cleveland.

Twenty-five thousand volunteers like Marcus donate their time, both in Oklahoma City with our headquarters and around the country, saving Feed the Children distribution center costs.

Dozens of corporations like Ragu and CVS donate products or sell them for pennies, allowing Feed the Children to send essentials to more people in need.

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Thousands of donors like Mary send cash, multiplying all the other contributions as Feed the Children transforms money into food and essentials with the help of volunteers and corporations.

The relationships Feed the Children has with donors like Mary and companies like Ragu transform her $20 into $100 in food and essentials. And relationships with agency partners like the Salvation Army and local food banks places food and essentials into the hands of hungry children and families in the most effective way possible.

Providing millions of meals to children each year requires many people working together, united with one vision – that no child or family goes to bed hungry.

How will you help? We’re always looking for donors, volunteers, and corporate partners who share our mission.

Join Us for a Day of Action

On November 1, 200 million meals were removed from the tables of hungry Americans as cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) took effect.

On December 4, Feed the Children and other organizations are standing to say “enough.”

Contrary to the giving spirit of the season, Congress is now considering a Farm Bill which will bring even more drastic cuts to our nation’s number one emergency response to hunger. These harsh cuts would weaken our nutrition safety net and push the boundary of food insecurity for a staggering number of Americans — including children — who don’t know where their next meal will come from.

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Organizations like Feed the Children, while efficient and innovative, can’t feed everyone. SNAP and other federal nutrition programs deliver 23 times the amount of food assistance that private charities can deliver.

Is government always the answer? Of course not. But sometimes, non-government organizations need help. Food banks are stretched as demand has increased nearly 50% since 2006. And 34% of Americans now admit they have cut back on donations to churches and houses of worship. It’s a plain fact: federal programs play a crucial role in the fight against hunger.

Chief Marketing Officer Corey Gordon, Chief Executive Officer Kevin Hagan, and government relations staffers Jayme Cloninger and Trevor Moe visited Congress earlier this year to advocate for sensible reforms to SNAP.
Chief Marketing Officer Corey Gordon, Chief Executive Officer Kevin Hagan, and government relations staffers Jayme Cloninger and Trevor Moe visited Congress earlier this year to advocate for sensible reforms to SNAP.

Feed the Children believes the private and public sectors must join together in this time of severe need. To that end, we are working with members of Congress to protect SNAP while improving its efficiency and effectiveness.

These next few days on Capitol Hill will be critical for 47 million Americans who utilize SNAP to put food on the table.

And you can help.

  • Contact your members of Congress at 1-800-826-3688. Not sure what to say? Here’s a place to start: As a constituent, I have strong concerns about the Farm Bill in Congress. I urge you to protect SNAP from more cuts. I understand the need to reduce the deficit, but increasing hunger is not the way to do it.

Here are some more ideas you can share with your members of Congress:

    • I urge you to protect SNAP from additional harmful cuts.
    • Cuts to SNAP in the Farm Bill will make it even more difficult for 4 to 6 million Americans to put food on their table.
    • The proposed cuts to SNAP will have the greatest impact on children and seniors.
  • Share this post with your social network, friends, and family and encourage them to join The Day of Action, too.

Further cuts to SNAP could be devastating. But it isn’t too late. Right now, at the start of this season of giving, you have the power to affect how Congress treats America’s hungriest people.

Will we allow more food to be taken from children who need it most, or will we make our voice heard?

Jayme Cloninger is Manager of Public Policy at Feed the Children.

You Can Help the Philippines Recover from Typhoon Haiyan

“It is a terrible time for all of us here.  We can only pray and hope that it will not be that strong when it finally gets to land.”

This was the last email we received from our Philippines office before Typhoon Haiyan struck on Thursday afternoon, November 7. We held our breath and prayed and waited through an agonizing 24 hours until finally on Friday night, our country director got a message through to us.

“We’re all safe. I am with our Feed the Children-Philippines team north of Cebu today bringing hot VitaMeal-based ‘champorado’ to typhoon victims here.”

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Desperately Needed Relief

You’ve seen the images. Whole communities are nothing but splintered wood. Thousands dead. Thousands more desperate for food, water, and shelter. All this on the heels of a magnitude-7.2 earthquake just two weeks prior.

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Hungry children line up to receive food at one of our mobile kitchens.

In spite of it all, our staff persist. They are checking on all of the people in all of the communities we serve. They are driving mobile kitchens out into typhoon-devastated areas, serving hot food fortified with VitaMeal and delivering bags of rice and bottled water to children and their families. (VitaMeal provides an essential balance of nutrients for brain and skeletal development, skin health, and immune defense, prevents dehydration with electrolytes, and provides 25 vitamins and minerals.)

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Thanks to donors like you and the financial support of partners like Foundation 4Life and Teleperformance Group, we are able to keep delivering food and water to these families.

Long-Term Recovery

All of this work is saving lives today. But it isn’t the full story.

Because of our 25 years in the country, we also see the big picture and all it will take to recover what was destroyed. We helped build the infrastructure – the feeding programs, schools, water and sanitation systems, and livelihood projects – that now needs repair.

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Even though their homes are destroyed, these boys can smile thanks to the warm meal and water delivered by our Philippines staff.

One island community where we work was completely leveled. We have signed up 320 children in this community the Philippines to receive a sponsor. As of November 20, 97 still need to be sponsored.

The Philippines needs assistance today; but beyond that, they need investors for tomorrow. We have been there for 25 years, and we are committed to staying for the long haul.

You Can Help

Perhaps you have been overwhelmed by just how massive the catastrophe in the Philippines is and thought, “I can’t do anything to help. The situation is too terrible for my small donation to make a difference.”

We have good news – you can help! When you sponsor a child from the Philippines, you not only invest in the health and education of that boy or girl, you also invest in their community as a whole. And in the wake of this storm, you can know that 100% of your sponsorship dollars will go directly toward storm assistance – rebuilding, repairing, and helping communities get back on their feet.

Jennifer is three years old and lives in the community wiped out by Typhoon Haiyan. She has hope for a future because she has a sponsor.
Jennifer is three years old and lives in the Feed the Children community wiped out by Typhoon Haiyan. She is one of the fortunate ones who has a sponsor investing in her future.

Child sponsorship changes a person’s life in a real, tangible, measurable way. A study published in the Journal of Political Economy  examined 10,000 individuals in six countries and found that adults who were sponsored as children are:

  • One third more likely to finish high school
  • More likely to complete more than one year of higher education
  •  35% more likely to have white collar jobs

Sponsoring a child from the Philippines is a powerful way for you to respond to Typhoon Haiyan. These 97 children whose homes were destroyed in the typhoon still need sponsors. Take action today. Sponsor a child in this community and show them you care. 

Scott Killough, PhD, is Vice President for Program Development at Feed the Children.

Beyond Bowls of Beans: How We’re Defeating Hunger Overseas

Today’s post is the first in a four-part series introducing you to our proactive, sustainable approach to ending international poverty and improving livesOur Four Pillars—Food & Nutrition, Health & Water, Education, and Livelihoods—comprise an 8- to 10-year, integrated program that equips and empowers impoverished families and communities to achieve self-sufficiency.

Today we’ll take a look at the Food and Nutrition pillar, where we work toward positive, lasting change by making nutritious food consistently available in some of the poorest communities in the world.

It’s not about shock and awe—it’s the truth: Poor nutrition causes nearly half (45%) of deaths in children under five – 3.1 million children each year. So this is where we begin the battle. The development of positive, lasting change is untenable as long as malnutrition is taking lives—so our first step when we arrive in an impoverished place is to defeat hunger.

That’s a huge mission.

But we bring an arsenal of effective weapons and a precise strategy for defeating this enemy. Our approach in each situation depends on a community’s particular needs. So from Africa to Latin America to the Philippines to Haiti, we take aim where it’s needed most:

  • We construct or improve kitchens or feeding centers and energy-efficient stoves
  • We provide regular, hot, nutrient-rich meals through our school and community feeding centers
  • We offer nutrition education that includes the basics of achieving healthy, balanced diets, as well as training for children and adults about proper food preparation, handling, and storage
  • We distribute take-home rations, cooking pots, and utensils
  • We give agricultural training for the improvement of farming and irrigation, and we teach organic vegetable gardening to families, schools, and communities to help them establish and improve their own plots with healthful, indigenous produce
  • We distribute food supplements for pregnant and lactating mothers, deworming medication for children who can’t absorb nutrients, and vitamin supplements for malnourished children

And surely, steadily, with your help, we advance our cause.

school children at lunch in Guatemala

In El Salvador, we zeroed in on Ahuachapán, one of the country’s regions with the highest number of malnutrition cases among children under 12 years old. VitaMeal rice is a staple of our direct feeding program because it contains the vitamins and nutrients that malnourished children need to become healthy. We partnered with the Municipality of Ahuachapán, who brought in a nutritionist to work with the mothers of the 82 children who were starving in three of Ahuachapán’s poorest areas. We delivered 82 bags of VitaMeal, which she taught them how to prepare.

But this is not a one-and-done deal. We will continue to send each child one bag of VitaMeal every two weeks until they are no longer malnourished. Once all the children in those three areas are healthy, our El Salvador staff and the Municipality will move the project to other poor communities in Ahuachapán. And with every move, we win another battle against hunger.

In communities where we’ve implemented school- and community-based feedings such as these, we’ve seen attendance and enrollment increase more than 60%. This means that rather than spending their days scavenging through trash dumps or searching the streets for food, children come to school for the food they so desperately need—and with their meal, they also receive an education.

And education means hope.

Roxanna and her sister carry water for their family
Roxanna and her sister carry water for their family

Nine-year-old Roxana lives in the mountains, a treacherous 75-mile hike from Guatemala City. She and her six siblings crowd into a single-room cement block house with their parents, and her father tries to support them on four dollars a day by laboring hard to plant and maintain coffee trees for crop owners. Four dollars—the cost of a cup of coffee—is what Roxana’s father earns to harvest it.

They have no running water. The only water source the community has is a hike down to a tiny spring that they’ve rigged a rubber pipe to. The water is often dirty and sometimes they barely get a trickle. Several times a day, the women and children of the tiny community haul the water in jugs up and down the mountain. It’s a daily struggle just to get water—never mind food.

So our feeding center at her school is literally a life-saver for Roxana. Before we built the center, Roxana was severely malnourished. Now she and 130-150 other children receive regular, nutritious meals, medical care, and education when they walk through our doors. Roxana is fed—not just with food, but with hope. At school, she’s discovered that she loves math—she wants to be a teacher. And with a healthy body and hopeful heart, Roxana is a victory.

Hunger will not win.

A New Day At Feed the Children

It’s an honor for me to be a part of the Feed the Children team at a time like this.

We are feeding more kids in more schools than we did at this time last year.

We are growing our reach to serve more children and families in both our domestic and international programs.

The enthusiasm and talent of our dedicated staff grows each month that I get the opportunity to get to know them better.

I am a proud CEO.

But when I look ahead to what’s next for Feed the Children, four key initiatives come to mind. All four are underway today. 

1.    We are revamping domestic programs to build self-sufficiency.

Unlike our international programming, where Feed the Children adopts a community and develops a plan to bring it to self-sufficiency through our four-pillar approach, our domestic operations have largely centered upon emergency food programs through partner agencies and disaster relief. But this is changing. On this new day at Feed the Children, we want to be known as a US agency that digs deep and stays long in communities where children need us the most.

Soon we will begin after-school and summer feeding programs in several cities. We will also continue to strengthen our educational programming such as our backpack program for homeless students, but expand the efforts to include more collaborative work with local educators and school administrators.

Children from our school in Kenya
Children from our school in Kenya

2.    We are renewing our emphasis on child sponsorship.

In the past, Feed the Children asked donors to give $10 or $15 when they could, but we rarely asked for a longer term, more relational commitment to our mission. But this is a new day. Child sponsorship can connect those we serve with those who give to help support our mission. We believe in child sponsorship and are excited about growing this program because we feel our unique model works.

When you give $30 a month to sponsor a child through Feed the Children, the funds you give goes to the community in which your sponsored child lives. We do not create a system of “haves and have-nots” in which some of the children in the village are sponsored, receiving new uniforms and shiny pencils, and others are not. When you sponsor a child in a Feed the Children program, the entire community benefits from your monthly donation through clean water, nutritious food, healthcare and education.

3.    We are launching a new Feed the Children brand.

As has been the pattern with many in the non-profit sector, Feed the Children has kept to itself and done its own thing. It’s a new day, and we’ve stopped to examine ourselves, the problems we’re trying to address, and how we’ve been approaching them. Every day we are more convinced that going it alone is completely inadequate in the face of systemic poverty and hunger.

Today, we reject isolationism. We are actively seeking to partner with other non-profits working in the same area. For the first time in our history, we joined Interaction, the largest convener group of NGOs in the United States. This was a great first step. But a single step towards working together isn’t enough. We must make sure that our actions match our call to collaborate.

Soon we will launch our new brand and logo. The new visual identity and voice will better tell the story of the new Feed the Children. The needs of children around the world are great, and we can’t do this work alone. Be watching for some big changes in our look and tone of voice soon!

4.    We are focusing on internal and external customer service.

Customer service is an area in which most organizations of any size can improve. We are no different. We want everyone who comes in contact with us to feel seen, appreciated and valued, whether they receive some of our services, donate products or cash, volunteer, or work as an employee. We know that we need to do better.

Maya Angelou has said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

I believe this is 100% true. If we are not being kind and hospitable human beings to one another in the process of feeding the bodies and nourishing the souls of one another, then what are we doing?

I’ll share even more with you about this area of focus later.

In the meantime, thanks for following and supporting our journey here at Feed the Children. We are glad to have you as part of our global family.

Kevin Hagan is the President and Chief Executive Officer for Feed the Children.