Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

20 posts from June 2007

Bread for the World Members Go to Indonesia

If you're a veteran of national gatherings, as I am, perhaps you missed having Carmelite Sisters Jane Remson and Blaise Fernando (of New Orleans Bread for the World) join us this year.  Jane and Blaise had a different calling: to visit some of the areas of Indonesia that were ravaged by the huge tsunami in December 2004.  Their mission was to meet with Carmelites actively involved in peace and justice ministries in that country, and to choose a handful of projects for funding.

Jane wrote a very touching travelogue about their trip to Indonesia in the web site for the Global Network for Justice, which also includes information about activities for New Orleans Bread for the World.

"On our second day in Jakarta we joined a group of dedicated women, led by Luci and Aming, who conduct a feeding project at a local shelter for the mentally ill.  I must confess I was unprepared for what I witnessed at the shelter," said Jane.   

She went on to say: "The ladies go to this “place of abandoned people” each month to feed the patients and administer what medical care they can.  One of their members is a doctor and she said all the patients are severely malnourished and suffering with skin fungus due to the lack of a nutritious diet and filth.  There is an open sewer running through the area that drains into an open cesspool.  You can imagine the flies. To say the patients (men, women and teenagers all living together) are not receiving adequate health care is an understatement."

But there were many positive outcomes of the trip.  For one, Jane and members of her delegation were able to bring diverse groups together.

"Networking became very important because during our sharing all mentioned a lack of communication among Justice & Peace groups as a major obstacle to their working together.  The major outcome of our meeting was to form the Association of Carmelites Actively Working in Justice & Peace Ministries in Indonesia (ACAWJPMI).  The Association would become a member of the Carmelite NGO representing Indonesia," said Jane.

The trip also resulted in new funding for local economic development and long-term education projects.

Click here to read a full account of Jane and Blaise’s trip
Global Network for Justice Web Site 

Reflections on The Gathering - They keep coming!

Cory Verner with Christians Ending Poverty posted about his experience at The Gathering 2007.  I was really moved by his point about advocacy for the poor:

This conference convinced me though that advocacy IS one of the most important activities in the fight to help the poor. Why? Because the poor don’t have the resources necessary to organize, lobby and protect themselves from entities who are primarily interested in promoting self-serving agendas. Read more.

Speaking of advocacy, Jim and Jane Marentette from Durango, CO were featured in an article about lobbying their representative - Rep. John Salazar.  Check out the Durango Herald.

5 reasons the Gathering 2007 rocked!

By Pat Plant, Hunger Action Advocate, Sunnyvale Presbyterian Church and Coordinator of Regional Bread for the World Groups in Northern California


Before going into detail, let me just day that the reasons I think people who care about Bread for the World and ending hunger should try hard to make the financial and time commitment to attend this (now annual!) gathering in my mind are these:

  1. Bread really does this gathering up well. It is the best conference I go to (well run, well planned, details attended to, good people brought in to present to attendees, etc. etc. You won't be disappointed; you really get your moneys worth! :-)
  2. The plenary gatherings and the breakout sessions are planned well with good presenters (This time there were more than usual number of good choices to choose from; if anything could be criticized it would be too many to choose from in the limited time available.)
  3. You learn so much about Bread and how it operates; about issues related to hunger; about possible strategies for ending hunger; certainly about the year's focus issue - this year The Farm Bill; about people who are doing interesting and successful things around the country... and more.
  4. It is a worship-filled event that really enforces the concept that hunger never has been tolerated by God, or His people. Besides daily worship, there was a BIG interfaith convocation at the National Cathedral (6th largest cathedral in the world) where all the religious leaders of every faith represented in DC are brought together to pray for an end to poverty in the world. It was really something.
  5. You get to meet all sorts of people with similar interests to yours from around the country. This will make you feel stronger to know there are literally thousands out there doing what you are doing and facing the same joys and concerns.

Each day were plenary sessions on topics like "National Leaders forum on Hunger and Poverty" (featuring Sen.Chuck Hagel and former Senator Harold Ford); "Progress and Challenges on Halving Global Poverty" featuring David Beckman, Dir. of Bread, Salil Shetty, Director of the UN Millennium Challenge Campaign, Lawrence Temfwe, Director of Micah's Challenge, Zambia; and a morning long prep session involving 8 different presenters on Farm Bill issues. Break out sessions were to many to list but included sessions on organizing, grassroots advocacy, Weaving Justice into Worship, Lessons from Katrina, Blogging for a Just Cause, to name just a few. 

Everything built up to Lobby Day on Tuesday.  On that morning there was a long preparation plan which included many people sharing parts of the farm bill and what it meant to them and a chance to break into visiting teams by state and district to make plans and also practice our presentation.  Appointments had been made in nearly every Seante and House office.  I thought David Gist, our California Bread organizer did a wonderful job pulling us together for our visits and making sure we were ready.

In the afternoon we fanned out to our meetings. My husband Greg and I went with about 10 Californians to both Sen Boxer and Sen. Feinstein's office meeting with their staffs (staff in charge of agriculture or nutrition).  Greg and I went on the Congresswoman Eshoo and met with her staff member on agriculture.  These staff people were prepared and motivated and very nice to us.

After the congressional meetings we headed to a Senate Office building meeting room for a Bread-sponsored reception to which we had invited everyone we had met during the afternoons meetings. The reception would calm every so often as David Beckmann would introduce visiting Senators or Representatives and to some he handed awards for their help to Bread and hunger concerns.

This is a great preparation for our work and a real shot in the arm for long-time hunger-fighters. The Gathering costs about $1,000 when you add in the registration, room and transportation.  Our way was paid by the Presbyterian Hunger Program in Louisville with whom I work, and our Presbytery with whom my husband and I both work.  So for us this is a pretty easy trip to plan. 

I hope you will join us next year or the year after! If you are truly in need, apply to Bread for a scholarship; Get your church to set aside all or part of the money needed for someone to go (you first!); ask your middle governing body, diocese, district office if they would fund your trip if you would share what you learned with all your denominations churches (this is my story); have a fund raiser at your church (or perhaps at all the churches around you if they are sharing your Bread interest). 

Thanks be to God!

Letter from Barack!

Barak Since this beginning of this year, Bread members have written over a thousand letters to IL Senator Barack Obama. On June 5, the Congressman replied to Bread member Robert Reardon. Here is what he said:

Dear Robert:

Thank you for sending me the letters that your students hand wrote outlining their support for Farm Bill reform. Please tell your students that I read every one of their letters. It is very meaningful to me that each of your students took the time to write down and send me their opinion.

I understand that your students have studied information provided by Bread for the World. I have great respect for Bread for the World and am working with their representatives on the Farm Bill and other hunger-related initiatives.

Bread for the World advocates that the Farm Bill be used as a vehicle to reduce hunger and poverty in the United States and around the World. It has also called for adjustments in the commodity payment programs that would provide more support for farm and rural families of modest means and also help to reduce hunger in our country and internationally. I support both of these goals.

Your students might also be interested to know that, at the suggestion of Bread for the World, I was proud to join as an original cosponsor of The Hunger Free Communities Act, which sets aggressive targets for reducing hunger in America. The bill also provides grants to emergency feeding centers and other food pantries and nonprofits, and requires a new USDA research initiative focused on tracking American hunger and developing approaches to eliminate it.

Again, please convey my appreciation to your student for writing me. You may assure them that I will do all that I can to ensure that the Farm Bill helps family farmers, strengthens rural communities and reduces hunger in America and abroad.


Barack Obama

United States Senator


Blisters on Lobby Day

Can you get blisters on Lobby Day? Sure you can. (And I don’t mean those kinds of “blisters” you get on your ego after a disappointing visit with an uninterested or combative congressional aide). I’m talking about the blisters that torture your feet when you wear the wrong type of shoes as you scurry from one appointment to another at Longworth to Cannon office buildings on the House side and then to Hart office building on the other side of Capitol Hill and back to Longworth.  (OK, we took the Metro from Union Station back to the House side).

It happened to one member of our party during Lobby Day 2007. She made the mistake of wearing the wrong type of shoes to our congressional visits and at times had to walk barefoot on the hot sidewalk. But she was a good sport, and dutifully went along on all five of the appointments with our U.S. representatives and senators from New Mexico.  (Not to mention the frequent re-enactment of the visit to Rep. Udall's office for a camera crew working on a video about Bread for the World).

And fortunately, there was relief. Another member of our party came prepared with a handful of band-aids. And all were used. But like so much of the legislation our Congress approves, a band-aid is just a “band-aid.”

The best solution to our dilemma came when another member of our party discovered that she wore the same size of shoes (comfortable shoes) as the one who had the uncomfortable shoes.  So she offered to trade for a little while. And isn’t this the spirit that we want Congress to adopt when considering anti-hunger and anti-poverty legislation?

How I Spent my Summer Vacation

June 9: Arrive DC for National Gathering!
So pumped to run into old friends! Haven’t seen fellow Hunger Hero Carlos Navarro in 2 years. Was disappointed he left his HH cape at home in New Mexico. Met with fellow ONE Campaigners in a great workshop concept called “Conversation Spaces”. Started taking pictures of folks for my Facebook Group “Who’s Wearing the White ONE Band?” Check it out:http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2310368841

June 10: Blogging Workshop/Film Crew Arrives
I am in way over my head. First of all, what is an RSS feed? And they actually have a Fantasy Congress website where you can create your own perfect political world where all Bread for the World legislation is guaranteed to pass? Whoa!
Bread for the World is filming a short informational DVD. Carlos and I had a camera crew following us around. We did some faux blogging in AU’s computer lab. Confession: After many years of consideration, I “impulsively” got my nose pierced when my 18 year old daughter invited me to go with her when she got hers pierced. Some mothers and daughters get mani/pedis together, the VanCleaves get piercings. Well, I didn’t read the fine print in the literature that said that after about a week, there might be some white discharge. Well, guess when that happened to me!?!?! The day the cameras roll…I tried, really tried, not to be obsessive.
Only disappointment of the conference was that the Presidential Candidates Forum turned into a National Leaders Forum.
Attended Leadership Circles Dinner. Probably should have gone to the Movement Building Dinner instead – that is where my heart and passions lie. Note for next time…
June 11: Day of Humiliation That Ended up Being a Great Day Nonetheless
Told Shawnda that I’d do a role play with Barbara Bradley Hagerty from NPR. Actually thought I might turn the role play into a real pitch for an actual NPR story. Really. Didn’t happen – instead the self-proclaimed “nice person” Ms. Hagerty chewed me up and spit me out. The class learned a lot – especially about “what not to do”. And remember, they were filming….
The day got better when several of us skipped lunch and headed to the ONE Vote ‘08 Launch at St. Mark’s on Capitol Hill. Very inspiring. Former Senate rivals Bill Frist and Tom Daschle are co-chairing the campaign to bring to the attention of presidential candidates the problem of extreme poverty and its effects. I love it whenever partisan politics gets tossed out the window. Oh, and the mom from my favorite tv show, Friday Night Lights, spoke about her experiences filming a documentary in Ethiopia. I had vowed not to get star struck but I was so happy to see that one of my favorite actresses is also a very special humanitarian.
After an afternoon general session back at AU that included a standing ovation for Immokolee Farm Worker Lucas Benitez, we headed to the National Cathedral for the Interfaith Convocation. Carlos and I hovered near the front of the gathered crowd so we could get a “good seat in church”!!! Hard to put into words such an experience. My favorite part was my former ONE Faith Outreach Organizer Suzanne Berman’s heartfelt remarks. She is a symbol of all that is good and right in the world.
June 12: Lobby Day
Was late to the morning prep because of traffic issues (the president made a rare visit to Capitol Hill and traffic was snarled). In the car, we enjoyed an hour of conversation with Lee DeLeon, several young people from his church, and our new Jordanian friend Tawfeq Al-Ja’afreh, about immigration, the war in Iraq, the similarities between Arabic and Spanish (who knew!), etc.
Took a great group of church folks and college students to the Hill to lobby our congressmen. Met with two aides and two MOC – Senator Shelby and Representative Bachus. We didn’t take away any promises (only blisters!) but our Alabama legislators know where the “church folks” stand with regards to the Farm Bill.
Reception and worship are always a great wrap up for Lobby Day. My favorite moment at worship was when my new friend Norbert Hahn, said that his Lobby Day experience left him “empowered, encouraged, and with a song is his heart”.

Passion about New Orleans

My name is Carlos Navarro, and  I was asked to be a guest blogger for Campus Bread at the National Gathering.  Alas, time was so tight that I did not get a chance to log in and write a piece.  So I am now finally writing a piece that I thought about posting but never got to it.

One of the frustrations of the National Gathering was our inability to choose more than one workshop (er. convesation space) at a time.   One conversation space I would have loved to attend was the one about Katrina, since New Orleans was my home for eight years.  I have very fond memories of my days at Warren Easton High School and then Loyola University.   

In lieu of attending the larger event, I had the opportunity  to chat about the Katrina situation with Helen Ojario, a Carmelite sister who was the lone representative from New Orleans at the National Gathering, although there were other attendees from Louisiana.

I had met Sister Helen before when I visited the New Orleans Bread for the World offices to see my old friends Sister Jane Remson and Sister Blaise Fernando.  So Sister Helen knows about my connection to New Orleans. 

Against this backdrop, Helen and I were chatting at breakfast on Sunday about how Katrina affected her and fellow Carmelite sisters and their home, which is not far from the area where the levees were breached.   The Carmelite sisters were ordered to evacuate to higher ground in nearby Lafayette, so they were away from the city when the waters filled the streets.   

When Helen and Jane and Blaise finally came back to New Orleans after several days, they were heartbroken by the disaster they saw before them.  Helen said she had experienced typhoons in the Philippines, but none of those disasters had the emotional effect on her as Katrina.   Yet, the homecoming was bittersweet.   Helen, who has lived in New Orleans for several years, said she was "glad to be home," even with the city in shambles. 

Then Helen and I started talking about how New Orleans gets in your blood.  Despite poverty and many other problems, the one quality that prevails in New Orleans is the sense of neighborhood. 

Then I realized that I didn't need to attend the larger "conversation space."  I had my own private conversation space with Sister Helen.

Residents of New Mexico advocate on the Farm Bill

Carlos Navarro, Bread for the World's New Mexico State Coordinator, put together an excellent post about lobby day and an Offering of Letters.  He has some great reflections from Gene Watson - a southern New Mexico farmer.

"Eight years ago my brother and I decided to look for specialty crops to expand into. We were tired of growing lettuce, onions, cabbage and selling them for the harvesting cost, trucking cost and broker fees.  In other words we received nothing for growing the crops, or very little in return. We had to hope for bad weather in other farming areas to make a profit, which isn't a very good Christian attitude." Gene Watson

Be sure to read the full post

Justice and My Pocketbook

Written by Diana Smith, International Policy Intern

You can go to the site http://www.globalrichlist.com/ and see how your salary compares with the rest of the world earnings.  Even on my stipended internship, I’m in the top 12% of world earners, which is ironic considering I work at a non-profit organization to end poverty and hunger.   I know that cost of living and purchasing parity distorts that – but I want to step back and ask myself how well I’m using that money.

I live within my budget, putting a little aside for savings, and using money charitably as well. I’m not as radical as Shane Claiborne and sewing all my own clothes – but I do get most of them from thrift shops.  Is that enough?

I find myself perplexed in how to go about truly living out the change that I seek.  I’ve heard that the economy is driven by consumption, and a market slump caused by decreased demand would leave many unemployed. Clearly I don’t want that; people need to be able to earn a living.  Entrepreunerialism is what made the US the superpower it is, and why many people are paying attention to India and China and their phenomenal growth.  However, I’ve also been told by calculating my ecological footprint (http://www.footprintnetwork.org/gfn_sub.php?content=myfootprint) that if everyone lived like me, we would need the resources from 4.3 planets, so my life-style is clearly unsustainable. 

What to I really want when I advocate for development?  How much of my approach is driven by guilt, by noblesse oblige?  Do I simply want to be justified or vindicated somehow? 

I don’t really look good in brown, and dread locks aren’t my style – so I already know that I’m excluded from a certain group of ‘granola’ social justice folk.  But how do I guard against the “Doing well by doing good” – making a profit off of the supposed benevolence of my work?  What do I do when I start treating advocating for poor and hungry people simply as a job and then I go home and splurge on myself?

But is there any place for small splurges?  If I say no, I start categorically judging others as well and bind myself to a legalistic list of what is or isn’t right to do with my money.  I don’t get this – there are no easy answers. As my coffee mug says, “God knows I try.” 

- Walking by Grace

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