Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

7 posts from March 2006

A Glimmer of MDG Success

Isn't it funny how something's popularity can integrate it quickly into common, generic American lexicon?  To record anything on TV is now not just a universal noun, Tivo - but you also can Tivo (even if you have DVR).  To Google is the verb form of Google the website, and pretty much means any websearch, even if you happened to Ask Jeeves instead.

Speaking of said search juggernaut Google, I'm signed up for a few "Google Alerts" (Why? Because they're fun, informative, and keep me more in touch with what's going on with my job/life than I otherwise would be) - including one for "Millennium Development Goals" - hits that invariably are from foreign presses, hardly ever any domestic ones.  Having been on this job with Bread for the World for well over a year now and having traveled to Scotland for the G8 and getting to meet poverty-fighting delegations from all over the world, it is readily apparent that the MDGs are regularly discussed, prominently written about, and taken very seriously by the rest of the world.  The Goals were an international agreement and are achievable and mean the difference between life and death for millions of people.

And yet we hear hardly peep about them in the United States.  Well, certainly Bread for the World and the ONE Campaign seek to change that...as do other partners in the ONE Campaign.  This past weekend, I had the pleasure of setting up a Bread for the World Offering of Letters Workshop here in Austin.  Our keynote speaker was Philip Berber, chairman and CEO of A Glimmer of Hope, a ONE Campaign partner and an organization doing amazing, sustainable development and poverty reduction in Ethiopia.  Mr. Berber made a fantastic presentation on how their money is used (100% to effective projects) in the "entrepreneurial" style of development - a business-like mentality like Bill and Melinda Gates have and that our government is capable of with a little added attention and effort.

It was inspiring to hear their successes - but also to hear him make the connection between the on-the-ground they are doing as a foundation and the need for macro-level action at the policy/governmental level that Bread, DATA, ONE, et al work on to make sure there's a "fence at the top of the cliff, not just ambulances always being driven at the bottom" in the words of Bread founder Art Simon.  His presentation was truly a testament to the achievability of the MDGs...

Oh yeah, my Google Alerts!  Here's the connection and one of the alerts I received today, from AllAfrica.com: UNDP Lauds Ethiopia's Efforts to Meet the MDGs.  It was fitting (and extremely hopeful) timing I thought in light of Mr. Berber's presentation and the example they are setting in that country - and I can't help but know that A Glimmer of Hope is somewhat responsible for the high marks given the country in that article.  Mr. Berber also mentioned AGOH's approval from the Prime Minister of Ethiopia and how AGOH works "with the government, not through it" to maximize development in that the people themselves decide what they need money for - clean water, good schools, etc - and it's achieved, built, done by them with investment.  How exciting! (And a welcome distraction from my typically venting rants at my own blog)

Now, if only articles like the one above were daily headlines in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, etc. - Americans already supportive of ONE would see that success can happen with their voice and those just stumbling across the news would be uplifted and seek out how to keep this progress going.  The circle of life.  And success.  And knowledge.

And before you know it, the MDGs will be the next "hip" addition to Webster's Dictionary.  And "to MDG" will be the verb used when all the countries meets their goals.  And when you're busy celebrating this monumental occasion out in the streets with your neighbors, remember to ask Jeeves to Tivo the nightly news on every major network for you for posterity.  It will be that big - here, there, and everywhere.   

Until that day...

Read more on the Millennium Development Goals and what assistance can do to meet them.  One Spirit. One Will. Zero Poverty. 

On-Campus Advocacy

It’s been awhile, but I’m back with news about some exciting campus advocacy at Georgetown.  I'm a member of a new student group OurMoment.  OurMoment strives to increase campus awareness of international development with a special emphasis on involvement in pursuing the Millennium Development Goals.  The goal is to connect various MDG related student groups at Georgetown with one another as well as with other students and organizations in the DC area and beyond.  If you’re interested in getting your university or organization involved with OurMoment, definitely check out our website at www.ourmoment.org.

One of the really exciting things I’m working on with OurMoment is a project to get professors to include international development and the MDGs in their curriculum.  We realized that if you want to get Georgetown students to pay attention to something, the best thing to do is make them learn it for a class.  We are beginning to talk to professors and work with them to integrate readings and discussions about the MDGs into their classes.  We’re hoping to eventually have mention of international development in many introductory level political science, theology, philosophy, history, and economics classes so that students who would not normally be seeking to learn about international development will be exposed early enough in their college carrier to really develop an interest.  We are also working to increase the number and scope of international development upper-level classes that will work in conjunction with the International Development certificate program that Georgetown will begin offering within in the next few semesters.

Although our club is new, it looks like we’re going to be doing lots of great things to promote the MDGs.  Stay tuned for more OurMoment updates!

Internship Position at Bread

I am long overdue but I thought I’d devote this posting to the Hunger Report internship program at Bread.

Each year, Bread for the World Institute hosts a paid, year-long research intern to assist with all aspects of the publication of the Hunger Report. Some responsibilities include individual research and writing assignments, assisting the policy analysts with their research, and keeping track of hunger and poverty statistics for the report and the website.

When I began as the HR Intern in June of 2005, I dove right into work on the 2006 Hunger Report, set to be published in January. Much of my time in those first few months involved creating the new data table to be included in the reference section of the report.This was quite a big task to do since I was in charge of gathering and organizing updated statistics from various organizations such as the World Bank, the United Nations and the Census Bureau. Helping the analysts with their research was another task for me. As part of the Hunger Report team, I also helped with the in-house layout process of the report, an interesting learning process. 

Throughout all of this, I attended meetings and briefings in the DC area with research institutions and NGO’s, learning about a wide variety of topics relating to nutrition assistance. Inter-departmental communication with Bread staff also contributed to my growth as I experienced the inner-workings of a non-profit grassroots movement.

I was a part of and helped to organize two Consultations within Bread, one on food aid and the other on the draft of the Hunger Report. We brought in speakers to present on these topics and had many key observers and analysts from the non-profit network in DC commenting on our work. This was a great chance to to see Bread's connections.

Also the relationships I have made in the past year at work have been amazing. Since this was my first experience working in the “real world,” I had much to learn. Helping with the policy work and getting my hands into publishing the report have all influenced me in a positive way. Without a doubt, this internship has been a great opportunity for me to get my feet wet in research and advocacy work.

And please do check out the 2006 Hunger Report here. It’s a great analysis on the state of international and domestic nutrition assistance, covering such topics as food aid and the Food Stamps Program among others. And if I may put in a plug for the data tables, they give a comprehensive look into the state of hunger in the world.

Also, if interested in learning more about the internship, contact Gihani Perera at gperera@bread.org

It's not too late to call

The original action alert I posted asked for calls to go into your senators on Monday - thank you for all of you that have already called!  The calls are making a difference!  If you haven't had a chance to call yet, it is not too late.  Below is an update on the status and a slightly more nuanced message highlighting some specific amendments we can support.  Let me know what you hear after you call.  Thanks!!!

The full Senate is currently debating the budget, and we expect the debate will continue into Thursday evening, March 16. We’ve heard encouraging news that Senators Santorum (R-PA) and Durbin (D-IL) are likely to offer an amendment calling for a $566 million increase in the International Affairs account, specifically for HIV/AIDS, Tb and Malaria.  Bread for the World and the ONE Campaign support this amendment.  Other senators are also likely to introduce positive amendments.  One would restore funding for proven, poverty-focused programs that the president cut in his budget, while another could just be a general increase to the International Affairs.  Not all the news is good, however.  We’ve also heard that Senator Ensign (R-NV) will propose an amendment to substantially cut the International Affairs account and shift the money to Veterans’ Affairs. Bread for the World opposes the Ensign amendment and any others that would cut the International Affairs budget.   

Your continued calls to your senators are welcomed and needed.  Please call your senators as soon as possible, but before midday Thursday, and urge them to support the Santorum-Durbin amendment and any amendments that increase the International Affairs budget, and oppose the Ensign Amendment and any amendments that cut the International Affairs budget. Tell them the Senate Budget Committee's recommendation is NOT adequate to fight global poverty, hunger and disease.  You may use the toll free number 1-800-826-3688 to reach your senator (this will connect you to the Capitol switchboard, where you will ask for your senators’ offices.)

Continue reading "It's not too late to call" »

Your Voice is Needed

Action Alert: Increase Funding Levels for International Affairs in the Senate Budget Resolution

Message: Please call your Senator on Monday, March 13, at 1-800-826-3688.  Tell him/her that the Senate Budget Committee recommendation for International Affairs spending is not adequate to fight global hunger and poverty.  Ask him/her to support amendments that increase the International Affairs budget, and oppose amendments that cut the International Affairs budget.

[Note: This special, toll-free number will go directly to the Capitol switchboard, where you will ask to be connected to your member’s office in order to leave your message.]

Background: The Senate Budget Committee has met and recommended the level of funding for the International Affairs Account, which is $2 billion below the President’s request.  The Budget Committee’s recommendation would make it difficult to approve a $5 billion increase in poverty-focused development assistance. Senate members now have the opportunity to offer and vote on amendments that will increase or decrease the budget for International Affairs.  It is vital that the International Affairs budget be as large as possible because this is part of the budget that includes those poverty-focused programs that we want to see increased by $5 billion this year.

Why are we asking for an additional $5 billion for poverty focused development assistance?

Currently the United States contributes less than one half of one percent (0.42%) of our federal budget for poverty-focused development assistance.  We can do better than this.

  • When the leaders of the world’s most powerful countries gathered last summer in Scotland, President Bush committed to double aid to Africa and globally by 2010.   To meet this commitment and previous promises the president and Congress have made, poverty-focused development assistance would need to increase by $5 billion each year through 2010.  But the president has only requested a $2 billion increase in such assistance for fiscal year 2007. Congress must do better.
  • In 2000, 189 countries, including the United States, agreed to a set of eight specific goals for ending widespread hunger, poverty and disease in our world.  In order to achieve these Millennium Development Goals, the U.S. share of the needed resources would be $25 billion by 2010. This means our government would need to increase poverty-focused development assistance by $5 billion in each year's budget from 2007 through 2010.   Together with the increases gained for Fiscal Year 2006, the United States would come very close to the $25 billion goal.
  • The additional $5 billion dollars isn’t just a matter of reaching goals and promises; these funds would go to time-tested, effective programs that save and enrich people’s lives.  The funding would be directed through accounts, such as the Child Health and Survival Fund, Global HIV/AIDS Initiative, Millennium Challenge Account, African Development Foundation, Development Assistance, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development, all of which provide urgently needed, effective assistance and resources for the world’s poorest people to be able to help themselves.

More than 850 million people suffer from chronic hunger and malnutrition. Nearly half the world’s population lives on less than $2 per day.  Every day 30,000 children die from preventable causes, more than half of them related to hunger and malnutrition.

Your voice is needed.  Study after study has documented that the most influential person with members of Congress is you, their constituent.  Please call today.

Optimum Date to Complete Quickline: Monday, March 13

Bread makers in church?!

My colleague just informed me of this creative way to present Bread for the World's mission in a church:

This Sunday an Evangelical Covenant church we work with, Broadway Covenant Church in Rockford, IL, is doing Offerings of Letters (OL).  The pastor, a long time Bread member, has been preparing his church for the OL over the past several weeks.  A few Sunday's ago when he first announced the OL and preached on it he did something unique.  He set up 6 bread makers and set them to bake during the service.  By the time he got around to preaching, the whole sanctuary smelled like fresh baked bread.  He then preached about Mathew 13:33, the parable of the yeast.  They used the fresh baked bread for communion last Sunday.

Isn't that a fun, creative way to present Bread for the World's mission?!  I wish them the best of luck this weekend as they write letters together.  Please let me know of other creative events happening on your campus community.

Ash Wednesday Ponderings

This is from my friend Rebecca who lives and works in Mozambique:

“Dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” Hundreds of tongues utter these words today in congregations around the world.  They are words by which Christians acknowledge their mortality, which is tangibly symbolized today through the sign of the cross, drawn on the forehead in ash.  Though Ash Wednesday is not described in the Bible, has been used by Christians for centuries to mark the beginning of Lent, the 40-day season in the church calendar that leads up to Christianity’s most climatic day, Easter.  The period of forty days echoes the forty days in which Jesus, in his humanity, fasted after his baptism.  And the ashes reflect the frailty, brokenness, and emptiness that so often fill our world and our hearts.

It’s harder for me to ignore life’s fragility here in Mozambique than when I’m in the US.  The medical technology that prevents and resolves so many American health problems rarely insulates Mozambicans from death.  Mortality is tangible.  With the aid of a saline drip and some simple medicines, Luria fought for life for weeks, until her death in hospital last Friday.  Earlier this month, while my 18-year-old friend Jorge was nursing his younger sister (who’s HIV positive, and who he describes as “between life and death,”) his older brother died during surgery on a broken arm.  Struggle and strife pervade the whole world, but in places like Mozambique, this struggle is commonly for life itself.  In this context, ashes are a particularly honest symbol.

Continue reading "Ash Wednesday Ponderings" »

Stay Connected

Bread for the World