Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

What Does Bread Do? We Go Upstream

Opening plenary session of Bread for the World's 2011 Gathering, on Saturday, June 11, 2011, at American University. Photo by Bill Johnson

There is a story I often tell when I give a temple talk to explain what we do at Bread for the World.

Once there was a happy, prosperous village. The people had a strong community. A freshwater stream flowed alongside their village. One day, a couple of the villagers noticed a woman struggling and being carried down the stream. They immediately called for help and the villagers pulled the woman out. They dried her off, fed her, and integrated her into their community. A few days later, they saw a man in the stream and they repeated the rescue. Then more and more came, and soon the only business the community did was that of rescue.  They were overwhelmed. Finally, one villager said, why don’t some of us go up the river and see what or who is throwing these people in?

That is what we do at Bread for the World — we go up the river and ask the questions. Take, for instance, the crisis in the Horn of Africa, where more than 13 million people are struggling in a stream of famine that is pushing them out of their communities and homes. Bread for the World Institute policy analyst Faustine Wabwire has pointed out that the crisis could have been mitigated with some “up-river thinking,” such as targeted long-term investments in agricultural and economic systems.

Programs such as USAID’s Feed the Future and 1,000 Days are tools that resulted from asking the right questions. Both of these programs will stabilize thousands of communities and pull millions out of the merciless river of extreme poverty.

Yet both of these programs are at risk of drowning in FY2012 budget negotiations.

We have gone up the river to ask the right questions. Now it’s time for you to add your voice and call for a circle of protection around solutions. Protecting hungry and poor people is a fundamental value of this country, particularly for Christians who are called to love our neighbors.

Call your members of Congress today: 1-800-826-3688. Urge them to support poverty-focused development assistance by voting for the higher Senate numbers in the final appropriations bill.

Robin-stephensonRobin Stephenson is a regional organizer for Bread for the World.




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Can you help Indonesia Children? specialy in Karimun Island? we have 20 children of People living in HIV/AIDS ? They need Nutrition and fund for their education. They are poor people... Our goverment doesn't do anything with them... Thank you for ur attention n hope you can help them

Robin, This weekend I did a talk for seminarians and I used the Catholic version of this analogy which is the church picnic by the side of a river (with a hill in close proximity). This is such a powerful analogy and it always helps to clarify the role of justice with charity.

Great post, Robin! Keep up the good work.

Lovely post! I really enjoyed the "swimming upstream" analogy. It always makes sense to go to the root of the problem rather than put a short-term band-aid on.

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