551 posts categorized "Advocacy"
By Fito Moreno
Waking up to the smell of a marinated turkey baking in the oven is what solidified Thanksgiving as my favorite holiday. My family’s Thanksgiving dinner table has always held dishes from many countries. There are pupusas, patatas bravas, stuffing, cranberry sauce, sofrito, tamales, and, of course, the turkey.
Growing up Hispanic, food was always at the heart of all gatherings — graduations, first communions, birthday parties, and especially Thanksgiving. The one concern my mom has always had is making sure everyone has enough to eat and enough to take home. Yet for many families, making sure everyone has enough to eat is a privilege.
Data released yesterday shows that in 2012, more than 35 percent of Latinos lived 130 percent below the poverty line, and 3.6 million Latinos lived in food-insecure households.
At a glance, those statistics are just numbers. But as I reflect on previous Thanksgiving dinners, I imagine the family members and friends behind those numbers. My mom has always been concerned about making sure everyone has enough to eat because some of our friends and relatives sometimes just don’t have enough. Sometimes friends would be ashamed taking food home, but my mother wouldn’t hear of it. She believes that it is wrong to invite people to your home and have them go hungry; if you are able to feed them, then you are obligated to do so.
As a country, we have the same responsibility. We invite the tired, the poor, the huddled masses; it is our job to ensure that they have enough to eat.
As I pack my bag and get ready to go to my mother’s place for Thanksgiving, I am thankful to live in a country where I can be a gracious host, and help ensure that all are fed. I am thankful to living in a country where I can have an impact on my government by reaching out to my members of Congress and urging them to ensure that people of all means are nourished.
Fito Moreno is Bread for the World's media relations specialist.
In February 2004, Sang Hyuk Jung left Korea and came to the United States, full of hope for a better future. He had visited the country a year earlier to prepare his paperwork and meet with several "experts," who told him that everything would be fine as long as he paid his "immigration fees."
Several years passed, and Jung learned that his case had gone nowhere. He was out a huge sum of money, and the "immigration consultant" he'd been working with threatened to turn him in to authorities if he contacted him again. Jung later applied to change his visa status through the proper channels, but his application was denied. He fell into a deep depression and even thought about going back to Korea, but didn't want to uproot his children, who had been living in the United States for five years at that point. He continues to live in this country without legal documentation.
Jung is one of people participating in Fast for Families: A Call for Immigration Reform. On Nov. 12, faith, immigrant rights, and labor leaders launched the fast in an effort to move the hearts of members of Congress, and inspire them to pass compassionate immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Bread for the World is one of the sponsors of Fast for Families, and several Bread staff members are fasting.
Jung says he is participating because he is tired of living in the shadows.
"I don’t want to be ashamed of who I am," he wrote in a recent blog post. "I want to tell you, tell others that we should not be discouraged. I know how difficult it is to live as an undocumented immigrant. Yet, I (and my family still) have hope. I believe we can pass comprehensive immigration reform together.
"I also have a message to the members of Congress," he continued. "We, the undocumented, are not different from you. We are just like your friends and families. We also work hard and pay taxes to make this nation better. We’ve been a part of this great nation. If you continue to deny our rights as human beings, if you use us for your political advantage, if you continue to break our families, you will find yourself isolated and you will be held responsible when immigrant families stride to polling places."
We ask that you join us in standing in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are seeking U.S. citizenship. Sign up to fast, participate in an action in your area, and be sure to contact your representative and tell him or her that it's time for the House of Representatives to move immigration reform forward.
Last weekend, hundreds of Catholic youths descended on Washington, D.C., for the Ignatian Family Teach-in for Justice, an annual gathering of college and high school students from Jesuit institutions. They prayed together, networked, reflected, and learned about working for justice in the world. The speakers were inspiring, but even more inspiring were the students! They were bright, passionate, engaged, informed, energetic, and deeply committed to letting the love of Jesus spill out of them in both their personal lives, and in their public service and advocacy. They inspired, rejuvenated, and showed me the face of Jesus over and over again.
As Bread for the World’s Catholic relations fellow, I was given the opportunity to put together a team to hang out with hundreds of these amazing young people, who are looking to explore what it means to be an active Catholic with a public voice.
My fellow Bread staff members and I presented at a number of workshops. Amelia Kegan, a domestic policy analyst at Bread, and I talked about creating a "circle of protection" around essential safety net programs here in the United States, and how to take action by urging policy makers to strengthen programs that help hungry people. Bread’s international policy analysts, Beth Ann Saracco and Ryan Quinn, led a session on maternal and child nutrition, and how providing proper nutrients to women and children during the 1,000 days from the beginning of pregnancy through a child’s second birthday is essential for preventing disease, improving education, strengthening health, and saving lives. These 1,000 days are key!
We also invited participants to come to share with us how they are involved in ending hunger in their own communities, and in the world at large.
On Sunday, we were able to address the group as a whole to discuss the importance of protecting SNAP (food stamps) in the farm bill. We trained groups of students in how to talk to their policy makers when they gathered at the Capitol building on Monday for prayer, praise, and advocacy meetings with their congressional representatives.
We also encouraged the students to message their members of Congress using Twitter, and other forms of social media. Take a look at some of the messages these students tweeted to their representatives as part of our social media campaign:
All of this was very encouraging, but the most powerful takeaway I left with was hope. The media is filled with stories that condemn this young generation, calling them lazy, unmotivated, and unwilling to speak up to change the systems that keep people hungry and poor. But this group, and others like it, is proof that their generation is not only engaged, but immensely creative with their activism and eager to help those suffering from hunger and living in poverty.
Billy Kangas is the fellow for Catholic Relations at Bread for the World.
Photos: (top) Billy Kangas and a friend at the Ignatian Family Teach-in for Justice (Gary Cook). (Bottom) The group of Jesuit students gathered on the mall for the event (Billy Kangas).
By Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy
“I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”
Does your church or campus community want to share God’s concern for poor and hungry people? Seek inspiration for the long haul of its social justice journey? Desire to connect with a national, biblically-grounded rising of teachers, business people, artists, stay-at-home moms, and others who have a passion for justice?
For the past three years, Bread for the World has been a sponsor of The Justice Conference, an annual national gathering that educates, inspires, and connects a generation of men and women around a shared concern for biblical and social justice, and the vulnerable and oppressed.
In February, Bread for the World will again bring its proven Christian legislative advocacy experience to the conference, and look to find new ways to collaborate around addressing global hunger and poverty.
Here’s how your faith community can get involved with this year's Justice Conference, which will take place Feb. 21 to 23 at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles:
- Visit Bread for the World’s exhibit and attend its pre-conference workshops on Feb. 21 and 22.
- Become a host site, so that more voices will join this important movement.
- Register to attend a regional Justice Conference host site near you.
- Plan to attend the main conference in Los Angeles.
- Come to the Justice Conference Film Festival on Feb. 23.
If you, or your church, are participating in this year’s conference, either attending or serving as a host site, please let us know—we’d like to connect with you. To learn more about this year's conference, watch the conference promotional video, featuring poet Micah Bournes, below.
Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy leads national evangelical church relations at Bread for the World.
On Oct. 29, a group of 600 conservative faith, business, and law enforcement leaders from around the country gathered in Washington, D.C., to advocate for immigration reform at the Americans for Reform event. The group met with Republican lawmakers and shared with them the message that our nation has a moral obligation to reform our immigration system—and the time for reform is now.
Bread for the World partners such as Asbury Seminary in Kentucky and the Christian Reformed Church in North America, located in Grand Rapids, Mich., were among the diverse religious delegations participating in the event.
This gathering signaled that, across the political spectrum—from socially conservative evangelical Christians to progressive immigrant rights leaders, from business leaders to labor unions—Americans are #Ready4Reform.
There are approximately 11-12 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Once in this country, immigrants typically improve their economic condition, but their legal status means they are blocked from realizing their economic potential and making full contributions to the U.S. economy. The poverty rate for undocumented immigrants is estimated to be between 21 to 35 percent—despite the fact that these individuals have a high workforce participation rate.
Bread for the World views immigration reform as a hunger and poverty issue. Supporting reform that offers undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship will reduce poverty, by giving them access to education and employment opportunities. It will also stimulate national economic growth. Studies show immigration grows the economy, reduces the national debt, and can even create jobs for natives.
It’s easy for lawmakers who are contemplating critical decisions about immigration reform to forget that the reason most people migrate to the United States is because they are seeking to escape crippling poverty in their home countries. They are doing what anyone would do if faced with a similar situation—taking a risk in order to improve their lives and the lives of their family members.
While the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill in June, the House has yet to put any immigration reform proposal to a full vote. Bread for the World and its partners are working to ensure that House leadership puts a vote on immigration reform on the 2013 calendar. The Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT), of which Bread is a member, recently released a letter urging the House to continue working on immigration and take up reform that includes a pathway to legalization or citizenship. EIT faith leaders also met with President Obama and Vice President Biden this week to reiterate their support for broad immigration reform that transcends politics.
So what can you do? Email, or tweet, your members of Congress and tell them that America is #Ready4Reform. Urge them to support smart immigration reform that helps undocumented immigrants lift themselves out of poverty follows the biblical mandate to welcome the stranger.
Minju Zukowski, a senior marketing major at Towson University in Maryland, is Bread for the World’s media relations intern.
Bread for the World's government relations department (left to right): Traci Carlson, Christine Melendez Ashley, Eric Mitchell, Amelia Kegan, Ryan Quinn, and Beth Ann Saracco (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).
Bread for the World’s director of government relations, Eric Mitchell, has been named one of 2013's top grassroots lobbyists by The Hill newspaper. Mitchell says the honor may be in his name, but stresses that the accolade recognizes the work of faithful advocates across the nation and Bread for the World’s dedicated staff.
by advocates if they should write yet another letter or make another call to one of their members of Congress, Mitchell's response is always, “lather, rinse, and repeat.” He says
if you find a process that works, you keep at it, over and over again.” He learned this adage when he was working as a congressional staffer. This practice of perseverance has helped Bread for the World shape many policies and programs that help end hunger both in the United States and abroad.
The expert policy analysts of our government relations team, led by Mitchell, track legislation as it moves on Capitol Hill. They determine when action from grassroots can be most impactful, and then ask our members to participate in email calls to action. Each month, on a national grassroots conference call and webinar, Mitchell's team joins Bread's organizing department to give a legislative update that ensures that our members stay informed. And when advocates report in-district visits with their members of Congress to their regional organizers, Mitchell and his team follow up with the D.C. offices, increasing the impact of our members' congressional visits.
Congratulations to Mitchell, his staff, and faithful advocates for this distinction.
Lather, Rinse and Repeat! Even if you have already contacted your member of Congress, call or email them again. Members of Congress are in the process of making decisions about the budget and farm bill, and faithful advocates must tell them that any final budget or farm bill must not increase hunger.
Carrie Newcomer is one of the artists who generously contributed music to Bread for the World's Songs for 1,000 Days CD (Publicity photo, Rounder Records).
By Sara Doughton
For singer-songwriter Carrie Newcomer, a long-time activist for causes such as peace-building and protecting the environment, food insecurity and malnutrition are fundamental barriers to a more just and peaceful world.
“Hunger is bracing,” Newcomer says. “It gets right down to the center of the community, because if a child is hungry, they can’t grow, they can’t develop, it’s more difficult to learn. There are a lot of systemic things that happen when a person is hungry.”
When approached about contributing music to Songs for 1,000 Days, the CD compilation dedicated to maternal and child nutrition in the critical window between the beginning of a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday, Newcomer readily agreed. The Rounder Records artist offered a song from Everything is Everywhere, a joint effort with celebrated Indian sarod masters Amjad Ali Khan, Amaan Ali Khan, and Ayaan Ali Khan. All proceeds from Everything is Everywhere benefit Interfaith Hunger Initiative (IHI), a not-for-profit organization bringing together two dozen Indianapolis faith communities working to end child and family hunger.
As a long-time Quaker, Newcomer immediately understood the connection between Bread for the World’s Christian faith and its efforts on behalf of poor and hungry people in the United States and abroad.
“There’s a Quaker idea—the light of God in everyone," Newcomer says. "Each person has a piece of the light within them. Every person. No one is excluded. And when you see the world that way, something like Bread for the World just makes sense. If all the people who are walking around in this world are sacred, then treating them as such becomes an important idea. And when people aren’t doing well, or they’re struggling – if they’re hungry –we can’t ignore it.
“Caring for those who are vulnerable is one of the beautiful things about our spiritual tradition," she continues. "We have to pay attention to that and work toward eliminating hunger, poverty, and injustice whenever we can. It’s the work of the compassionate heart.”
In her work as an artist and advocate, Newcomer relies on lyrics and melodies to call for greater compassion, opportunity, and equality.
“I tell a human story…often when you stand on a soapbox, the doors to people's hearts close immediately," she says. "But, if you sing them a song that’s honest and human…then people will leave their hearts open just a little bit longer. And in that moment there’s an opportunity, and also a responsibility, in terms of what you have to offer.”
As Newcomer opens her listeners’ ears and hearts to those in need, she looks forward to partnering with Bread to raise awareness about the importance of maternal and child nutrition.
“Organizations like Bread for the World give me hope,” Newcomer says. “Sometimes people say hope and mean wishful thinking, or optimism. [But] I think of hope as being an incredibly courageous act – hope is about getting up every morning and working toward that better, kinder, more compassionate world. Hope is about not knowing how it’s going to turn out, and not even knowing if you’re going to see it in your lifetime, but working toward it anyway.
“Bread for the World is really a wonderful example of hope and love made visible. And so I’m excited to be part of this, working in community with Bread.”
Sara Doughton, a former intern in Bread for the World's church relations department, is a student at Yale Divinity School.
Bread for the World members Susan and Russell Stall of Greenville, N.C., work to change systems and empower people. The couple recently traveled to Kenya, a trip organized by Dining for Women. Susan serves on the board of the local chapter of this global giving circle dedicated to helping women and girls in the developing world. The Stalls learned about Dining for Women when its founder addressed a JustFaith group that the Stalls facilitated in 2011.
JustFaith is a small-group curriculum that links spirituality and the church’s social justice mission. Bread for the World President David Beckmann, another speaker in the JustFaith series, also made a lasting impression on the Stalls.
“David told about meeting the mother of his adopted child,” Susan recalls. “This woman had made a contribution to Bread for the World. When David asked her what motivated the gift, the woman said that when she was a young, unwed, pregnant woman, she couldn't have survived without the government assistance that Bread for the World helps pass in Congress. Now that her life was stable, she wanted to support Bread’s work.”
“I was struck by how this person was helped—and even more that Bread for the World’s own leader was indirectly impacted by Bread's advocacy through his child’s birth mother. I was also struck by the inclusiveness David exuded when he addressed us. My son asked a question and David answered as though Hampton (the only teenager at the event) was the most important person in the room.”In 2008, Russell founded Greenville Forward, dedicated to improving the Stalls’ home city. The effort mobilizes community conversations, leadership development, and community gardens, to name just a few. The latter is of special interest to Russell.
“Public gardens, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are becoming the new front porch, where people can see each other and visit, and grow healthy food to eat,” he says.
The Stalls are members of Triune Mercy Center, a non-denominational mission church, where affluent members sit shoulder-to-shoulder with homeless people, who make up half the congregation. Susan calls the congregation “an incredible model.” Triune recently hosted a large Offering of Letters. These letters to Congress had a special significance, since many of them were penned by low-income and homeless constituents.
Susan and Russell have a son in college and another in his senior year of high school. Their oldest son, Hampton, worked as an intern at Bread for the World this past summer.
The Stalls’ preferred mode of financially supporting efforts to end hunger is through gifts of stock to Bread for the World Institute.
“We’re not the top of the heap when it comes to income. But we do have resources,” Susan explains. “When we give appreciated stock, Bread for the World Institute gets the full amount—and we are not liable to pay capital gains tax on it. So giving stock has been a great mechanism for us. Being Bread members provides us with a way to advocate for the world’s most marginalized people.”
“Bread for the World could go out and give food to people,” Russell says. “But changing systems? Empowering people to speak out? That’s not teaching a man to fish. It’s transforming the whole pond!”
“The reality is that in order to break free from the bondage [of poverty] in this country and the world, we need elected officials to make good on their words and put 'love thy neighbor' at the center of our legislative agenda.” said Derick Dailey, in a video from Bread for the World's 2013 Offering of Letters, "A Place at the Table." (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)
By Robin Stephenson
The shutdown is over and the debt ceiling has been raised — for now. The finish line – a final 2014 budget and a responsible replacement of sequestration – was moved to early next year. For faithful advocates these new developments mean a chance to take a breath, but beware of the chair.
Amelia Kegan, our senior policy analyst, talked about the allure of what runners call “the chair” during this week's grassroots webinar and conference call. Kegan, who recently completed a 100-mile race in Pennsylvania, warned that after you’ve hit the 60-mile mark and come to an aid station, you inevitably see a chair. Tired, you eye it with longing. But, you know that once you sit in that chair and your eyes begin to droop with relaxation, it is much harder to get back up and finish the race.
Our race to end hunger is long and, as the last several months have proved, sometimes frustrating. We share victories, but we also share despair. I’ve heard more than one anti-hunger advocate say that, at times, they’ve wanted to cap their pen, hang up their phone, and never speak to another politician.
I wonder how Moses did it, all those years in the desert? I imagine his often “stiff-necked” charges always asking: are we there yet? I often see this race to end hunger as being similar to crossing that desert — long and tiring, to say the least. At times manna is given to us when we most need it, but like Moses we must wander as servants of the Lord, faithful that the journey is part of the reward.
We know we are not alone as a network of Christians and we know that God is in our midst. Like Moses, we have answered God’s invitation to “come.” Perhaps, like Moses, we might feel inadequate for the job — especially against special interests and the power of money. But we are not inadequate in the eyes of God, whose power is greater than all.
Moses probably saw his share of chairs in the desert. Coming off the mountain, he finds corruption and idol worship among his people. He is angry, but he doesn’t sit down, he travels on.
The coming months will continue to be tough. The farm bill conference is likely to begin soon and our collective responsibility to care for the widow and the orphan will again be called into question as SNAP faces yet another attack. The expected immigration reform legislation in the House and continued budget negotiations reminds us that we must encourage those who have the power of the purse in order to live out the command to love our neighbor.Are we there yet? No, but we have travelled the trail faithfully. Take a moment, say a prayer of thanks that we passed this hurdle, but beware of the chair — we have work to do.
Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and a senior regional organizer in the western hub.
Photo from the Evangelical Immigration Table's Pray4Reform gathering, held on the U.S. Capitol grounds in June. (Joseph Mollieri/Bread for the World)
By Michelle Gilligan
Four years of “off and on” efforts by the "Gang of Seven" in the House to function as a bipartisan voice for comprehensive immigration reform have effectively come to an end. Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) and Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas) announced in a joint statement last week that they are withdrawing from the Gang of Seven negotiations, leaving only one Republican in the group. In the absence of agreement on a comprehensive approach, the House is likely to act on immigration issues through a piecemeal process.
In spite of the breakup of the Gang of Seven, there is still hope that some reforms will be enacted. House Republican leaders are seeking to pass several immigration bills of more limited scope. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, explained that this series of smaller House bills is expected to come to the House floor in October. Goodlatte said that the content of the various pieces of legislation still has some details to be worked out, adding, “We don’t know what this bill is going to look like…but whether it’s a legal status or whether it includes a legal status and then a way to earn citizenship through education, military service, or types of employment, whatever the case may be, all of this is being discussed.”
Since the immigration issue is still before Congress, many faith-based advocacy groups are gathering together to make a final push for common-sense immigration reform in 2013. On Oct. 7 and 8 at the CWS Global Summit on Immigration Reform, faith leaders and activists from across the country will advocate for comprehensive reform of the U.S. immigration system. The summit will be held at National City Christian Church in Washington, D.C., where more than 200 priests, lay leaders, and grassroots organizers will come together to discuss the pertinent issues related to immigration reform.
Over the course of the two days, participants will divide into denominational teams to hold dialogues on a variety of questions. One significant theme will be the importance of building stronger and more welcoming communities for immigrants. In addition to the team dialogues, there will also be presentations by guest speakers, among them several refugees who have volunteered to share their personal stories.
October will be an important month for immigration reform legislation in the House since the House Judiciary Committee is likely to address the issue after several months of inactivity. Faith advocates will continue to play a key role in the outcome of this year’s immigration debates.
Michelle Gilligan is the immigration policy intern at Bread for the World Institute.