Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

42 posts from October 2007

How Hallmark became RED

RedPerhaps no other company in our land can be labeled as  "American as mom and apple pie" as  Hallmark Cards.  After all, the greeting card company has often been identified with the wholesome family movies (along with the feel-good commercials) that used to run occasionally on Sunday nights.

But there is another feel-good story about Hallmark that I want to relate.  This story is connected to The ONE Campaign and the creation of the (Product) Red  brand (which Bono, U2 and and Bobby Shriver of DATA (Debt, Aids, Trade Africa) helped develop as a tool to raise money for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria).

If you're familiar with the concept of Product Red, companies like Giorgio Armanti, the Gap, Motorola, American Express, Converse and others have developed products under the (Product) Red logo. In return for the opportunity to increase their own revenue through the use of this logo, the companies donate a percentage of their profit to the Global Fund.  Additionally, in many instances (particularly where clothing is involved), companies are encouraged to employ fair trade practices.

And there have been some criticisms of this concept. Are the companies involved in Product Red campaign spending money on advertising and promotion that could do more good as a direct charitable contribution?  Then there is the debate about the promotion of consumerism in our Western society, especially high-cost luxury products.  But those are topics for another blog piece.

Right now, I would like to bring attention to the efforts of two Hallmark employees, editorial director Sarah Mueller and art director Erin Dennis, to encourage the company to become part of the Product Red family.  It didn't take a lot, but the vision, creativity and especially initiative that Sarah and Erin showed in moving Hallmark in the direction of joining Product Red is commendable.  Here's a quote from a piece that Sarah wrote in the RED: INSPI(RED) blog. The piece is entitled  INSPI(RED) at Hallmark

I just spent the day driving around to Hallmark Gold Crown stores looking at our first Hallmark (PRODUCT) RED preview offering. It was so much fun to see the products we’d been dreaming about for so long out on shelves. One store had just gotten their shipment in. An employee brought me back to the back and started ripping open boxes so I could see it. “I love this wrapping paper!” she exclaimed! “I know! Me, too!” I squealed. We were like the proverbial little kids in a candy store, and these were powerful sweets – every product takes us one step closer to the end of AIDS in Africa.

Read Sarah's full account

And Erin actually took a trip to Mali to work with bogolan (mudcloth) artisans to create the Hallmark (PRODUCT) RED Mali mudcloth bag 

Check out the account of Erin's trip  (including pictures).

I don't know Erin and Sarah personally, but I did correspond with Sarah by e-mail a couple of times  about blogging and other matters related to The ONE Campaign. 

And I don't know whether there were people like Sarah and Erin at Motorola, Giorgio Armanti or the Gap that moved those companies to care about fighting AIDS.  But the experience at Hallmark shows that all it takes is an indivudual (or two individuals in this case) to take the initiative.  Perhaps we can bring more of our corporate partners into the fight against poverty and disease.

STANDing UP in Chi-town

On Wednesday, October 17, the Global Day of Action Against Poverty, students at Columbia College in Chicago showed how creative expressions of concern, hope, and determination be part of the movement to end extreme poverty. With music, performance art, and advocacy they participated in the STAND UP SPEAK OUT event, organized around the world by the Millennium Campaign.

The energizing local event was organized by the Columbia College student group Artists of Foreign Policy in collaboration with the College’s Critical Encounters: Poverty and Privilege Learning Initiative and the ONE Campaign. The crowd of about 100 people enjoyed performances by hip-hop/soul band Fly Phoenix and spoken word artist Mayowa Osinubi. Participants also signed a petition to Senator Durbin, urging him to support the Jubilee Act for debt cancellation.

The event concluded with participants together standing up to demonstrate their support of the Millennium Development Goals and their commitment to ending extreme poverty by 2015.  They added their numbers to the 38.7 million people in 110 countries around the world who broke the Guinness World Record-- set last year at 23.5 million-- for the largest number of people to "STAND UP AGAINST POVERTY" in 24 hours.  Read the full press release here.

Advocacy Makes a Difference

Bread for the World is participating in InterAction's People Who Make a Difference Week.  Bread would not exist without the commitment of our members, activists, donors and staff.  The following is a reflection from Megan Marsh (who recently posted on Bread's blog.)  She is an example of the commitment, passion and integrity of our members.

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Photo of Megan in the Rayburn House Building on Lobby Day 2007

"How did I get here?" by Megan Marsh

I first heard the words “Farm Bill” together in the same sentence at an advocate training session for the ONE campaign in Denver, Colorado last March. At the time, I thought that the speaker, Holly Hight, was using it as just one of many examples of how American policy distorts trade internationally. I did not know that those words would become the recurring focus of my year and compel me to become involved in a lobbying campaign to push for Farm Bill reform.

After that day last spring, my friend and I hosted a house party to introduce our friends to the ONE campaign, traveled to Washington DC to attend Bread for the World’s Gathering conference and meet with our congressmen’s offices, and later addressed our local ONE group about the particulars of the Farm Bill and how we can use our voices to help farmers all over the world.

On a personal level, I began to see my food differently, feeling that the closer it was to the farmer that produced it, the closer I was to the earth, humanity and God. As an advocate, I made a goal that if the ONE campaign or Bread for the World asked me to do something, and it was an easy thing for me to do, I would just do it. Attending the training in March was an easy thing to do. Writing letters to my congressmen and visiting their local offices is an easy thing to do. Calling them on the phone and leaving messages with their staffers is an easy thing to do. If so many easy things I can do add up to significant impact for the lives of farmers and their families around the world, I really have no excuse to not act.

I care about the poor because I believe Jesus cares about the poor, and I believe that the central mission of Christians on this planet is to love God and love their neighbors; I can’t think of a better way to love my neighbor then to use the things I have been blessed with (including the blessing of U.S. citizenship) to ease their suffering.

Daily Justice: William H. Gross

When millions of people are dying of AIDS and malaria in Africa, it is hard to justify the umpteenth society gala held for the benefit of a performing arts center or an art museum.  A $30 million gift to a concert hall is not philanthropy, it is a Napoleonic coronation.
- William H. Gross

Sham Payment Limits

The Senate Ag Committee is working hard before the mark-up scheduled for next week.  Brian Depew over at Blog for Rural America is posting some updates about what they are hearing in the senate. It's not looking good on the payment limits front.

Take 3 minutes to call your senators today and urge them to support broad reform of the farm bill when it reaches the senate floor.  For talking points and background information, check out our recent developments page.

Why am I not poor?

By Megan Marsh

Friar October 17th is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. All over the world, people are standing up, calling their governments to keep the promises agreed to in the Millennium Development Goals developed in 2000. This year marks the halfway mark in the MDGs. My coworkers and I had the privilege of hearing from Dale Hanson Bourke, author of the Skeptic’s Guide to the Global AIDS Crisis and president of the US office of the Center for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia (CIDRZ). She shared with us her own journey toward developing a heart for the poor, which included asking herself not “why are people poor” but “why am I not poor”. She listed several reasons and I was shocked to realize how many of them a person has no control over. For example, she was born an American, which pretty much guarantees that she will not have to live in extreme poverty. She has good health and access to healthcare. She had access to a good education (both public and private). She is protected as a woman by laws and by society. She has access to capital and the ability to save money. She lives in a country with a stable currency. She has insurance to minimize risk. She has the ability to own property. She has a government that has set up various safety nets.

She then talked about how Americans often see faith in economic terms. There are ideas engrained into our beliefs that God blesses those who are faithful, prosperity and health are payoffs for belief and obedience and that God helps those who help themselves. Many people of faith, therefore, conclude that if you are poor, you deserve it.

I think this belief is sometimes a subconscious one, and it really does affect the way that we serve the poor. It strips the poor of dignity. It negates the reality that foreign policy plays in the situation of poor countries. And it lends itself to an attitude of pride and self-righteousness, as if all the things above were earned instead of given as an act of grace by a God who chooses to freely bless this land.

Dale challenged us to ask God what he would have us do. To use our voices to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. I know that I had no control over being born in America and all the blessings that come with my citizenship in the richest country in the world. But I do have control over what I do with those blessings.

(The author is a Bread for the World member from Colorado Springs).

History in the Making: Global Leaders Forum

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Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, greeting UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and his wife Yoo Soon-taek at the Global Leaders Forum. Photo by David Russell.

Post by Krisann Vaillancourt-Murphy 

As the secretariat for Micah Challenge USA, Bread for the World played a key role in providing the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, with a rare and coveted pulpit last Thursday at the Global Leaders Forum. Convened by Micah Challenge USA and the National Association of Evangelicals, the forum gave the Secretary General the opportunity to address more than 300 religious leaders representing some 44 million American evangelicals.

It was an historic event. At the halfway point in the global campaign to end extreme poverty by 2015, Mr. Ban accepted our invitation to tell U.S. evangelical religious leaders that their involvement could help garner the political will necessary for the United States to do its part to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

For many in the room, it was their first time ever hearing about the MDGs.  Mr. Ban highlighted this critical moment when the intention of all of the world leaders to halve poverty by 2015 echoes something of the mind of the Biblical prophets and the teachings of Jesus.

Clearly, these are not ordinary times.

A dozen international religious leaders from the global South flanked Mr. Ban on stage, in front of a world map made up of 30,000 children’s faces—making his call even more poignant.  From places like Zambia, Pakistan, Kenya, Palestine – the presence of these global South leaders was a powerful reminder of the billions of people across the global that live on the front lines of poverty – street children of India, people with HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe, landless indigenous people on the Mosquito Coast of Honduras, hungry workers in Kenya.

Lawrence Temfwe from Jubilee Centre in Zambia pumped a prayerful fist for us all as the Secretary General cited a passage from Isaiah:  “If you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.”

Although people are lifting themselves out of poverty, the Secretary General got it right: we’re still far from achieving the MDGs. (Read a recent progress report)

This year’s Bread for the World Sunday, Stand Up and Speak Out Campaign, Micah Challenge celebrations—all happening this month—are actions we can take to fulfill our obligations to help meet the MDGs.

Daily Justice: Mahatma Gandhi

When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall -- think of it, ALWAYS.
- Mahatma Gandhi

Being ONE of Many

This post originally appeared on the Huffington Post on October 14.

Growing up, my view of what charity and humanitarian work looked like was a very vivid TV commercial in which there were shots of starving children in the slums with a large 1-800 number flashing at the bottom of the screen telling me I can save lives with either Visa or MasterCard. It wasn't until a U2 concert in high school that my eyes were pried back open to the crisis of extreme poverty and global AIDS by an Irish rock star named Bono.

Halfway through the show he made an extremely moving speech, had the Pepsi Center turn off the lights, and asked everyone to text to this thing called the ONE Campaign in order to add our voices to the anti-poverty movement. The true inspiration to get involved didn't kick in right there though, only weeks later, after receiving emails detailing some statistics of global poverty, did I decide to act. 1 billion people live off less than a dollar a day, 300 million of them are Africans. Every day in Africa, 6,600 people die from HIV/AIDS. Every minute, five children die of AIDS. the statistics went on but I was already appalled, how did I not know about this? Why when I turned on the news was this not the breaking story?

My volunteer work for the ONE Campaign began in January of 2006 in the form of getting local cities to pass proclamations declaring their support for ONE and its goals. Specifically, urging our government to keep the promises President Bush made at the G8 conference in 2005, at which he pledged an additional 1% of the U.S. budget to go toward humanitarian efforts. This promise was a response to the Millennium Development Goals set at the G8 in 2000. The cities of Louisville, Boulder, Broomfield, Ft. Collins, and Denver are all now officially Cities of ONE, allying themselves with the anti-poverty movement. The State of Colorado's senate also declared Colorado to be a State of ONE in the summer of 2006.

The hardest part out of all of that was getting Denver on board. With most city council meetings I just arrived for the citizen comment section of the meeting and asked them to consider the proclamation I was submitting to them at a future meeting, which usually worked out fine. The Denver City Council meetings only have certain dates for citizen input because they would never be able to get through the docket otherwise. To even be able to propose the idea it would require a council member's sponsorship. It took several months of emailing and calling to get one of the members to take it up, eventually I asked Councilman Rick Garcia and he was very excited to sponsor a ONE Proclamation.

His staff drafted the proclamation and the council soon passed it. It was an experience that taught me that persistence pays off, even if that persistence has to last through several months of bad luck. The hardest thing about doing humanitarian work at a government level is that it's hard to keep up your energy. You go through highs and lows, sometimes hearing a really good speech or sermon that drives you to get every single city in the world to pass a proclamation against poverty, and other times you'll work and work on an event and not as many people show as you were expecting, it's very hard to get back up and try again.

I'm recovering from such a low right now actually, over the past few months I've hardly done any volunteer work, a busy summer mixed with graduation from high school left my motivation level at an all time low since that U2 concert. Now with college starting, that energy level is coming back up as I see so many opportunities for my new campus to get involved and make a difference. But it is very hard to maintain a high energy level about issues that takes so long to make progress on. Don't get me wrong, we've come a long way since even 2005, but there is so much more that lies before us in the goal of halving extreme poverty (living off less than a dollar a day), and slowing the spread of AIDS by 2015.

This is where you come in. As a citizen of this country to have the obligation to tell the people representing you how to spend your money and what is important to you. The easiest way to do that right now is to get on a computer and go to ONE.ORG. You can take the first step by signing the ONE Declaration, get your friends to sign it, get your church involved and hold a service on how faith calls us to serve the poor. There are so many ways for you to spread the word and open peoples eyes to what's happening around the world. As Bono says, "This is not about charity, it's about justice." We're not asking for your money, this campaign is about using your voice to make a difference in the world around you and I urge you to use yours today.

Matthew McAllister
ONE Volunteer

Matthew McAllister is a freshman at CU – Boulder. He has been volunteering for the ONE Campaign for three years and hopes to make social justice part of his career after college. [email protected]

Happy World Food Day!

Wfd_englishStasi reminded me that today is World Food Day!  She has an excellent post that reflects on an article by Frances Moore Lappe and Anna Lappe.  Check out the post. Thanks to Stasi for the shout out to Bread.

World Food Day highlights that everyone has a right to food.  Michael Pollan was recently interviewed about his upcoming book - In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto.  He has some excellent thoughts about the politics of food, access to healthy food and the farm bill.  Read the full interview.

Speaking of the farm bill, the fight still continues in the senate. Be sure to read our most recent update and how you can take action this week.

How are you celebrating World Food Day?

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