Letter to My Feed the Children Family

Dear Feed the Children family,

As I write these words, I come before you with a heavy heart.

As I shared with all our staff during the Global Town Hall meeting this morning, I have chosen not to renew my contract with Feed the Children when it expires on May 31, 2015.

On June 1st, I will begin my new role as CEO of the American Diabetes Association based in Alexandria, VA.

This is not a decision that Elizabeth or I have entered into lightly or without much prayer and even sadness.

I began my work with you back in 2012 out of a deep sense of calling to this organization. I worked late nights, early mornings and weekends — out of that sense of calling.  My wife Elizabeth also felt called to support my work here. Together, over the last three years, we’ve given this mission of no child going to bed hungry our absolute all.

But now, we both believe that our calling has changed. We feel like the next chapter of our lives will be with the American Diabetes Association to lead the fight against the deadly consequences of this disease. Diabetes is a disease that has personally touched my own family, including my own parents. I am hopeful and would love to see a cure for diabetes in my lifetime.

But, please know, all of this does not change how Elizabeth and I feel about you, the Feed the Children family. We love you. We love the children our mission serves. And these past three years have been some of the most joyous ones of our lives.

We’ve done such important and life changing work together. Children have been fed. Schools have been built. Water has come to communities without any. Entire communities have been raised out of the cycle of poverty. And hear me say, I am so proud of you. I am so proud of the work we’ve done together. Any accomplishments I’ve achieved in this place are because of you who have made this journey alongside of us. While I know it may be difficult to understand our decision, sometimes the greatest thing a leader can do is know when to step aside so that the focus stays on the mission and not on them.

So, while I may no longer be the President and CEO of Feed the Children come June, the mission of Feed the Children is not one that I will leave behind. My wife and I will continue to support Feed the Children with our monthly donations, prayers and wishes for great success in the future.

And not only this, we have made many friends both in Oklahoma and in the field offices around the world—these are relationships for which we will forever be grateful. The joy of being in community with you, the global Feed the Children family, has taught us so much about what love really means. No matter where we come from or what our individual stories may be, we’ve connected in our common mission. No child should ever go without life’s essentials. And, I know we’ll continue loving the children who we’ve met along the way.

So, as the Hagan family enters into this new chapter of our lives come June, we ask for your prayers.

In the meantime, know that from now until May 31st, I will continue to do everything I can to pave a great path for your next President and CEO. Now, more than ever the children in our programs need all of our unified support.

Gratefully yours,

Kevin

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You Don’t Have to Marry at 9 Years Old: Empowering Girls in Kenya

After being with Feed the Children for over two years now, you would think I would go through a day without a surprise.

But two weeks ago while I was traveling through Kenya, I learned something about our work that I didn’t know.

In the NGO world, we know that girls in school equals lasting change to communities.

Yet, for so many communities around the world, girls not in school are the norm.

2014-11-28 13.32.34But, why? We think girls drop out in the Global South because their parents can’t afford the school fees. Or we think that their parents need them to work. Yet for many girls, especially in rural communities, they drop out for other reasons.

In some parts of Kenya a practice called Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is what is keeping girls from school.

Wow. I dare say, as an American male, this is something I have rarely thought or even knew much about.

But it’s a right of passage for girls usually aged 9-12 go through to prepare them for marriage. It’s a cultural tradition that can lead to serious infections, loss of pregnancies, and sometimes death. Although the government has banned FGM, some communities still practice it in secret.

So how can we address this problem?

For a while now, Feed the Children Kenya explored this issue. How could we empower girls with knowledge of their bodies, self-confidence and give them invitation to dream big for their future?

This was our answer: Feed the Children Kenya birthed the first ever retreat for 30 girls this past November in partnership with AIC Church, Lumbwa.

The retreat included workshops to help the girls know that the traditional way of life in the village is not the only option for them.

It just so happened that the Friday afternoon graduation ceremony coincided with my trip to Kenya. I couldn’t wait to meet these brave girls!

When we arrived at the church hosting the graduation, sounds of joyous singing by the girls and their mothers filled the space.

Girls laughed with sashes around their bodies, “I am a champion!” Mothers danced alongside them to welcome us. And a father who told me, “Thank you, Feed the Children for helping me empower my girls.”

I learned that often it is the mothers in the community that are most resistant to change. The fathers usually want FGM to stop.

Then, before an audience of 50, one girl spoke boldly on behalf of her graduation class, calling upon the governmentof Kenya and the county leadership to implement the law.

In response, I told the girls how proud I was of them. I told them they were beautiful. It shocked me that the crowd erupted in applause when a staffer translated my words. Maybe they aren’t used to ever hearing such encouragement?

2014-11-28 14.03.19Later, my wife, Elizabeth and I passed out certificates to each girl.

I learned that for all of the girls this was the only time they’d ever had a piece of paper with their name on it! Imagine that. Something that happens to me everyday that I take for granted!

As the festivities concluded the girls processed out of the church in song. Joy leapt from the dirt road as their sandals pounded in unity.

2014-11-28 14.28.14A Feed the Children staffer, Duncan who worked alongside the retreat all week leaned over to tell me, “You should have seen the girls on the first day. They were shy and withdrawn. Now, look at them! They’ve got hope.”

I’m so happy to tell you that this retreat is only the first of many to come. Plans are already underway for more gatherings like this in 2015. At Feed the Children, want girls like these to dream of unimaginable futures and to keep having reasons to dance with joy!

Feed the Children CEO Cooks Thanksgiving Dinner at Kenyan Orphanage

Yesterday, in Nairobi, Kenya the kids of the Dagoretti Children Center gathered for their first ever American Thanksgiving dinner.

It was an especially celebratory occasion because Kevin Hagan, President and CEO of Feed the Children helped to cook the meal along with his wife Elizabeth.

Kevin and Elizabeth spent the days leading up to the big dinner carefully planning the meal with the kitchen staff of the Center. Then, yesterday morning they worked tirelessly with the kitchen team to prepare the feast, side by side. Wearing special Feed the Children aprons and hats; they cooked and cooked and cooked.

When asked, Kevin said he wanted spend the holidays in Kenya because, “The kids at the Center are so very important to me. They’re the heart of our mission. I need them to know that their Feed the Children family loves them.”

Over 50 children and staff gathered around adjoined tables for this great feast.

IMG_3812The menu consisted of the traditional fare –turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and stuffing along with a few other side dishes more familiar to the Kenyan children likecooked carrots, garden peas and leeks. The children liked the sweet potatoes and turkey the best.

For dessert, the children enjoyed cupcakes with ice cream, a rare treat, while the adults savored on apple crumble and peach cobbler.

Before dinner began, Elizabeth offered a thanksgiving prayer and many of the children shared what they were thankful for –“Life!” “Feed the Children!,” and “Our visitors to Kenya!”

IMG_2418Kevin carved the turkey and explained the history of American Thanksgiving and why it is important to give thanks.

After dinner, the staff choir shared several songs with the group, which included “Count Your Many Blessings” and some traditional Swahili songs about giving thanks as well.

Several of the older children performed a skit about thankfulness, inviting the audience to join in.

IMG_8366Seintje Veldhuis, Regional Director of African programs, who also helped to organize the event said, “This was a very happy day for the children and the staff. We gave thanks to all be together.”

The Thanksgiving festivities concluded with a song in Swahili about how “Goodness had come to Dagoretti” on this very special day. The staff, children and choir danced their way out of the Dining hall. Each leaving the dinner with a smile on their face!

IMG_0223If you would like to know more about how to support programs like this one in Kenya, check out our gift catalog.

Influence for Good: Inside the Clinton Global Initiative

People ask me all the time about the well-known people I meet.

But the thing with me is I don’t really get awestruck about the famous anymore.

Maybe it is because I worked as a protocol officer while in graduate school during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, where I met heads of state, movie stars, and athletes over and over during the course of the Olympic Games.

Or maybe it’s because I believe that celebrities are human beings like the rest of us.

Or because my parents raised me to speak to nearly anybody in the kindest way I know how.

But, if I were still to get awestruck, I would have last week while attending the Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York City.

Coming out of the steps of the Sheraton Times Square, I brushed shoulders with a who’s who of leaders in international development, business and politics—President Clinton, Madeleine Albright, President Obama, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Chelsea Clinton (a couple of days before her baby was born, I might add!), Katie Couric, heads of many foreign countries, countless CEOs of global corporations, news anchors galore… The list goes on and on.

It was wonderful to meet together with some of the most passionate and influential minds to discuss global change. I was honored to be Feed the Children’s delegate. And during the three days that I spent at the conference, it was good to be involved in the conversation with many of the world’s influencers.

I also heard what was on the minds of high-profile folks like these:Kevin Hagan at the Clinton Global Initiative

Hillary Clinton. She led sessions on education of women and girls saying to us: “We know when girls have equal access to quality education in both primary and secondary schools, cycles of poverty are broken, economies grow…”

Graca Machel (Nelson Mandela’s widow). She received the 2014 Clinton Global Citizen Award and shared with us about her passion saying: “Education should never fail because it gives a child a sense of normalcy.”

Matt Damon. As co-founder of Water.org he compelled all of us with stats about the importance of clean drinking water. I left his session thinking all day about how more people around the world have access to a cell phone than they do to a clean water source.

In hearing these inspiring words, I began thinking about the role of influencers in the work of bringing hope to those who need it most around the world.

One of the greatest life lessons my family taught me from our Christian faith tradition is that “to whom much is given, much is required” (Luke 12:48).

This is why I believe that if I am given anything of value in this life, it is my responsibility to give back. Countless others, I know, share this sentiment.

It is our goal to offer people in positions of notoriety an opportunity to join in Feed the Children’s mission and to give back to society. We are not alone in our stance that no child should go to bed hungry, no matter where they live. We want to facilitate more champions in this great cause who desire to use their following for good.

As President Bill Clinton said in one of the breakout sessions: “We are creating a network of cooperators.” I’m thankful for the opportunity to attend the Clinton Global Initiative this year. I look forward to future events with these new colleagues and to joining forces with other leaders, famous or not, who want to defeat hunger.

Hunger Headlines- Week of September 8

See what is going on in the world of hunger this week. Check out these headlines:

Thought Leadership

Leadership Lesson: The Burden and Blessing

Feed the Children President and CEO Kevin Hagan writes this week about his responsibility as a leader. It’s a blessing he says to interact with thousands of children across the world who are blessed because of our programs, but he also feels the burden to do more! It’s a conviction that he hopes our staff around the world also feels. Read this post on Kevin’s blog.

Poverty News

Gap in Diet Quality Between Wealthiest and Poorest Americans Doubles, Study Finds

Although the study found that the diet of all Americans improved on average between 2005 and 2010, the progress masked a decline in diet quality among the poor. The result: a doubling of the gap in diet quality between the wealthiest Americans and the poorest. Access to quality food at supermarkets is a key. Read this National Geographic article.

Poverty rate higher in suburbs, than cities, including Seattle area

When we think of poverty in the US, our mind often goes to the inner city, assuming that poverty is concentrated in urban area. However, a new study released recently states otherwise. From 2000 to 2011, the number of Americans living below the federal poverty level ($23,492 for a family of four in 2012) rose about 36 percent, to 46.2 million. Contrast that with the number of suburban poor, which grew 64 percent. Read more in the Seattle Times article

Domestic Hunger News

America May Have Worst Hunger Problem of Any Rich Nation

According to Gallup’s findings, cited by the OECD, Americans are far more likely to say they were unable to pay for food than citizens of other rich countries. In 2011 and 2012, 21 percent of U.S. citizens reported food trouble, versus 8 percent of British survey takers, 6 percent of Swedes, and 5 percent of Germans. Estonia and Hungary had bigger problems with food affordability than the U.S., but both are relatively poor among Global North nations. Read the rest on Slate

Food-Stamp Use Starting to Fall

After soaring in the years since the recession, use of food stamps, one of the federal government’s biggest social-welfare programs, is beginning to decline. 46.2 million Americans received food stamps in May (the latest data available), down 1.6 million from a record 47.8 million in December 2012. Some 14.8% of the U.S. population is on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, down from 15.3% last August, U.S. Department of Agriculture data show. Read more good news on the Wall Street Journal.

International Hunger News

World Water Water Week: Five Countries Most Affected by Water Scarcity

At Feed the Children, we celebrated World Water Week August 31-September 5 with many other organizations. The World Water Week was instituted by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) in 1991 to raise awareness on water issues. Do you know the five countries most likely to face drought? Educate yourself. Read the International Business Times article here. 

Hunger Headlines – Week of August 25, 2014

See what is going on in the world of hunger this week. Check out these headlines:

Thought Leadership

Leadership Lesson: Taking Time to Celebrate

Feed the Children CEO and President, Kevin Hagan writes this week more about his recent visit to Kenya to launch the new Feed the Children brand in Africa. “We must celebrate our victories. It is so easy in the non-profit world to be overcome with the needs around the world that we don’t take time to stop and see how far we’ve come as industry.” Read the entire post here.

Poverty News

People in poverty tend to look for quick health fixes: study

People in low-income brackets are more likely to look for a quick fix when it comes to getting healthy, suggests a study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Researchers at Concordia University in Montreal found that people in such brackets were less likely to try cutting back on sugar, working out more or drinking more water, and more likely to reach for diet pills, according to study leader Lisa Kakinami. Read this article on the New York Daily News.

If You Give Women in Poverty the Right Tools, They Will Flourish

When we raise up the women in the community, we also raise up the children. A new study examines the economic growth of several communities in Africa where women are given tools to thrive. Read this article on The Huffington Post.

Domestic Hunger News

Hit by poverty, Ferguson reflects the new suburbs

The violent confrontations between police and citizens in Ferguson, Missouri, highlight the rapid demographic shift in the suburbs, which are now home to a majority of the nation’s poor. There’s a growing number of people living below the poverty line in the suburbs, more than we might have imagined. Read this article on CBS Money Watch.

International Hunger News

Drought Hits Food Supplies in Central America

Central America is having one of its worst droughts in decades, and experts warned Thursday that major farm losses and the deaths of hundreds of cattle in the region could leave hundreds of thousands of families without food. The agricultural losses are largely in corn and beans, basic staples of the region’s diet, the United Nations’ World Food Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization said. Read this article on ABC News.

Ebola May Leave 1 Million People In Need Of Food Help

The deadly Ebola virus that has killed more than 1,000 in West Africa is disrupting the flow of goods, forcing the United Nations to plan food convoys for up to a million people as hunger threatens the largely impoverished area. Amid roadblocks manned by troops and pervasive fear among the population of the dreaded disease, the worst-ever outbreak of Ebola is increasingly impacting the food supply in three countries. Read this article on The Huffington Post.