Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

Give Back by Changing Structures of Poverty

Robin Stephenson is the Western Regional Field Organizer based in Portland, OR.  This is her inaugural post on Bread Blog.  Welcome, Robin!


Annie Lennox at Idol Gives Back photo by tconnerCST

As a huge fan of American Idol and a social activist for the hungry and poor, I was glued to my television to watch the glitterati focus on the needs of the poor this week, asking viewers to “give as much as they could.”  As of last night, over $60 million has been raised for six incredible charities that really make a difference on the ground for impoverished peoples who deserve the opportunity of life.  Charitable giving from our pocket books is necessary as it helps with immediate suffering, but it does not change the basic structures of poverty.  To change the structure of poverty - to eliminate suffering long term - we must also give back with our voices.

I was disappointed that the show did not also focus on this important tool of change.  Like I am sure many others did after watching Annie Lennox visit a family of AIDS orphans in South Africa, I pulled out my own credit card.  The life those boys were trying to eke out was devastating, the suffering unspeakable.  In tears I dialed the number and gave.  My money I believe will go to help these and other children both in the U.S. and globally.  The charities through which the monies are funneled all have records of responsible work.  The Children's Defense Fund, Children's Health Fund, The Global Fund, Make It Right, Malaria No More, and Save the Children.  But I am called to fight for a world where I don’t need to pull out a credit card in tears, and the only way to do that is to change those structures.

We are all overwhelmed with the worlds suffering, but there are complex structures in place that cause suffering and can only change through changing political will.  The Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) are an important start at building structures that create long term changes.  We cannot continue to undercut the local farmers in Mali trying to make a living through their own talents and hard work by unfair trade practices.  We can not continue to require responsible governments to pay back immoral and odious debts when they can’t afford to educate their children or offer health care services.  We can not allow another generation like those boys Annie Lennox met to grow up on their own with every family member dead from HIV, when those deaths can be prevented with life saving anti-retroviral drugs and effective prevention strategies.

One piece of legislation that would make positive inroads in developing such strategies is the Global Poverty Act. The Global Poverty Act would make MDG #1 (cutting hunger and extreme poverty in half by 2015) official US Policy.  It would require a strategy for fulfilling this goal, which may include better coordination of development aid instead of working at cross purposes like we have often done in the past. The Global Poverty Act has already passed in the House, and must now be passed in the Senate and signed into law by the President.  And the power of our voices has the ability to force our leaders to do so by calling them, emailing them, and holding them accountable for the decisions that they make.

We can also use our voices to “give back” by urging our leaders to put an additional $5 billion dollars in Poverty Focused Development Assistance (PFDA) for the Fiscal Year 2009 Budget.  Many of the programs like PEPFAR, Child Health and Survival, and The Global Fund for Malaria, TB, and AIDS are funded through PFDA which would account as only half a percent of our total budget.

We must do more than just throw money at the developing world, although that is an important step. We must also change those structures that have left four little boys in South Africa alone trying to survive in deplorable conditions.  No child should have to live like that ever again.  Join me and make a commitment to use your voice for the most powerful change of all – structural change!


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great post, Robin. Welcome!

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