Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

6 posts from July 2009

Bread for the World Urges Senators To Pass Initial Aid Reform Bill

 Washington, DC, July 28, 2009Bread for the World President Rev. David Beckmann urged members of the Senate to promptly pass a bill introduced today aimed at revitalizing the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The bipartisan bill -- the Foreign Assistance Revitalization and Accountability Act of 2009 (S.1524) -- was introduced by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA), Ranking Member Richard Lugar (R-IN), and Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Bob Corker (R-TN), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Jim Risch (R-ID).

 “Revitalizing USAID is crucial to the overall reform of U.S. foreign assistance,” said Rev. Beckmann. “If the Obama Administration and Congress improve the effectiveness of U.S. foreign assistance, our dollars will do more good for decades to come.” 

 USAID was created to lead U.S. development efforts and was once the premier development agency in the world.  However, after years of benign neglect and proliferating aid programs across the U.S. government, USAID has lost much of its professional capacity, expertise and authority. 

 The bill includes a formal statement that it is U.S. policy to promote global development, good governance, and the reduction of poverty and hunger. It contains provisions for restoring planning, policy, and evaluation capacities to USAID.  It also lays out new transparency measures for U.S. foreign assistance.

 Rev. Beckmann, who is also co-chair of the Modernizing Foreign Aid Network, called for the immediate appointment of an administrator for USAID.  He said that an administrator should be in place to provide a development perspective as the State Department institutes a quadrennial review and develops a blueprint for U.S. diplomatic and development efforts.

 He cautioned that without a USAID administrator, the State Department’s review has the potential to blur the important distinction between diplomacy and development. “When we
try to achieve development and diplomatic goals with the same dollars, aid is usually much less effective in reducing poverty,” said Rev. Beckmann.

 The Senate bill introduced today complements the efforts of House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA-28) and his initial aid reform bill, H.R. 2139, which currently has 91 bipartisan cosponsors.

Rev. Beckmann added that the White House, the State Department, and USAID should work closely with the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in order to coordinate foreign aid reform efforts.

Bread for the World is a collective Christian voice urging our nation’s decision makers to end hunger at home and abroad.

"These are the real people who are being affected by poverty."

Guest post by Raechel Burdette who is traveling with a group of high school students in Nicaragua

Wow.  You hear about these things; you see them on TV; but witnessing true destitution in person just doesn't compare.  The past two days, our groups has been focusing on the issue of poverty.  Yesterday, we did an experiment where we lived for 24 hours as if we only had $1/day,  in reality it was more like $3 for the day, but it was enough to show the students (and the chaperons since we participated as well) what it's like to be really poor.  We didn't use any electricity all day, we refrained from using electronics (which was difficult for the I-pod generation), we ate gallo-pinto for breakfast, rice with carrots and peas for lunch, and gallo-pinto for dinner with a slice of white bread and a crumble of cheese. 

In addition to the experiment, we went to the barrio, and visited a few women who generously welcomed us into their homes.  I say homes because, despite their construction from spare wooden planks and scrap metal, some of these families had been living in these structures for 30 years.  One woman had a one-room house with a huge boulder inside next to the wall.  She had a man build the house for her just after the revolution (which was in 1979), but never had the means to move the rock.  She lived in this house with her 2 daughters, one son, and 4 grandchildren.  When we were leaving, we each told her thank you; she grabbed my hand and smiled at me, and gave me a kiss on the cheek.  It was astounding to see such a welcoming spirit in someone who has so little.

Today, continuing with our theme of poverty, we went to the city dump.  The reality of what we saw is still sinking in, and I continue to process the assortment of emotions that are tumultuously brewing inside me.  People lived there.  And when I say they lived there, I mean they ate, slept, and worked in this field of trash.  Cows, pigs, dogs, and human beings fought over discarded pieces of food.  Men, women, and children traveled from trash pile to trash pile, filling clear plastic bags with anything they could find that might be of value: food, clothes, things they could sell or use to build a shelter.  Little children waded through a sea of plastic bags, syringes, copper wire, styrofoam, and feces with nothing but flip flops on their feet.  Flies swarmed everything and everyone.  What little clothes the children were wearing were dirty, full of holes and either hanging from their tiny frames or meant for someone much younger than they were.  Read more after the break.

Continue reading ""These are the real people who are being affected by poverty."" »

An Insider/Outsider President

    As the first African-American President of the United States, Barack Obama is in a position not available to previous Presidents. Time and again, he has shown a remarkable ability to portray both an outsider and an insider, something which, in the opinion of organizing guru, Marshall Ganz, is essential to mobilizing people for change (mentioned in his organizing course found here).  This ability, a by-product of his rather unique background as much as his rhetorical skill, allows Mr. Obama to both portray an insiders’ understanding of the situation, and criticize it as an outsider unencumbered by the sins of those trapped inside the system.

  In his recent speech in Ghana, Mr. Obama used this ability to directly address an issue that most politicians nimbly tip-toe around: the issues of aid in Africa and the necessity of Africa stepping up.

“Now, it's easy to point fingers and to pin the blame of these problems on others. Yes, a colonial map that made little sense helped to breed conflict. The West has often approached Africa as a patron or a source of resources rather than a partner. But the West is not responsible for the destruction of the Zimbabwean economy over the last decade, or wars in which children are enlisted as combatants.”

He went on to praise Ghana for its adherence to democratic ideals and for being an example of “good governance” for the rest of Africa. Something he names as “the ingredient which has been missing in far too many places…, the change that can unlock Africa's potential… [and] a responsibility that can only be met by Africans.

    This should not be taken to mean that the West will not, or should not, continue to support Africa, but “[a]id is not an end in itself. The purpose of foreign assistance must be creating the conditions where it's no longer needed” and in implementing it “… I can promise you, America will be with you every step of the way.”

    At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I must highlight the similarities between this call and the bill Bread has been advocating for the last few months, H.R. 2139. This bill initiates foreign aid reform, something which must be a priority both for America and for African nations, such as Ghana. We need our aid to be overseen to ensure it goes to the proper places, and we need to work with those who receive it in order to make sure it is used effectively in areas where it is most needed.

    Africa must step up, take responsibility for some of its actions, and make changes of its own; concurrently, the developed world must show a willingness to stop seeing aid as “an end to itself” by changing its aid practices and working more closely with the developing world. We currently have a President with the ability to stand up and call attention to the poor practices in Africa, yet also the willingness to work with them to create a more promising future. This is the time to act, the time to motivate our legislators, and the time to use this opportunity to change the world.

    Has your Congressman signed on to co-sponsor the Initiating Foreign Assistance Reform Act? Find out here. If not call them up, and ask for co-sponsorship in order to reform the way that aid is being spent, for the sake of Africa and America as well.

The Church Needs Faith and Works to Fight Hunger

  The Epistle of James declares, “Faith without works is dead.”  While this sentiment has guided my life for a very long time, it has taken on a different meaning since my experience at Bread for the World last summer. We cannot simply lean on our faith to effect change in the world. In addition to knowing that God is in control, it is essential to accept the fact that, many times, human actions deter the ultimate will of God. We the church must act on our faith to establish “God’s will here on Earth.”
    As a Hunger Justice Leader, I learned what it truly meant to be an activist and an advocate. Bread has taught me the necessity of the church, most importantly the necessity of the church relative to public policy. In today’s society, we often call for a strict separation of church and state. But it is clear that certain issues of the state demand the attention of the church. One of those issues is world poverty.
    Forty percent of people in the world today live on less than $2 a day. This statistic and the deprivation it represents are unacceptable and tremendously unjustified.
    Just recently I presented a paper at the National Conference of Undergraduate Research on poverty and the church, entitled “Are You There God? It’s Me, Poverty.”  This paper attempts to justify the importance and need of the church to involve itself in issues of poverty that affect so many people. This need is motivated by the mandate to seek justice and love mercy. Poverty is injustice. It is imperative that the church stand up and speak out.
    While the church often knows of and responds to physical needs, there is a reluctance and timidity to serve as an advocate for hungry and poor people. The notion that the church should seek political justice is somewhat abstract for traditional congregations. Hence they avoid it.
    The truth is that the church is called to be God’s hands and feet in this hurting and dying world. The fact that 26,000 children die each day due to preventable causes should shake the core of the church. Because of groups like Bread for the World, I am convinced that we can end poverty in my lifetime. But the only way to do that is to commit to the cause, endure the struggle, and keep the faith. Bread has done just that for 35 years. It not only saves lives, it fulfills the ultimate mission presented by Christ.
If not now, then when? If not us, then who? I am persuaded that the time is now. We the church are the people to change the course of history.

Derick D. Dailey will be a junior next fall at Westminster College in Fulton, MO. He was among the first class of Bread for the World’s Hunger Justice Leaders in June 2008. After that training, Dailey returned to his home in Arkansas compelled to study churches and religious groups and their effectiveness in tackling poverty. He galvanized several county leaders and helped start the Phillips County Poverty Commission. He was selected to present his poverty research paper at the 23rd National Conference of Undergraduate Research in Wisconsin. Dailey said, “It is because of Bread that I have been able to achieve so much in such a short time on the poverty issue. I am so grateful that I had this great opportunity and I look forward to continuing the work.”

Marty Haugen's Gift to Bread for the World

Marty haugen A special guest graced us with his presence and with a gift at Bread for the World's 35th birthday celebration in Washington just a few weeks ago. 

That guest was liturgical composer and singer Marty Haugen, who wrote a special song entitled (appropriately) "Bread for the World."

The song was based on the theme of our 35th birthday celebration: Rejoice, Hope and Act.

Rejoice, give thanks for abundant grace, food on our tables and peace within this place.  How rich, how wide is our God's embrace! And thru' this great sustaining love

We are bread for the world, bread for the world, bread for a hungry world.  May we be bread for the world, bread for the world, bread for a hungry world.

Hope burns anew, thru' the world's despair, when eyes are opened and hearts are moved to care, when we can listen and learn to share, then we might fin'lly turn and see

We are bread for the world, bread for the world, bread for a hungry world.  May we be bread for the world, bread for the world, bread for a hungry world.

Act strong in faith, for God's Reign is near; stand up with courage, speak out and do not fear! Now is the time that the world must hear the tasks that God has called us to;

We are bread for the world, bread for the world, bread for a hungry world.  May we be bread for the world, bread for the world, bread for a hungry world.

Thank you Marty Haugen for such a special gift!

Marty Haugen Song sheet

Bringing Kids to Lobby Day

Bread for the World's Lobby Day is over and stories abound about our personal experiences with Members of Congress and aides.  Sadly, I did not get the honor and opportunity to lobby with you - my Bread colleagues- but I did get the opportunity to visit some of the very same offices a week later with others to push foreign aid reform and I have a story for you.

This year, I tried something new…I took the voices of children with me.  I didn’t physically take them with me, but I held a letter-writing even at my house before I went to DC.  We talked about our issue in an age-appropriate way, then the moms and kids wrote letters for our meetings. Our local media was also invited to the party which resulted in a front page story about our lobby visits with two large color pictures of our kids busily writing the very letters we’d deliver in person on Lobby Day. We had some high school kids send letters with their opinions, too. Every time we brought out that front-page picture in a meeting, and especially if we had kid letters with it, it brought the everything to a halt in a very good way. Studious expressions turned to smiles, our group was complimented for our initiative, and the cute kids were ooh-ed and aah-ed over.

As an example of how much children can help us, I offer a story from Sen. Ronald Burris’ office. After I wrapped my section by saying that “surely the U.S. could step up and do more,”  the aide then told us a story from a meeting with Bread for the World that took place week prior to our visit. My fellow Bread activists had brought 8-year-old girl Adrienne along with them. She told her personal story of selling pencils in her class and raising $900 for an international development project. With her feet swinging, not even able to reach the floor, she ended by telling him that if she could do that, she thought the American government could do more, too. It obviously made a big impression on him as he repeated the story with the comment that he thought at the time “Ooooh, you guys are good!” He then asked if the kids’ addresses were all included because he really wanted to make sure that they each got a response.

For the activist parents out there, I’d like to say this…sometimes it seems like it’s hard to merge our worlds of highly intellectual lobbying and highly emotional caretaking. Yet I think it’s important for us to find creative ways to blend the two. Our lobbying needs more emotion, personal connection and icebreakers in general. Kid-letters and media with children featured is a great way to do this. We only had actual kid-generated letters to deliver for two of our meetings. For every other meeting, I showed our front-page picture, which helped, but I wished I had more of those letters to hand out. For next year, I can only say this…we’re gonna need some more kids!

Cynthia Changyit Levin
Bread for the World Activist

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