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19 posts categorized "Field Focus"
Pastor Dave Buerstetta blesses an offering of letters at the Woodridge United Methodist church outside of Chicago, Ill. Assisting him are Jason Shubert (l) and Tim Waynick. (Photo courtesy of Dave Buerstetta).
Pastor Dave Buerstetta did not always make the connection between his Christian faith and advocating for hungry people. “I had kind of a conversion experience in seminary,” he says. “I met the Jesus who cares, the one who breaks down the barriers, who helps people who need help.”
“That is the Jesus that I’m in love with. That’s how I knew to live the life that I was called to.“
An ordained American Baptist minister, Dave Buerstetta serves as a pastor at the Woodridge United Methodist Church, in Naperville, Ill., where he lives with his wife, Joann, and two children. At Woodridge, Pastor Dave focuses on youth ministry, outreach, and social justice. He is a thoroughly 21st century pastor, maintaining a popular blog and using social media to share his homilies and fight hunger, poverty, and human trafficking.
Despite ministering to a solidly middle-class congregation, Pastor Dave has seen the hidden hunger that exists in most communities. “Even here they have a lot of need,” he says, relating the story of a family who volunteered at a local food pantry for years and now needs help. Unfortunately, the stigma of hunger and poverty drove that family to seek help outside of the community instead of turning to the pantry at which they had assisted for so many years.
That stigma is a barrier that people of faith need to erase, according to Pastor Dave. He points to the new documentary “The Line” as an important resource for understanding that hunger can happen to any of us. It puts the lie to any notion that people who are struggling are lazy,” he says. (“The Line” is a new Bread for the World resource that can be accessed at www.bread.org.)
In Pastor Dave’s experience, the faces behind the statistics give him power as he advocates as “the hands, the feet, and the voice” for hungry people. He recounts the feedback that he received from a legislative aid for Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) “She said that it’s not enough to tell a moral story. In the current climate, we have to tell stories of people we know in congregations who are receiving assistance. It’s not just millions … it’s Mr. and Mrs. Smith who can’t feed their daughter.”
Since getting more involved with Bread after the 2008 National Gathering, Pastor Dave he has become a seasoned advocate, lobbying in person and on the phone and making the Offering of Letters a major focus in the worship service. He also maintains a one-person Offering of Tweets, sending messages to Congress and informing the world about social justice issues through his Twitter account.
Pastor Dave has seen the positive effect of his lobbying efforts and of the Offering of Letters. When visiting Representative Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) with three other Bread members, she told them that they had received hundreds of letters from Bread and that the letters had make a difference. She also told them that she was cosponsoring a bill to strengthen poverty-focused development assistance.
“It’s experiences like that that help me see the value of lobbying,” says Pastor Dave.
This article originally appeared in the November-December 2012 issue of Bread for the World's newsletter.
On a morning twenty-five years ago, I woke before dawn and, in the faint early light, watched scores of people quietly walking miles along dusty, rural roads to vote. This was in Hinche, a town in the central highlands of Haiti, and I was an election observer on a team that Bread for the World had co-sponsored to monitor Haiti’s first national election in many years. Despite threats of violence and intimidation, proud people walked resolutely on in the brightening morning.
At the polls, they stood cheerfully in line for long periods, pored through the complex paper ballot, and then, with smiles, proudly displayed their inked fingers showing that they had voted. Suddenly, in mid-morning, word came by radio of violence and killings at the polls in the capital and other cities, and then of the cancellation of the entire election. With sad faces, waiting voters left the lines and quickly disappeared. We tried to offer hope, but fear had changed the atmosphere in an instant.
From that election, there’s a poster in Kreyol in my office that reads: “Pou chak dwa konstitisyon an bay, gen yon devwa. Al vote.” Roughly translated it means: “For each right the constitution gives, you have a duty. Vote!” The Haitian people took that challenge seriously; today too many in our country ignore the duty part.
Since then, I’ve chosen to vote by walking, not driving, to the polls early on Election Day, rain or shine, because of the bravery of the Haitian people I met that day. Thank God our lives are not on the line as we vote today, but the life of our democracy, our nation, and our world is on the line at election time. So in remembrance and gratitude, I invite everyone to join in walking resolutely on once more. "Al vote!"
Larry Hollar is Bread for the World's senior regional organizer for the Eastern Hub.
Photo: A woman walks on a road in Haiti. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)
Sharmila Chaudhari feeds her daughter Sanjana, 19 months, at the Nutrition Rehabilitation Home (NRH) in Dhangadhi, Nepal, on Sunday, April 29, 2012. This Nutrition Rehabilitation Home in the western part of the country is run by an NGO in Nepal called the Rural Women's Development and Unity Centre (RUWDUC). Children eat meals and snacks at 7 a.m., 10 a.m., 1 p.m., 4 p.m., and 7 p.m., and they drink milk at 10 p.m., 1 a.m., and 4 a.m.
Forty-one percent of Nepali children under age 5 are short for their age (stunted), according to the preliminary 2011 Nepal Demographic and Health Survey. Stunting is an indicator of malnutrition, so ensuring children are properly nourished in the 1,000 days between pregnancy and age 2 is vital to a child’s development.
Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World
Mukul Begum, a shasthya shebika (community health worker) for BRAC, stands in front of her home in Barisal, Bangladesh. Begum delivers basic health care, counseling, and treatment to people in her community.
Text by Molly Marsh / Photos by Laura Elizabeth Pohl
BARISAL, BANGLADESH---Mukul Begum reaches into a plastic jar for tuberculosis medicine and brings it to 70-year-old Amjed Ali Sikder, who sits on a bench outside her front door. She pours a glass of water from a clear pitcher, watching closely as he puts the pill in his mouth and swallows it. Satisfied, she gives him the water.
Begum, 37, is a shasthya shebika, one of about 80,000 health workers trained by BRAC, an international nongovernmental organization, to deliver basic health care, counseling, and treatment to people in their communities. BRAC’s social, health, and economic empowerment programs operate in each of Bangladesh’s 64 districts, reaching about 110 million people.
Shasthya shebikas such as Begum are the engines of BRAC’s work—in 2010, they treated 1,650,673 people, the vast majority in rural areas where medical information and care is limited.
For five years, Begum—a formidable but jolly woman—has made door-to-door visits to counsel people in Barisal, a district of Bangladesh, about safe sanitation, basic hygiene, and nutrition. She currently looks after 263 households; 2 percent of these receive what BRAC calls “Directly Observed Treatment Short-Course.” In other words, if Sikder hadn’t come to her house to take his medicine, she would have gone to his to make sure he took it.
People in the community also visit Begum’s house, a low concrete building that sits under a thick canopy of coconut trees, for help with a variety of ailments. Begum listens and then reaches for a shasthya shebika’s constant companion—a small blue plastic bowl that holds medicine for fever, dysentery, diarrhea, gastric ulcers, skin diseases, and allergic reactions. It also contains home pregnancy tests and pills for calcium, vitamin B, and birth control.
Begum purchases the medicine from her local BRAC office, which she can then sell to her patients at a slight profit. She also receives money when pregnant mothers deliver their babies in a hospital or when patients complete treatment—for example, she’ll receive 500 taka (about $6.50) when Sikdar finishes his 6-month treatment for tuberculosis.
Before they embark on their caregiving, shasthya shebikas receive 15 days of training at a BRAC learning center on health basics and communicable diseases. They also gather for refresher classes once a month, in which they and shasthya kormis (health supervisors) review training themes and discuss issues that have arisen in their communities. Shasthya shebikas also meet once a month with a BRAC manager to report their activities.
It’s a role Begum seems to enjoy. “In the community, people believe I’m a doctor,” she said through a translator. She stands in her front doorway; behind her a clothesline stretches down the hallway, filled with colorful clothes. To the left of her house sits a small shack with items for sale, including toilet paper, candy, bread, and snacks.
BRAC’s main health program, called Essential Health Care, targets poor people—especially women and children—with medical care using seven different components. They include programs that focus on malaria, tuberculosis, and vision problems, and on the needs of pregnant mothers, infants, and children.
Shasthya shebikas are critical to each of these efforts, in many cases receiving additional training to be able to diagnose and treat malaria, for example, or identify vision problems. Begum and others are the front line of care in their communities—not just in dispensing medicine but also referring people to clinics when ailments are beyond their expertise.
Molly Marsh is managing editor and Laura Elizabeth Pohl is multimedia manager at Bread for the World. You can follow Laura on Twitter at @lauraepohl.
Tohomina Akter washes pots and dishes in a pond near her home on the morning of Thursday, April 19, 2012, in Char Baria village, Barisal, in southern Bangladesh. Tohomina participates in a maternal and infant nutrition program called Nobo Jibon administered by Helen Keller International. The program stresses proper nutrition in young children.
Photographs by Laura Elizabeth Pohl / Text by Molly Marsh
BARISAL, BANGLADESH---The afternoon hours are Tohomino Akter’s favorite time of day. That’s when she can take a break from her household tasks, rest, and play with her 17-month-old daughter, Adia. Like any toddler, Adia much prefers movement.
Adia runs through the four rooms of their home, her pink sundress and plastic pink shoes contrasting against the gray tin walls. First is her parent’s bedroom, then the room where her father’s parents and brothers sleep. Then a small room that contains clothes and dishes, and finally the kitchen, a skinny corridor that opens to the outside on one end, where her mother prepares their food over a fire.
Adia stops suddenly at the front steps, looking out at the familiar faces of Char Baria, a village in the Barisal district of Bangladesh. In front of her lies Tohomino’s garden, a 25-foot square of spinach, amaranth, chili, and pepper plants, an important source of nutrients for Adia and her family. Spinach and red amarinthe are Adia’s favorites.
Tohomino planted the garden after receiving training in “Nobo Jibon,” a program administered by Helen Keller International, a nongovernmental organization that works in several Bangladesh districts. The vegetables she harvests have increased the nutrients available to her family, especially her daughter. What’s more, the extra money the family earns selling the surplus vegetables goes toward buying additional food for Adia.
In the program, Tohomino learned why a diverse, healthy diet is important, and also about the importance of breast-feeding her daughter. Tohomino attended classes for almost two months, hearing from health workers the benefits of giving Adia only breast milk during her first six months of life.
Tohomino has stuck to that schedule, introducing supplementary foods only after the initial six-month period, and she’ll continue to breast-feed Adia until she is 2.
“I did not do many things [before taking the class],” Tohomino said through a translator. “But after learning, I am keeping things clean and hygienic to prevent diseases, and cooking nutritious foods to keep me and my family healthy.”
Tohomina Akter feeds her 17-month-old daughter Adia. The nutrition programTohomina participates in stresses exclusive breast-feeding until six months and breast-feeding plus supplementary feeding from six months until 24 months.
Molly Marsh is managing editor and Laura Elizabeth Pohl is multimedia manager at Bread for the World. You can follow Laura on Twitter at @lauraepohl.
As a fan of poetry, I often wish I had the writing talent of a poet. I admire how poets can bring readers into the world of their subjects, without the excess of prose, straight to the heart of a story, issue, or perspective with one perfect line of description.
At Bread for the World, we are constantly wondering how we can evoke the imaginations of people who might not fully understand the danger that some people on the brink of poverty experience daily. That's why we share stories of people we meet along the way who have been there -- people who have fought tooth and nail to scrape together enough money to buy some food for themselves and their kids.
With that in mind, I thought I'd go out on a limb here and share this poem with you called "Short-Order Cook," by Jim Daniels. It depicts a short-order cook at a diner, but speaks to the daily fight some of us go through to overcome great obstacles.
Take some time to read the poem, and share your own favorite poem in the comments section below.
Jim Daniels (b. 1956)
and orders thirty cheeseburgers and thirty fries.
I wait for him to pay before I start cooking.
He ain't no average joe.
The grill is just big enough for ten rows of three.
I slap the burgers down
throw two buckets of fries in the deep frier
and they pop pop spit spit . . .
pss . . .
The counter girls laugh.
It is the crucial point—
they are ready for the cheese:
my fingers shake as I tear off slices
toss them on the burgers/fries done/dump/
refill buckets/burgers ready/flip into buns/
beat that melting cheese/wrap burgers in plastic/
into paper bags/fries done/dump/fill thirty bags/
bring them to the counter/wipe sweat on sleeve
and smile at the counter girls.
I puff my chest out and bellow:
"Thirty cheeseburgers, thirty fries!"
They look at me funny.
I grab a handful of ice, toss it in my mouth
do a little dance and walk back to the grill.
Pressure, responsibility, success,
thirty cheeseburgers, thirty fries.
I am terrible at grasping scale. Ask me how many people were at a concert and I couldn't tell you if it was 1,000 or 10,000. So when I try to conceive of 7 billion people living on this earth, it's enough to give me a splitting headache.
But this is an important concept for all of us to understand. Why? Because 7 billion people means that the hunger crisis in our global community has the potential to get worse. According to a United Nations report, the expected growth has increased concern that the number of hungry and poor people around the world will rise, particiularly as grain and global food prices continue to increase.
This NPR video provides a visual demonstration of how population growth was accomplished in some countries struggling to survive. It's fascinating to note that food, medicine, and better health care--essentially, higher standards of living--are able to stop the constant "drip" of death, disease, and starvation in developing nations.
And that is what our goal should be. I celebrate our growing planet, and I hope that this will only encourage globally conscious people to fight even harder to keep foreign aid and poverty-focused development assistance in our nation's federal budget.
+Act now and protect foreign aid for hungry people around the world.
Watch the video below, and share your thoughts in the comments section:
In this next installment of hunger resources, I've gathered a collection of articles on how people suffer from hunger and the overall cost of hunger in a society. Got any hunger resources of your own? Share them in the comments section below.
- On the Brink: Who’s Best Prepared for a Climate and Hunger Crisis? (Casey, Leora and Alex Wijeratna. Actionaid, Oct. 2011):
"Accelerating climate change, growing population and rising food prices pose a triple crisis that could lead to a collapse in global food systems."
- Right to Food and Nutrition Watch 2011. Claiming Human Rights: The Accountability Challenge. (Brot fur die Welt, FIAN and ICCO, Oct. 11, 2011)
"Despite the growth of a worldwide Right to Food movement and the existence of international frameworks and mechanisms to protect human rights, an unacceptable number of violations remain unpunished, according to the Right to Food and Nutrition Watch 2011, an annual publication released today that monitors food security and nutrition policies from a human rights perspective."
- Food Sovereignty: Reclaiming the Global Food System. (Branford, Sue. War on Want, Oct. 2011.)
"The scandal of global hunger stands as a rebuke to humanity. The fact that record numbers of people are classified as hungry, at a time when there is unprecedented wealth in theworld, challenges the very concept of human progress."
- Farmers Facing Loss of Subsidy May Get New One (Neuman, William, New York Times, Oct. 17, 2011)
"It seems a rare act of civic sacrifice: in the name of deficit reduction, lawmakers from both parties are calling for the end of a longstanding agricultural subsidy that puts about $5 billion a year in the pockets of their farmer constituents. Even major farm groups are accepting the move, saying that with farmers poised to reap bumper profits, they must do their part."
- Hunger In America: Suffering We All Pay For (Shepard, Donald S … et al, Center for American Progress & Brandeis University, Oct. 2011)
"The Great Recession and the currently tepid economic recovery swelled the ranks of American households confronting hunger and food insecurity by 30 percent. In 2010 48.8 million Americans lived in food insecure households, meaning they were hungry or faced food insecurity at some point during the year."
- Interactive Map: Costs of Hunger (Cooper, Donna, Center for America Progress, Oct. 4, 2011)
An interactive map on the costs of hunger created by the Center for American Progress.
Chris Matthews is the librarian at Bread for the World Institute.
Four-year-old Aijelene Ferreras, of Takoma Park, MD, is one of thousands of children who receive free and reduced school lunches.
Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) has introduced a farm bill proposal that includes harmful cuts and changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). This bill could eliminate food assistance to about 1 million low-income people by partially repealing what’s known as “categorical eligibility.” More than 40 states currently use categorical eligibility, an option that allows them to streamline gross income eligibility rules and the financial asset test for SNAP. Repealing this option would negatively impact families with children and could cause about 200,000 children to lose their free school meals. This option also would strip states of their flexibility in administering SNAP, creating further administrative burdens and likely increasing administrative costs and error rates.
With poverty and unemployment reaching record rates, the need for food assistance has never been greater. SNAP is vital to millions of Americans and has helped keep the number of families struggling to put food on the table from increasing for the last three years. The program must not be cut in this way.
Congress has protected SNAP and reduced poverty in every deficit-reduction effort in the past three decades. It is our country’s moral responsibility to ensure that vulnerable children and families don’t go hungry. We must continue to protect this vital program from harmful cuts.
To take action, call 1-800-826-3688 and tell your member of Congress to protect SNAP in any efforts to reduce the deficit and oppose proposals such as the Lugar/Stutzman bill. Furthermore, while poverty and unemployment across the United States has increased, SNAP has helped keep the number of families struggling to put food on the table from increasing for the last three years, and every major deficit-reduction effort in the past three decades has protected SNAP and actually reduced poverty.
Christine Melendez Ashley is a policy analyst at Bread for the World.
When God calls us to “open wide” our hands to the needy and poor in our land (Deuteronomy 15) and pour ourselves out for the hungry (Isaiah 58), God leaves the specifics up to us. We can respond in myriad ways: We can attend rallies, write letters, make calls, and arrange meetings with our legislators. We can give to aid organizations, donate to the food pantry, or volunteer at the local soup kitchen.
We can even take those dictates literally by actually sharing a meal with hungry people. For example, in Cambridge I’ve had the pleasure of befriending Engio, who has a predilection for cheeseburgers; Mike, who likes to eat chicken fried rice with his hands; and Harold, a gourmand who loves to make his own pizza—and who was so aghast at my weekly spam and rice dinners that he once surprised me with a grocery bag full of fresh foods, including fruit, pie, and pre-cooked chicken wings. “Anything but spam, please!” he said. Given his nonexistent income, I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry.
Yet most of these responses, at least for me, preclude participation from my large and rather diverse network of friends. Few—including myself, I admit—are super excited to give up part of their workday to visit their senators or representative at the local office, for example. Food pantries can accommodate only so many volunteers each evening, and outside of church and campus, there are few natural opportunities to organize an Offering of Letters.
As I celebrated my 26th birthday this year, however, I decided to put another spin on responding biblically to hunger by fusing fun with purpose: I threw a huge party.
At 26, there was surprisingly little on my birthday wish list—AmeriCorps stipend and food stamps notwithstanding—though I admit it helps that God has blessed me with relatively good health and a childlike affinity for low-cost activities, such as kite-flying and playing with the local stray cat, Mr. Tinkles. Besides, I had already managed to procure animal crackers, juice boxes, and even my favorite dessert—pecan pie—for my “Back to Childhood”-themed birthday party.
Instead of asking for presents or cards, I invited my friends to come bearing costumes and a different kind of gift—a letter for their senator or representative advocating for the prioritization and reform of foreign aid. I tracked their gifts on a Google doc I shared with them and, for those who hadn’t had time to write their letters, set up a letter-writing station right next to our face-painting station and our smorgasbord of Yoohoos, Twizzlers, and Junior Scrabble Cheez-its. (I admit that the childhood theme doesn’t make for the healthiest party foods.)
With preprinted letter templates, pens, and paper, all it took was five minutes for my friends to handwrite a letter. In the end, I collected a whopping 30 letters from friends across six different states.
My party took place the day before my actual birthday, and I ended up spending much of my birthday tracking their letters, stuffing envelopes, looking up mailing addresses, and placing adhesive stamps—all over bites of leftover pecan pie, of course.
And in the end, I couldn’t have imagined a more meaningful way to celebrate turning 26.
Ada Wan is a Bread for the World Hunger Justice Leader from Cambridge, Massachusetts.