Nepal Earthquake Relief: Update and a Word of Thanks

It’s been almost two weeks since a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Nepal and parts of India. Villages were flattened, homes destroyed, and casualties number in the thousands. From the highest peaks of Everest to the most remote villages, the loss is widespread and hard to comprehend. We’ve also seen tales of courage and triumph, as ordinary people come together in extraordinary ways—as babies are carefully pulled from the rubble, precious and alive; as neighbors work with neighbors to meet basic needs for food and shelter. The stories continue to pour in.

Donations are also pouring in—tangible signs of concern and support for our brothers and sisters in Nepal. We’d like to thank you, our donors, who have given generously to assist with relief efforts. Whether it’s a donation of $10 or a corporate gift in the thousands, every dollar is making a difference.

The funds our donors provide for earthquake relief are being used by our implementing partner, World Neighbors, that’s been active in Nepal since 1973. Our international leadership has identified World Neighbors as having the necessary connections and expertise to be a part of lasting recovery and development in the region, and Feed the Children is proud to work with them in this effort.

“When disaster strikes, it takes the help of many to provide relief for those affected,” said Matt Panos, Feed the Children Chief Development Officer. “Here at Feed the Children, we know we could not provide a glimpse of hope in a time of despair without the help of donors and partners.”

Dr. Kate Schecter, President and CEO of World Neighbors, is keeping us informed on progress since the disaster through Srijana Thapa, World Neighbors Regional Director for South Asia. According to the latest update, buildings and homes have been reduced to rubble in many communities where World Neighbors is active. Others have lost roofs or walls and are in states of near-collapse. Some basic forms of aid are beginning to arrive into these communities, but it’s been a slow process and provisions are few. In many places, people are receiving food from local stores on credit, but there is distrust and fear that supplies will soon run short, or stores will stop allowing these purchases. Aftershocks are becoming less frequent, but have measured 4-5 on the Richter scale.

World Neighbors is addressing the immediate need for shelter, medical aid, and clean water within several rural, remote Nepali communities. World Neighbors has procured and distributed tarps, medications, rice, and oil to last for fifteen days. But the work continues, and the rebuilding process will take years.

Nepal is already starting to fade from the headlines, but the recovery and relief effort is far from over—in fact it is only beginning. Thank you to all of our donors who will be part of this effort through your generous gifts.

To give to the Nepal earthquake relief effort, click here.

We All Play a Part: A Conversation with Matt Panos, Part 2

Editor’s Note: We continue our series posts highlighting some of the people who make up the Feed the Children team. Here is part 2 of an interview with Matt Panos, Feed the Children’s Chief Development Officer. Part 1, “Food and Nutrition First,” can be found here.

2014 TRIP 1441 - Guatemala (302)In addition to child sponsorship, you oversee fundraising in general. How has social media changed the way organizations approach fundraising and development?

Social media is fast becoming the method of choice for individuals who want to communicate their commitment and raise money for their favorite non-profit organizations. Peer-to-peer fundraising, which is where individuals use digital means to recruit friends and family to support a fundraising effort, is now raising more than $750 milliona year for our nation’s charities. Many organizations raise a large percentage of their money through peer-to-peer social media fundraising. The Ice Bucket Challenge by the ALS Association last year is the perfect example of how social media can be used to promote an event and, in the right environment, it can go viral, capture new supporters and motivate people to raise millions of dollars.

How has it changed donor behavior and expectations?

In our case, 85+% of our donors are over 50, so social media has done little to change our donors’ behavior. Most of the older “legacy” donors didn’t get into social media until after they formed their charitable preferences and so have more trust in traditional giving methods. This simply means that most organizations are not yet experiencing big shifts in the giving habits of the donors who provide the most money.

However, many Gen Xers and the Millennials are forming their first impressions about non-profits through social media, so all organizations who are doing events and fundraising (or just “friend-raising”) need to use social media as an aspect of their fundraising programs… or risk being left off the “preferred” list of these younger donors when they get older and have substantial money to give!

IMG_2172What motivates you in this work? Is there a statistic, or a story or situation that gets you up in the morning and keeps you going?

I’ve been privileged to see effective non-profit programs and how they work in the lives of the people they serve. I’ve had many memorable experiences here in the US and around the world that keep me excited about raising money and helping people.

Here’s one from early in my career. I was the director of the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) summer camp as part of my role as District Director for Southwest Florida. This required a week of my time to supervise the managers who actually did the legwork every day in running various aspects of the camp such as food service, children’s activities, and managing volunteers. Each camper had one volunteer counselor assigned to them for the week to support their participation in activities, meals, and so forth.

Each day had a time at the pool, and on the first day, the counselors and campers paired up for a game requiring the campers to be on the shoulders of their counselor. One pretty big camper was paired with a counselor that couldn’t lift him, so it looked like he wouldn’t be able to play with the others. As a fairly big person, I knew I could lift this child, so I jumped in the pool, hoisted him on my shoulders and we joined the game… and won!

Afterward I helped him back into his wheelchair, and he was in tears. He said he’d never had so much fun! I was with this young man at the pool every day that week, and it’s one of my fondest memories. It’s events like these that connect raising money with the work that affects each and every person who benefits. Without the support of generous donors, these activities just aren’t possible.

As a member of the Feed the Children “team,” what’s one hope you have for people who may read this? What’s one action you hope they will take?

A long time ago I heard a story about President Kennedy visiting NASA in the early 1960’s. He had several meetings there and as they entered the building, they had to walk down a long corridor. Way down the corridor was a man with a bucket cleaning the floor and windows. The Secret Service raced ahead of the President to get the man out of the way, but the President asked them to leave him alone. When the President caught up, he asked the man, “What do you do here at NASA?” Without hesitation the man said, “We’re going to put a man on the moon!”

A Malawi Village Savings and Loan group meets for planning and sharing.
A Malawi Village Savings and Loan group meets for planning and sharing.

That man at NASA clearly understood NASA’s mission—and that he was part of it. That’s my hope for all of us connected to Feed the Children: each of us understands that every job and every task we do plays a part in achieving our mission: that “one day, no child will go to bed hungry!”

To read more about Feed the Children’s child sponsorship program, click here.



Don’t Wait for ‘Someday’ to Do Your Part: North Carolina Man to Run Fifty Miles for Feed the Children

Ask someone who works two demanding jobs what they do in their free time, and you may get one of these responses:
a) Sleep.
b) Chill out with some TV.
c) Free time? What free time?

But if you’re Thomas VonCannon of Raleigh, NC, there’s another option:
d) train for a fifty mile race and raise money for Feed the Children in the process.

Thomas VonCannon, raising funds for Feed the Children
Thomas VonCannon with his cheering section

“My wife will be the first to tell you, I’ve always been a little insane,” VonCannon says. He’s dreamed of taking on “off the wall races” such as the Black Hills 100, a grueling hundred-mile race in South Dakota in which only 35% finish. But to get there, he says, you need a fifty miler under your belt. So he registered for the North Face Endurance Challenge April 18-19, which runs along the Potomac River near Washington DC on a series of rocky and hilly trails.

VonCannon is not a lifelong runner—he was a self-described “marching band nerd” in school who ran his first race in his 20s when a buddy challenged him to do so. Since that first 5K, he’s done a handful of half marathons, marathons and triathlons. But this is his first fifty-miler, and his first race in about six years. “Before signing up for North Face, I’d try to get out there once a week for maybe three to five miles,” VonCannon says. “I hadn’t run more than ten miles in a long time, until I started training for this.”

VonCannon knew from the start that his race experience should have a greater purpose. “I wanted to do something for a charity. I believe we should be ‘light in the world,’ and back up what we believe with action, not just words.” So VonCannon turned to his employer, hotel chain Concord Hospitality, for suggestions on a worthy cause to support.

Concord Share Day 2014 Tampa
Concord Share Day 2014 in Tampa

Concord has partnered with Feed the Children for six years through its Share Day event. This past year, some 200 hotel employees across the country raised funds to bring Feed the Children’s “truckloads of hope” to the communities in which Concord hotels are located. These trucks are stuffed with care packages containing food and hygiene items, and 235,200 packages were delivered in 2014 alone.

Thomas chose Feed the Children based on this long-standing relationship with Concord. “I cannot say enough about how supportive and amazing Concord has been,” he says. VonCannon has already raised much of his $1000 goal thanks to friends, family and work associates, but he’d love to surpass that goal in the few weeks he has left.

VonCannon works a night shift for Concord 3-4 nights a week. That’s in addition to his other job as a General Manager for a sports bar, a job that has him working six days a week. Still, he says the training’s going well. “This week I worked Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, so I had to hit the training hard early in the week.” That meant thirteen miles one day, fifteen the next, followed by “easy” four and five mile runs. Because he’s in uncharted territory, he isn’t sure how long these fifty miles will take, but he’d be “ecstatic” to finish in less than ten hours. “I’m not built for speed,” he says, though his 3:50 marathon time finishes put him in respectable company among recreational runners.

In addition to training, VonCannon knows that a race like this is largely mental. “It’s important to keep things in perspective,” he says. “There are people fighting for our country right now; there are hungry children around the world… and I’m running a silly race.”

Concord Share Day 2014 Tampa
Concord Share Day 2014 in Tampa

But VonCannon also realizes that it’s up to each of us to do what we can to make a difference. In addition to his two jobs, VonCannon stays busy with two young children as well as church activities. Still, he says, “I got tired of talking about doing something ‘one day.’ There’s always going to be something to prevent you from doing that thing you really want to do.”

“Some people wait for change… some people work for change.”

To contribute to VonCannon’s effort, visit his Crowdrise page.