Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

8 posts from July 2006

Sen. Obama Turns Attention to Africa

There is an interesting article in a Sauk Valley, IL newspaper this week about Sen. Barack Obama’s upcoming trip to Africa.  His new found political celebrity status and position as the only African-American in the Senate will attract attention to his trip and in turn raise consciousness about issues in Africa.

Sen. Obama is doing what other famous people, like Bono, Brad Pitt, and others are doing.  He’s using his status and power to make issues in the developing world a major priority for Americans.  He may be a different kind of celebrity than Bono, but as a young, popular, and influential U.S. Senator, he wields significantly more power.  As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s subcommittee on Africa, he is able to be an advocate for U.S. policies that will benefit both Africa and the United States.

According to the article, Sen. Obama hopes to highlight the issues of AIDS, avian flu, the genocide in Darfur, climate change, and possibility of Africa as a haven for terrorists.  He believes that underlying all of these issues is the need for good governance and rule of law in African countries.  “Ultimately, a new generation of Africans have to recognize the international community, the international relief organizations or the United States can't help Africa if its own leaders are undermining the possibilities of progress,” he said.

Illinois’ other Senator, Dick Durbin, believes that Sen. Obama’s visit will “open up the possibility of a new conversation about that continent, and it's long overdue."

How did Illinois get two so outstanding Senators?   

The Age of AIDS

Frontline_logo_1Near the end of May PBS Frontline  did a program called, "The Age of AIDS."  I didn't actually get to see the program, but I heard it was very well done.  They have a great website as a follow up from the program.  It's filled with wonderful information along with some great maps and interviews as well as a quiz (which I did fairly bad on) and a timeline of AIDS.  You can also watch the entire program if you missed it.  It's a website worth exploring!

Sabbath and Sacred Spaces

Yesterday, my new, awesome pastor preached about the importance for Christians to take time for Sabbath.  She highlighted that taking time for Sabbath is hard in our always on the go society when eating a meal means sitting at your desk and eating while working through lunch.  Sacredjourneys_1She challenged the congregation to find ways - even small ways - to take Sabbath time.  This is time we spend with God, not a vacation.  I decided it was time for me to be disciplined again about doing a morning devotion as a first step to taking Sabbath.  I picked up my handy and always inspirational devotional book, Sacred Journeys: A Women's Book of Daily Prayer by Jan Richardson.

This week's theme in the book is on sacred spaces.  The question to reflect on today asked, "What is your first memory?"  I'm not sure if this is my first memory ever - it is fairly vague - but I have this memory of sitting in my living room with my mom.  I think my dad was working and my sister was at school.  I remember my mom looking through advertisements or maybe clipping coupons.  Then she asked if I wanted lunch, which I did and she made my favorite macaroni and cheese (yum!!!).  That's it.  That's my memory.  Very vague, but with my memory comes feelings of happiness, comfort, and safety.  As I think about sacred spaces, those feelings probably connect to many of my sacred spaces.  What I also thought was interesting was that this first memory involved food.  I was curious if that would be similar for others.  So in the spirit of that curiosity, does your first memory include food?

Zorro

Are you looking for a good summer read and just can't quite motivate yourself to pick up Tony Hall's Changing the Face of Hunger or Jeffrey Sachs The End of Poverty?  If so, I've got a book recommendation for you!

Zorro_jacket_sm Yes, that's right, the book is Isabel Allende's version of Zorro.  It is such a fun book!  I didn't grow up watching the Zorro movies or cartoon (until last night I didn't even know there was a Zorro cartoon), but this book is a perfect summer reading book.  Allende approaches the Zorro story by focusing on his childhood and youth days - the beginnings of Zorro.  If you're wondering why I would include this book on a blog about hunger, don't despair, the book brings up important issues like oppression, poverty, and war, so it's got your social justice themes along with adventure, pirates and romance!

Still not convinced?  The book also weaves in a few themes of religion.  Zorro joins a secret society called "La Justicia" with an oath that reminds me of something in Matthew...

The oath was elegantly simple: "To seek justice, nourish the hungry, clothe the naked, protect widows and orphans, give shelter to the stranger, and never spill innocent blood."

Zorro is a very likable character who manages to make women swoon with his gallant tone and "very white" teeth!!  Who doesn't want a read a book where the hero is described by his white teeth! :o)   Zorro's not the only likable character in the book though.  If you run to the library now and check out your copy of Zorro, I'm sure you too will begin to enjoy Bernardo, Isabel, Julianne, and of course, the pirate Jean Lafitte!!  So, during these hot, summer days, relax and read a fun book that still weaves important issues of justice into the story!

"the option for the poor"

Interesting study very worth reading from the Brookings Institution covered in the New York Times ("Ghetto Tax" Being Paid by the Urban Poor) and San Francisco Chronicle yesterday.

Among other things, the study finds that:

"Drivers from low-income neighborhoods of New York, Hartford and Baltimore, insuring identical cars and with the same driving records as those from middle-class neighborhoods, paid $400 more on average for a year’s insurance.

The poor are also the main customers for appliances and furniture at “rent to own” stores, where payments are stretched out at very high interest rates; in Wisconsin, a $200 television can end up costing $700.


Those were just two examples among several cited in a report Tuesday showing that poor urban residents frequently pay hundreds if not thousands of dollars a year in extra costs for everyday necessities. The study said some of the disparities were due to real differences in the cost of doing business in poor areas, some to predatory financial practices and some to consumer ignorance."

Also:

"By taking out higher-interest mortgages, shopping at rent-to-own furniture stores, using check-cashing businesses instead of banks and buying groceries at convenience stores, the nation’s working poor households pay much more than moderate- and high-income households for life’s essentials…

The report — “From Poverty, Opportunity: Putting the Market to Work for Lower-Income Families” — calls on government officials to create laws to curb services that gouge low-income consumers, and it proposes reproducing fledgling programs the authors found across the country.

Reducing the costs of living for lower income families by just one percent would add up to over $6.5 billion in new spending power for these families. This would enable lower and modest-income families to save for, and invest in, incoming-growing assets, like homes and retirement savings, or to pay for critical expenses for their children, like education and health care."

I love that those cities mentioned in the articles are taking active, "root causes" steps to fundamentally change the system. Way to trailblaze.  If you're a regular reader here and/or of Bread for the World's Hunger Report - not having a safety net and having to pay exhorbitant relative costs for services we freely take for granted is also a root cause of people not being able to put enough (healthy) food on their table.

No other developed country in the world comes close to the percentage amount of hungry people within their borders as the amounts that we tolerate here in the U.S. We can, and must, do better. Learn more.

Women as Church Leaders

I know I've been sorely neglecting this blog.  Please forgive me.  So to connect my post today with Bread for the World is a bit of a stretch!  I suppose I could argue that if we recognize that women's empowerment and getting girls into schools are key components to good development, we also need to make sure we reflect this in the industrialized world as well.  So, this Christian Science Monitor editorial is an interesting one about why women as church leaders are not as prevalent as one would hope.  This topic of women being marginalized by the church has been on my heart a lot recently for a few reasons.  One, 2006 marks the 50th Anniversary of full-clergy rights for women in the United Methodist Church - my own tradition.  I had the opportunity to attend a wonderful celebration of this anniversary in Baltimore.  It was one of the most powerful worship experiences I've ever had - a whole celebration led by women, about women and even used female language to describe God!!!!!!!!!

I've also been thinking about this issue because I finally saw The DaVinci Code movie (the book was way better in my opinion)!  Also, my church got a new pastor about three weeks ago and guess what?  My new pastor is an AWESOME, young woman!  My church has been around for over 130 years, is diverse both culturally and racially, but this is the first woman pastor we have ever had.  Can you believe that?  Well actually, I can.  The article I referred to earlier mentioned that,

In 15 US Protestant denominations that do ordain women, only an average of 12 percent of the clergy are female.

Grrrr.  So as we lift up the important role women play in reducing hunger and poverty worldwide let us also remember women in the industrialized world that have also struggled for equality.  And let us celebrate awesome women clergy!

More-with-Less?

Keep Calling your Congressman!  It takes just a moment... it's painless... and the message that you send to your elected official is priceless: "Keep your promise."

Although the spending bill for Fiscal Year 2007 includes $1 Billion more dollars than the last year, poverty-focused development assistance has experienced a serious blow dealt by the Congress.  The additional funding, according to Bread for the World's analysis, is mostly allocated for global health programs.  Long term development assistance and funding for international organizations were reduced by the Senate Appropriations Committee on June 29. 

It's overwhelming, isn't it?  It seems to be common sense... we promise something... we deliver it... right?  Unfortunately, I'm realizing that it isn't that easy.  Despite our cries... the Congress heard us, and chose to do otherwise.  So, do we give up?  Do we throw our hands up in the air and say "Well, we tried... I made a phone call or two... I wrote my letter... that's all I can do."

Absolutely Not.

You call again.  You write again.  You must visit your local elected official's office.  You write... you blog... you cry... you wear crazy t-shirts... you slap on bumper stickers... and you call and write and scream until our country decides to keep our promises and eradicate extreme poverty in our lifetime!

It can be done... we just have to keep working.

I also found that it is helpful to maintain my motivation for making a difference by always becoming aware of the things in my life that contribute to extreme poverty.  Perhaps I should encourage my local Starbucks to brew Fair-Trade Coffee and educate it's customers on why fairly traded goods are helping to bring people out of poverty. Perhaps I should buy groceries more responsibly and understand how to consume less of the world's resources by reading "More-With-Less: A World Community Cookbook."  I should educate myself about where my clothing comes from and think of the person in a developing nation that made my clothes. 

Just as we show our elected officials that behind poverty and hunger statistics, there are actual hungry people... perhaps, at the same time, we too should be placing a face behind the things that we encounter everyday.  We should do more with less.

Keep calling and writing and blogging and fighting...

G8 - one year later

What were you doing a year ago today?Bracelets


On July 3rd, 2005, the world watched as rock stars performed to "make poverty history."  8 concerts. 8 leaders. Gleneagles G8.  Live8 along with campaigns around the world called attention to the G8 Summit and the decisions of 8 powerful leaders.  The world asked these leaders: Will you promise to increase aid to the world's poorest people, eliminate burdensome debts owed to the IMF and World Bank and address trade distorting subsidies that prevent millions of poor farmers from competing in the global market? 

The G8 leaders responded on two counts - they agreed to increase aid by $50 billion over the next 5 years - $25 billion for Africa alone.  They affirmed debt cancellation for 18 poorest countries and paved the way for 35 other countries to qualify.  A year later, we must remind them of their promises.

In the United States, we can do our part by continuing to write letters, make phone calls and meet with our members of Congress.  The president may make promises at international meetings, but it is Congress that ultimately decides our budgetary priorities. 

After this year's Lobby Day, Meredith Story decided to write an editorial to her local newspaper - the Waco Tribune. She asks our nation's leaders to see the fight against poverty as their moral duty.   By reminding our leaders of their promises, we strengthen the movement to overcome hunger and poverty.  Take the next step and write a letter to the editor of your local paper! 

For more on the G8 summit one year later:
G8: ONE Year Later...What's Changed - by Kumi Naidoo
Oxfam: Gleneagles G8 one year later

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