615 posts categorized "Advocacy"
Poverty and violence are push factors that have caused a surge in child migration to the U.S. from countries like Guatemala, which has the highest child malnutrition rate in the Western Hemisphere. U.S. food aid assistance help Catarina Pascual Jiménez find a path out of hunger. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).
By Eric Mitchell
Emilio is a 16-year-old boy from Honduras.
A fifth grade dropout, Emilio has no job and often goes hungry. "When we were hungry, we endured it ... Some days, you would eat. Other days, you wouldn't," he says.
A smuggler promised to help Emilio get into the United States. However, during the journey, he and two companions were sold to a man who locked them inside a house in Guatemala, threatening to kill them unless their families each paid $2,000. The journey is dangerous, and some children die on the way, but conditions in his home country are so desperate that Emilio says he will try again.
Emilio is one of tens of thousands of children from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador attempting to flee violence and extreme poverty. We as people of faith must act to address the root causes of this humanitarian crisis.
There are two things you can do right now to help.
- Pray. Pray for these children, their parents, and the often poor and violence-stricken communities they have left behind. And pray for the children who still remain in Central America, many of whom, like Emilio, go without enough food for days on end. You can use these prayers or your own.
- Call (800-826-3688) or email your U.S. representative and your U.S. senators! Simply say: I urge you to respond to the surge of unaccompanied children crossing the border. Please pass legislation that addresses the conditions of poverty, hunger, and violence in Central America that are forcing them to leave.
The Bible tells us that Jesus has a special concern for children who belong to the kingdom of God (Mark 10:14). Christians must speak up for children like Emilio.
Tens of thousands of unaccompanied children are crossing the border, fleeing unspeakable conditions in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Since October, over 52,000 unaccompanied children have crossed our borders. By year’s end, we are expecting that number to grow to between 70,000 and 90,000.
Emilio’s story isn’t unique, considering what he is fleeing. More than half of the citizens of Honduras live on less than $4 a day, and violence is rampant.
While the debate raging in Washington focuses on detention centers and how fast the government can send these children back, few members of Congress are asking: What are we sending these children back to? Solutions to this crisis must look beyond the border.
If we support successful development programs in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, we can help ensure children like Emilio will not have to risk their lives to escape poverty and hunger.
The situation is urgent. Please call (800-826-3688) or email now.
Eric Mitchell is the director of government relations at Bread for the World.
Elections aren't all about winning, are they? A group of Bread activists in the Birmingham, Ala., area realizes that they have an uphill battle in getting their issues heard by candidates in this fall's elections, but they are staying focused on what's important: just being faithful in their advocacy.
Alabama's 6th Congressional District, based around the suburbs of Birmingham, is represented by Republican Spencer Bachus, who is retiring from Congress when his current term ends in 2015.
A runoff election in July will determine which Republican candidate will compete for Bachus' seat in the general election in November. The Republican nominee is almost certain to win in the district, which the National Review Online called "the reddest district in the country."
In the meantime, the Bread activists in the area are deciding how to raise issues of hunger and poverty with the final two candidates as well as getting themselves organized for general and ongoing advocacy activities for Bread.
Suzanne Stigler Martin has done most of the coordinating of the Bread group and reviving its membership after a previous leader, who had built a strong group over a number of years, left and members fell away.
The earlier group of activists had worked hard to win Bachus over on issues related to hunger, and the congressman had actually changed his mind about debt relief in the Jubilee Campaign of 2000. The current group is looking to continue the legacy they've had with Bachus with his successor.
With Martin, the current group has organized itself into teams so that leadership is not so dependent on one person and so the work is spread out.
The teams divide the work into areas such as outreach to churches, advocacy, and elections strategy. The group started a Facebook page to promote their work and provide education on hunger and poverty issues. During the slower summer months, the group plans to add educational items on immigration reform.
The group has been actively trying to engage new congregations in the area in Bread work, encouraging them to hold an Offering of Letters or move to the "next level" by adding advocacy if they have a food pantry or soup kitchen, for example. The group has used the visits of Bread's regional organizer, LaMarco Cable, to encourage congregations to connect with issues being debated in Washington, D.C.
For its congressional campaign work, Martin said the group tried to contact all of the candidates running in the primary with three basic questions related to hunger and a deadline to respond. They planned to post the responses on their Facebook page.
Martin said that it was a challenge for the group to try to contact seven or eight candidates, so it has decided to wait until there are just two candidates in the general election. She said in a primary campaign candidates tend to be focused more on winning the nomination and less on issues.
Martin has other tips for similar groups that want to be involved in congressional campaigns:
- Appoint a person to monitor candidates' campaigns for events that Bread activists can attend.
- Try to get to know the candidates as human beings. Befriend them so that you become a trusted source or adviser on hunger issues.
- Work your networks. If nobody in your group knows a candidate directly, maybe a friend knows a candidate and can make an introduction.
Overall, Martin says advocacy work is for the long-haul. "There's a lot of opportunity. It just takes time," she said. Her group's work shows that it's about developing relationships with not only political candidates in a campaign but also with church members. She adds: "We are not called to win; we are just called to be faithful."
This post originally appeared in Bread for the World's July newsletter.
Bread for the World President David Beckmann, at approximately age 5. To see the complete #5thbday photo gallery, visit 5thbdayandbeyond.org. (Photo courtesy of David Beckmann)
By Beth Ann Saracco
If you are on Facebook, and follow Bread for the World President David Beckmann, you may have noticed he recently updated his profile picture to a photo of himself as a young boy. The change commemorates the 5th Birthday and Beyond celebration, which recognizes the significant progress that has been achieved in child survival over the past 25 years, and the many contributions the United States has made in reaching this milestone.
Thanks in large part to bipartisan support from members of Congress, current and past U.S. administrations, private-sector partners, nongovernmental organizations (including Bread for the World), and other multilateral organizations and donor nations, the number of deaths of children under five has dropped by half since 1990. In the past twelve years alone, 700,000 fewer children have died from pneumonia, 300,000 fewer children from malaria, and 100,000 fewer children from AIDS.
As we celebrate these significant gains, we also reflect on the role Bread for the World has played, throughout its own 40-year history, to significantly improve child survival. In the last 25 years alone, Bread for the World has helped craft and pass major legislation that has reduced child mortality, including a bill that established the international Child Survival Fund. Each year, this fund helps immunize more than 100 million children in the developing world; since its establishment, the number of children dying daily from malnutrition and preventable diseases has fallen by 50 percent.
In 1999, Bread for the World led the creation of the Jubilee Campaign, which was part of a worldwide movement that successfully urged Congress to forgive the debts of some of the world’s poorest countries. As a result, relief has reduced the debts of 36 of the world’s poorest countries by 90 percent. Many of these countries have been able to reinvest and expand basic education and health services.
In the new millennium, Bread for the World and its partners successfully advocated for the establishment of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), which provided a new, innovative way of administering U.S. foreign aid. Through its unique approach focused on good governance, accountability, and poverty reduction, MCC has supported nearly 40 countries with more than $8.5 billion in aid, ranging from food-security programs and health initiatives to water and sanitation projects.
Most recently, thanks in part to analysis from Bread for the World Institute, we are pushing to improve the nutritional quality of U.S. food aid. In addition, through the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Civil Society Network, which supports civil society alliances at the country level, we are learning about the opportunities and challenges of scaling up nutrition in some of the countries most affected by malnutrition. This is helping inform our advocacy and our push for greater investments in maternal and child nutrition programs.
Working with a number of U.S. civil society partners, our advocacy efforts helped encourage and shape the U.S. Agency for International Development’s new nutrition strategy, which will better integrate and coordinate nutrition and nutrition-related programs across U.S. development assistance programs. Since we know the many links that exist between child survival and the right nutrition and care during the 1,000 days between a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday, these efforts will translate into even more mothers and children living longer, healthier, more productive lives.
Proudly, Bread for the World joins with other partners in recognizing the 5th Birthday and Beyond celebration, and extends particular gratitude to Congress and the administration for their continued support of vital programs that promote child survival and wellbeing. Together, we are working to ensure that all children not only survive to their fifth birthdays, but thrive well beyond them.
Beth Ann Saracco is an international policy analyst at Bread for the World.
Margaret Edmondson, an Idaho constituent, talks to Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) during Bread for the World's 2012 Lobby Day in Washington, D.C. (Rick Reinhard).
By Amelia Kegan
What does it mean to live out the Lord’s Prayer and seek to build heaven on earth? How can we be the light that can transform a broken world? I believe, especially for Americans, the answer lies in using our gifts of citizenship. When we live out our faith in the public arena, the world can change.
I’m fortunate that I have a job that allows me to live out my faith. I’m a domestic policy analyst for a faith-based anti-hunger organization. My job is to understand public policy moving through Congress and analyze how it affects hunger.
I spend a lot of time on Capitol Hill urging members of Congress to vote for legislation that can end hunger and poverty. I know the impact the faith community has in the nation’s capital. When I lift up the needs of those struggling with hunger and poverty to members of Congress, I feel that I am living out my faith. When I hear from congressional staff that they received a pack of letters from a church back home in their state or district, so they already know about the issue I’m bringing up, I see God moving in our time and through our work to end hunger.
I meet many Christian leaders on Capitol Hill, and they, too, can be moved by your faith. There's a power in the Christian voice that the special interests just can't compete with. When we testify to God’s love for all in the public arena, we build a better world.
In Deuteronomy 6, Moses preaches: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” The city gates! You don't get more public than that.
Talking with people of influence – our elected leaders, as well as our friends, family, and fellow church congregants – about a world without hunger is part of living out our faith. Advocating about issues of hunger opens the gates for those left on the margins of society.
Our love of God should show up in everything we do. It is tempting to act out of that love when it's easy and convenient, but God's love is a love we cannot contain — it shines. It must be present and visible in all the public spaces of our lives — including in our role as citizens.
Each June, Bread for the World members gather in Washington, D.C., for our annual Lobby Day. If you cannot join us in person in Washington, consider taking the pledge to join our virtual Lobby Day. Our whole community must come together in order to really make an impact, so we hope you’ll join us.
Amelia Kegan is deputy director of government relations at Bread for the World.
Lutheran Development Service distributes cooking oil to people affected by a 2004 drought in Swaziland. Many U.S. food-aid items are distributed by private relief and development organizations supported by U.S. churches. (Stephen Padre)
Local newspapers can be a powerful and public way to message your members of Congress as well as bring attention to hunger issues.
Faith leaders in Missouri published an op-ed last week in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch opposing a harmful change to U.S. food aid. In the editorial, titled "A provision in Congress that hurts taxpayers and the hungry," Rev. Roger R. Gustafson, Dr. Jim Hill, and Meg Olson call on Missouri senators to reject a provision slipped in to the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2014 that would increase cargo preference.
The bill, which recently passed the House, increases the percentage of U.S. food aid required to be shipped on private U.S. shipping vessels. In effect, this takes away an additional $75 million per year from much-needed U.S. international food-aid programs. Both senators for Missouri, Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), sit on the commerce committee, which will soon consider this issue.
"As we read in the Book of Proverbs, 'A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but an accurate weight is his delight.' A present-day “false balance” that harms taxpayers and hungry people was tucked into a bill heading to the U.S. Senate, and it must be removed," the faith leaders wrote in the op-ed.
"The false balance in question is an obscure, one-sentence provision in an otherwise unrelated bill passed recently by the U.S. House of Representatives. This provision would tilt the balance in the wrong direction — against fiscal responsibility and against millions of hungry people around the world. As faith leaders called to be stewards of our resources and to serve our neighbors both here and around the world — and especially 'the least of these' — we find this unacceptable, and we call on our U.S. Sens. Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill to correct the balance and remove this unjust provision."
If your member of Congress also sits on the commerce committee, now is the time to speak up. The committee will soon begin drafting their own version of the bill and without an outcry from faithful advocates, the cargo-preference stipulation could take food from nearly 2 million hungry people. This provision, as the authors write, is an unjust balance. Both taxpayers and the hungry deserve better.
Every member of Congress relies on local media to gauge public opinion on legislation and determine their constituents' priorities. Learn more about how to influence the media on Bread's website and call your regional organizer if you would like to help organize an editorial in your own state.
Because of policy changes allowing flexibility in how we deliver food aid, USAID was able to commit $10 million dollars to be used to purchase food in the Philippines in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. (USAID photo)
I have a confession to make: I occasionally have moments of despair as an anti-hunger advocate. Then I go through a few stages that remind me faith has the power to move mountains – or topple giants as the case may be.
Despair weighed me down when I learned a harmful bill, which cuts international food aid to starving people in deference to shipping companies hungry for profit, passed the House. Three private, foreign-owned shipping companies would largely reap the benefits of a cargo preference provision quietly added to the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2014 (HR 4005). Their profit would come at the expense of U.S. food=aid programs. The bill now sits in the Senate Commerce Committee for consideration.
I’m now hopeful that we can fight this harmful provision, but it took me a little while to get here. If you sometimes feel hopeless in your work to end hunger, don’t worry—it’s normal and necessary. Sometimes we must feel sadness and despair—they are the very things that move us to act. Usually, I experience this in four stages:
I feel sad and tired.
I recall a scene broadcast on the news after Typhoon Haiyan devastates the Philippines: A distraught teenager wails and beats on the one remaining wall of what was once his family’s home– his lifeless mother lies in the rubble nearby and his father looks at the camera and pleads for help. I cry. The next scene shows international compassion for humanity as helicopters drop food and water to survivors.
Flexibility on where food can be purchased is a major factor in getting life-saving aid to the Philippines quickly. Reforms in the 2014 farm bill could help up to 800,000 additional people at no additional cost. It is good to see the results of advocacy as lives are saved.
But some want to turn back the clock. Food shipped under cargo-preference law from the United States takes an average of 14 weeks longer to reach people in a crisis. Increasing cargo preference, as stipulated in the Coast Guard bill, would deny an estimated 2 million hungry people access to food aid and reverse improvements made in the farm bill. I wonder how lawmakers could make such a choice: a few shipping companies over 2 million lives.
I feel outraged.
Powerful maritime lobbyist versus a group of Christian advocates seems like a losing battle. However, time and time again, our collective Christian voice wins victories by using gifts of citizenship. The Bible is full of inspirational stories that remind me that faith and “right” is more powerful than money and might. I turn to scripture.
I feel hopeful.
I read 1 Samuel 17 — the story of David and Goliath. The odds of a little guy defeating a giant warrior seem laughable. The soldier’s tools of battle are too heavy, so he is left with a sling and some stones. But David does not go into battle alone and he knows this is the Lord’s fight — David answers a call to act. With a single stone, David topples a giant.
I feel called and ready to act.
There are always giants on Capitol Hill, whether special-interest lobbyists, or lawmakers themselves. Like David picking up the rock as he faces impossible odds against Goliath, anti-hunger advocates can pick up phones, send emails, visit their members of Congress and send a powerful message to the Senate: reject any actions that would increase transportation costs for food aid and prevent hungry people around the world from receiving U.S. food assistance.
We make a difference and we carry with us a sacred call to end hunger. When we live that call out together, giants topple.
Robin Stephenson is Bread for the World's national lead for social media and regional organizer, western hub.
Bill Clark of Philabundance, a Philadelphia-area food bank, makes the case to participants of a workshop that the government has long had the ability to address hunger as a social crisis. (Stephen Padre)
[This story originally appeared in the May edition of Bread for the World's newsletter.]
"We [as a nation] have done very little to end hunger," declared Bill Clark, executive director of Philabundance, a food bank serving the Philadelphia area. "The problem next week is the same problem we were facing last week. We really haven’t done anything, and we haven’t been engaged in any way to actually end hunger. But I believe we can do that, and some of these large movements that we've seen historically give me faith that we can."
Clark was one of three local anti-hunger leaders and activists who addressed 62 hunger advocates in Southeastern Pennsylvania March 29 at Villanova University. The advocates gathered for a day of information, inspiration, and being equipped for activism at a workshop organized by Bread for the World.
Clark spoke to participants, who included dozens of students from area colleges and seminaries, about his work assisting the nearly 1 million people in the Delaware Valley who face hunger every day. He provided a national context for his work in the area by explaining that the federal government and social movements have each played key roles in ending other societal ills such as slavery and child labor.
He and the other two speakers, who presented in the short, information-intensive style of the popular TED Talks, were at the workshop as examples of local practitioners, people who are fighting hunger in local communities day-byday. Clark spoke about the success of Philabundance’s new nonprofit grocery store, Fare and Square, in Chester, Pa., a former food desert.
A fourth speaker at the workshop, Bread's director of government relations, Eric Mitchell, provided a national perspective on ending hunger in his talk, titled "Why Do Elections Matter?"
"I like to call elections marching orders," said Mitchell. "It's constituents telling their member of Congress, 'When you go to D.C., you better vote on this issue and that issue.'" He explained to advocates that all elections, even midterm elections, like the ones approaching in 2014, can and do have long-lasting effects because of who gets elected to Congress and how they vote.
Following these speakers, which provided different aspects of fighting hunger, advocates received training on carrying out a letter-writing event in their church or on their campus as part of Bread's Offering of Letters campaign. Bread offers workshops similar to the one at Villanova for Bread’s biggest church- and campus-based legislative campaign every year to provide background on the campaign's topic and to hone the advocacy skills of advocates.
Bread's 2014 Offering of Letters focuses on reforming the U.S. government's programs that provide food aid overseas, which provided yet another perspective, an international one, to the workshop's participants.
In small-group discussions, which occurred between speakers throughout the day, advocates wrestled with the truth that hunger is not well-known in communities where it exists. They agreed that it is crucial to emphasize reality-based, compelling stories told by those directly experiencing hunger and poverty. One participant noted, "We need to bridge the gap between people who have stories about hunger and those who have the mental space to campaign."
To see if there is a workshop scheduled near you (or to request one), contact your Bread regional organizer, who can also assist you with organizing an Offering of Letters.
“Throughout the Scriptures, God calls people into community and sets the expectation that leaders (whether they are kings, pharaohs, or governments) should care for their people (Psalm 72:2). Therefore, we also reflect God’s love by challenging individuals and institutions given the power to change laws and structures that keep people vulnerable. We work toward a just world in which every person has an opportunity to thrive. We participate in showing God’s love and honor the dignity and worth of our neighbors.”
Excerpt from The Biblical Basis for Advocacy to End Hunger.
As a collective Christian voice, Bread for the World grounds our work to end hunger with Scripture. The Biblical Basis for Advocacy to End Hunger outlines nine biblical themes that guide our mission.
- God loves us. Jesus’ greatest commandments are that we love God and each other.
- Humankind was created out of God’s love and in God’s Image, so we are to respect the dignity of every person.
- God has a special concern for poor and vulnerable people.
- God provides out of God’s abundance.
- All creation is reconciled with God through Jesus Christ, and we are to be agents of reconciliation.
- God loves justice and requires us to do justice and love kindness.
- Jesus said, “Whatever you do for the least of these you do for me.” We do Christ’s work when we act with and for hungry and poor people.
- We hear God’s voice in Scripture and respond with the faithful use of our own voices.
- God has a role for government to play in the protection and development of people.
Each section in the pamphlet includes Bible verses and references to people and stories that illuminate the call to end hunger through advocacy. We encourage you to use the brochure as the basis for a conversation in your church or community, and explore how God calls us to end the brokenness of hunger and poverty in our world.
The free resource is available online for download; print copies can be ordered through our store. Let us know in the comments how you were able to use the resource: as an individual exploration, as a Christian educator leading an adult forum or study group, or as a small spiritual-formation group seeking to ground your understanding of how the Bible talks about hunger and advocacy.
University of Kentucky One Campus volunteers Ibitola Asalou (l) and Liz Renzaglia (c) with Lesly Webber-McNitt of the Farm Journal Foundation at the April 2 development and world hunger panel. (Courtesy of Deborah Charalambakis)
By Deborah Charalambakis
How can food-aid reform and agricultural investments help feed people around the world? And what can advocacy to do help make those things possible? On April 2, residents of Lexington, Ky., college students, and faculty gathered at the University of Kentucky for an engaging, thought-provoking discussion that explored these questions, as well as others related to development and world hunger.
Jon Gromek, regional organizer with Bread for the World; Dr. Jerry Skees, president of GlobalAgRisk; Abby Sasser, regional field director at ONE Campaign; and Lesly Weber-McNitt director of government relations and program development at Farm Journal Foundation, were the participating panelists. Amanda Milward, field representative from Rep. Andy Barr’s office (R-Ky.-06), was a special guest.
Among the topics tackled during the panel discussion were agriculture and food-aid reform. Many people don’t realize the importance of investing in agriculture and smallholder farmers, something all of the panelists touched on. Both Gromek and Dr. Skees spoke about the need for U.S. food-aid reform, and the ways we can improve food security for Africa’s most vulnerable people. Investing in farmers and agriculture not only increases income and food security for those populations, it reduces poverty significantly. This has been documented in both Ghana and Burkino Faso, two of the countries profiled in the ONE Campaign report “Ripe for Change: The Promise of Africa’s Agricultural Transformation.” Ghana has seen a decrease in poverty by 44 percent, and Burkino Faso created 235,000 jobs—all because those countries’ governments invested in their agricultural sectors.
The panelists also talked about advocacy, and how it helps make such success stories possible. When I asked our panelists why advocacy is important, they all dove in to answer. Sasser, Weber-McNitt, and Gromek – who all work in advocacy— stressed that our members of Congress represent us; when groups of hard-working advocates contact their senators and representatives about issues such as protecting foreign assistance programs (which account for less than 1 percent of our federal budget), those elected officials listen. The more politicians hear from their constituents, the better the chance that they will act on the requests of their constituents. . When we become aware of issues of agriculture, poverty, and development and we continue to stand on the sidelines, this not only skews our view of justice, but calls into question our concern for humanity all together. That was something the audience truly understood in our advocacy discussion.
Though the event was a great success, and many people had questions for our panelists, it doesn’t end there. When it comes to issues of agriculture, development, and world hunger, let us be persistent in educating those around us about these issues, and become powerful advocates for the world’s poor.
Deborah Charalambakis is president of the ONE Campus chapter at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Ky. ONE was created with assistance from Bread for the World. To learn more about what’s happening in ONE in Kentucky, follow the group on Twitter: @ONE_uky
Marvin Garcia Salas eats breakfast with his son Jesus, 4, in Chiapas, Mexico. Marvin was once an undocumented immigrant in the United States, where he had moved without his family to better support them. Hunger, and a lack of economic opportunity are at the root of much of the undocumented immigration from Mexico. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)
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