Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

Face to Face: “El Extranjero” (“The Foreigner”)

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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. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

By Bianca Brown

When Angelica* was eight years old, she lived with her mother in a small village in Guatemala, where hunger and poverty were rampant. Angelica’s mother had heard of opportunities in America for better jobs and schools for her child. Gathering all of her savings, she paid a man to bring her family across the border to the United States.

Angelica and her mother were separated once they reached the States. Four years later, Angelica found herself abused, beaten, and prostituted by the man who had brought her across the border. Once, she managed to speak with a caseworker at an immigration assimilation office, where I heard her story.

Angelica is one of the many unaccompanied immigrant children who are victims of human trafficking as a result of hunger and poverty in their home countries. More than 60,000 children are in danger of becoming victims of abuse and trafficking. We can’t afford to ignore the root causes of this mass migration: hunger and poverty. Without addressing the causes of immigration from Latin America, U.S. immigration policy will be ineffective in stemming the flow of unauthorized immigrants.

Angelica’s account shares how constructive immigration reform is beneficial to those seeking citizenship—especially unaccompanied minors. Kept in the shadows, these people live on the margins of society hoping for change. Angelica’s caseworker begged her to tell them if she wanted help out of her situation, the law preventing action otherwise. Angelica replied, “No one will want to help me…who would want to help an alien?”

These families live in fear of their undocumented status, sometimes going hungry in the United States. The current system relegates unauthorized immigrants to the bottom of the U.S. socioeconomic system. U.S. immigration policy does not enable immigrants to break the cycle of poverty by allowing them opportunities to improve their lives and those of their families by advancing professionally, pursuing further education, and fully integrating into their communities.

Comprehensive immigration reform will allow families to make a better life for themselves and their children.

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.

*Child’s name changed to remain confidential.

Bianca Brown is an intern in Bread for the World's communications department and a senior at Georgia's Wesleyan College.

This is a Humanitarian Crisis

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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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Living on the Poverty Cliff: Tianna Gaines-Turner Tells Her Story

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Tianna Gaines-Turner. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

"It’s easier to build a fence at the top of a cliff than drive an ambulance to the bottom." - Art Simon in Writing Hunger into History.

By Robin Stephenson

Tianna Gaines-Turner knows something about cliffs. The working mother of three children has been climbing and falling off the poverty cliff for years.

Gaines-Turner told her story to the House Budget Committee on July 9, during the fifth War on Poverty hearing – a series of hearings exploring how to better address poverty in America. Gaines-Turner, a member of Witness to Hunger, has been the first expert witness invited to testify who lives the experience of poverty.

“We are always trying to climb up. There is a constant climb,” Gaines-Turner said of her and her husband’s struggle to make ends meet with a combined income of roughly $14,000 a year. Federal benefits, such as housing assistance, medical aid, and food stamps, fill in the income gaps so that the Gaines-Turners can care for their children. All three require daily doses of asthma medicine and their twins suffer from epilepsy. 

Budgeting each month in the Gaines-Turner household is a balancing act. When circumstances change, she feels the “cliff effect.” A small increase in income can decrease the amount of food stamp benefits the family can receive. As she improves her circumstances, with each additional dollar earned she loses needed federal assistance yet cannot build assets and save for the future in case of hardship.  “If you have savings,” she says, “your caseworker says you are not eligible for programs.” So when a crisis hits, like a reduction in working hours, the Gaines-Turner family slides back down the cliff, never making it to stable ground.

House Budget Committee members differ on their approach to ending poverty. There are those who consider the safety net as creating dependency and those who see federal anti-poverty programs as a bridge out of poverty. Asked if she thought federal programs promoted dependency, Gaines-Turner said, “I don’t think anyone ever wants to rely on federal programs. I feel like people do want to go out and get a job.”  Jobs, she noted, can be hard to come by depending on where you live. They also do not always pay a living wage. She went on to respond to notions that poverty was a condition of laziness.  “There is not a lazy bone in my body,” she said. “People put that label on us to put up a smoke screen so they don’t see have to see what is really going on.”

Bread for the World Institute outlined its own plan for ending hunger in America in its 2014 Hunger Report. Bread for the World's strategy stresses policies to reduce unemployment and improve the quality of jobs. It also urges a strong safety net, investments in people, and partnerships between community organizations and government programs.

Earlier this year, the House passed the fiscal year 2015 House budget proposal, which makes deep cuts to programs for hungry and poor people in the United States – including cutting food stamps by $125 billion.

The Gaines-Turner family, and millions of working-poor people, need Congress to build a fence at the top of the cliff by funding a strong safety net. At the same time, Congress must also craft policies that lead to living-wage jobs so that families can walk into a better future.

 

World Cup 2014: When Sport Unites the Globe

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Bread for the World's World Cup series will use the occasion of the Cup to focus on the great advances many of the participating countries and players have made in fighting hunger and poverty. Each day, until the end of the tournament, we will highlight a country, or an individual player, that is making a difference.

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Night sets over Antigua, Guatemala, at the Cerro de la Cruz (Hill of the Cross). (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

By Bianca Brown and Reina Villanueva

Nelson Mandela once said, “Sport has the power to change the world…it has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair….” Fresh off of the World Cup finals, we find this quote particularly applicable to “futbol.” Over the past month, the World Cup brought millions of people together on an international scale to share the experience of the winning goal.

The power of an international sporting event like the World Cup is that, for a moment, the entire world is watching. Every four years, people from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, socioeconomic statuses, and geographical locations are united, passionate and informed on a common topic.

 Throughout this series, we highlighted how several countries are combating hunger and poverty while promoting gender equality, educational opportunities, and sustainable environment initiatives. What has made these countries shine is the support they have received from dedicated athletes who advocate for change. Many World Cup players have experienced the pain of hunger and used football as a way out of poverty.

As we mentioned in the first post of the series, hunger, poverty, and football have been common themes in host country Brazil since the announcement was made that it would be the backdrop for the 2014 World Cup. The irony of the massive influx of tourist money during the games amid widespread, ongoing hunger and poverty has left a sour taste in the mouths of many. Protests turned violent outside the arena following Sunday night’s final, bringing global attention to the issue.

There were valid reasons for this unrest. The last host of the World Cup, South Africa, spent around $3,9 billion on the 2010 games, including $1.3 billion in stadium construction alone. South Africans felt great pride in being the first African country to host the tournament. But that spending did little to help people in poverty in a country with one of the highest levels of economic inequality in the world. 

The world will turn again to Brazil as it hosts the Olympics in 2016, yet another chance for the nations of the world to come together again and for this emerging economic power to be in the spotlight.

An international event can be an opportunity to foster greater global understanding. The World Cup helped to provide a platform to raise awareness of how hunger and poverty affect people all over the world. We hope you’ve found this series informative and useful, and will use what you’ve learned to help spark positive change.  

Quote of the Day: Malala Yousafzai

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Lott Carey Mission School in Brewerville, Liberia where student Catherine Jones, 14, wants to be a pediatrician. In many countries, gender inequality persists and and women continue to face discrimination in access to education. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

“We are stronger than those who oppress us, who seek to silence us. We are stronger than the enemies of education. We are stronger than fear, hatred, violence and poverty.”

 - Malala Yousafzai quoted in The Washington Post article, “Helping girls worldwide requires a united stand,” July 13, 2014.

Malala Yousafzai  was 15 years old when she was shot by the Taliban for promoting girls’ education in Pakistan. Now a global education advocate and co-founder of the Malala Fund, she is spending her birthday in Nigeria this week to refocus attention on more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in April, who have yet to return to their families. Malala turned 17 years old on July 12.

Lack of access to education is a barrier to achieving women’s access to economic opportunity.  Since 2000, the Millennium Development Goals created a framework galvanizing support from around the world to cut hunger in half by 2015. The third goal in the framework identifies gender equality and economic empowerment of women as a critical step in the exodus from global hunger.  To learn more about women as the missing link to ending hunger read “A Global Development Agenda:  Toward 2015 and Beyond,” a briefing paper by Faustine Wabwire, senior foreign assistance policy analyst at Bread for the World Institute.

Hunger in the News: War on Poverty, Unaccompanied Minors, Hunger in South Sudan, and Overhauling Criminal Justice

A regular, non-comprehensive roundup of current news links on hunger and poverty issues from around the Web.

“War on poverty’ remains incomplete after half century, say advocates,” by Robert Dilday, APB News/Herald.  “Fifty years after the nation marshaled its forces to eradicate poverty, about 46 million Americans are still numbered among the poor. That has to change, say Christians engaged in the issue

“This is what happened when I drove my Mercedes to pick up food stamps,” by By Darlena Cunha, The Washington Post.  “That’s the funny thing about being poor. Everyone has an opinion on it, and everyone feels entitled to share. “

“COMMENTARY: Christians worship a child who fled violence in his home country” by Gay Clark Jennings, Religion News Service.  “The baby Jesus survived Herod’s massacre because his parents took him across a border to a land where he was safe. Just like parents in Central America who are sending their children away, Mary and Joseph took great risks so their son could survive.”

“Poverty, violence fuel exodus of youths from Honduras to U.S,” by Alfredo Corchado, Dallas News. “Like many, Maynor Serrano yearns to escape to the U.S., where he has relatives. ‘It’s tough to live without hope,’ he said. ‘If it’s not there, you go look for it.”

“Misery stalks South Sudan refugees in camps,” by Jenny Vaughan, AFP.  “Nyayoul Gach was first driven from her home in South Sudan because of violence, but escaped into Ethiopia because of hunger, unable to feed her five children who were rapidly wasting away.”

“US sending $22 million more to aid South Sudan,” by Deb Ricchmann, AP. “The U.S. announced on Thursday an additional $22 million in humanitarian assistance to refugees and people displaced by the violence in South Sudan.”

Rand Paul, Cory Booker team up for justice,” by Seung Min Kim, Politico. “The duo of high-profile, first-term senators — one a New Jersey Democrat who came to Capitol Hill on Twitter-fueled national fame, the other a Kentucky Republican mulling a presidential bid in 2016 — will roll out legislation that comprehensively overhauls the U.S. criminal justice system.”

Strong June Jobs Report Masks Woes of Long-Term Unemployed,” by Rob Garver,The Fiscal Times.  “There is one segment of the population, though, that has not been sharing equally in the gains: the long-term jobless. The share of the unemployed who have been out of work for 27 weeks or more fell to 32.8 percent, but remains extremely high by historic standards.”

“Global Poverty Levels Halved But More Africans In Extreme Poverty Than In 1990: UN Report,” by Avaneesh Pandey, International Business Times.  “While the world has managed to slash the number of poor people by half in the last 20 years, more people in sub-Saharan Africa now live in a state of extreme poverty and hunger than ever before, according to the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals report published Monday.”

 

World Cup 2014: Football that Empowers Girls

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Bread for the World's World Cup series will use the occasion of the Cup to focus on the great advances many of the participating countries and players have made in fighting hunger and poverty. Each day, until the end of the tournament, we will highlight a country, or an individual player, that is making a difference.

Sunday, July 13: Germany v. Argentina

512px-Mario_Götze,_Germany_national_football_team_(02)The final match of the World Cup between Germany and Argentina has fans on edge. Thousands are watching and asking: Who will be the champions of the 2014 World Cup?  While Germany delivered a stunning victory over Brazil in the semi-finals, Argentina enters the match with a total of nine wins. This final game promises to be not only intense, but also a chance to highlight the determination and hard work of both teams.

German midfielder Mario Götze brought not only his passion for football to Brazil, but also his heart to empower women and girls. As a devoted ambassador for Plan, an international children’s charity, Götze has supported typhoon relief efforts in the Philippines and malaria education campaigns in Sierra Leone.

At the advent of the 2014 World Cup, Götze became the spokesperson for Plan’s “Children need fans!” initiative. The goal of the project is to use soccer to combat extreme poverty, social injustice, and violence against women in Brazilian society.

“Football plays a huge role for boys and for girls in this country. But there are also many grievances: Many girls are challenged with traditional gender roles, often discriminated against, and exposed to violence and drugs,” says Götze. "The girls’ football projects of Plan International reassure girls in northeastern Brazil and give them through education the chance at a better future."

According to research compiled by the Bread for the World Institute, increased gender equality results in increased economic and agricultural productivity. The empowerment of women was linked to 55 percent of hunger reduction between 1970 and 1995. The strides that Götze and other World Cup athletes have taken in regard to gender equality demonstrates that the fight against hunger unites both men and women.

The commitment so many World Cup players have for improving the quality of life in their homelands and around the world is an inspiration. Their support of organizations that combat hunger and poverty show the potential of their fans, friends, and fellow athletes to rally in the movement toward a hunger-free world.

Photo:  German midfielder Mario Götze. (Steindy via Wikimedia Commons)

 

World Cup 2014: Football and Activism Fueled By Faith

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Bread for the World's World Cup series will use the occasion of the Cup to focus on the great advances many of the participating countries and players have made in fighting hunger and poverty. Each day, until the end of the tournament, we will highlight a country, or an individual player, that is making a difference.

Saturday, July 12: Netherlands v. Brazil

David_Luiz_ConfedCup2013Champions17The playoff game for third place between Brazil and the Netherlands will be the last battle for both teams before returning home as contenders in the World Cup. Evenly matched at three wins and five draws, the result of this match is a coin toss. But with the support of the fans, it is no doubt that the athletes will still give their all to win. Even as the stadium lights go out and the fans, coaches, and other teams return home, several athletes will continue working on the next big fight against hunger and poverty in their home nations.

Brazil’s favorite defender, David Luiz, is no stranger to hunger as it almost took his football dreams away from him. Although it is hard to believe now, as a child Luiz was considered too small to be a football player. After being picked up by the Sao Paulo Football Club at 9 years old, he was dropped at 14 because his malnourished body was not growing. Despite this rejection, Luiz’s determination and faith propelled him to leave home for north-east Brazil to try to play for Vitória.

“My family has always been religious,” Luiz explained in an interview with FourFourTwo Magazine. “My glory is all His. I have all my blessings because He has given them. He guides our hearts and without Him I wouldn’t have left poverty nor got all the good things I have today.”

Luiz is not afraid to use his football stardom to speak out about his faith and to make a difference. In April, Luiz became the Brazilian Goodwill Ambassador for UNAIDS. Reaching out to young people, he hopes to stop discrimination and raise awareness.

“My faith in Jesus gives me strength to keep on going out onto the field and to do my best," said Luiz told BBC. “But I also want to inspire others — that is what God inspires me to do.”

Luiz’s faith acts as a driving force behind his capabilities on and off the field. Football stars like Luiz who give back to their communities also encourage their team mates and fans to do the same. The work of these athletes to bring attention to the struggles and achievements taken toward a hunger-free society continues their passion beyond sport. While many countries still have a long way to go in ending hunger, they are making a great impact through faith and the contributions of advocates like David Luiz.

Photo: David Luiz. (Tânia Rêgo via Wikimedia Commons)

Jannah's Story: 'I Survived A Refugee Camp'

JanahBy "Jannah"

I remember it like it was yesterday: I was 21 years old living in a refugee camp after a devastating famine in my home country, Eritrea. My father, my husband, and my son were all killed during the war, but I survived and found my way to Sudan with my friend Selam. It was hot that summer — at least 100 degrees most days — and it didn't rain for months. Leaving the camp meant risking your life, so we spent our days sitting in the dry, hot dirt waiting for any help that would come our way.

People grew weak and died every single day — children, mothers, fathers. I watched my friend Selam die in my arms.

Our only food was aid that came on a truck: rice with some water and maybe beans in a can. It wasn't a lot, but that food was all we had and the only way I survived. And I remember that it came from the United States.

Now, the U.S. Congress could take away even those small portions from millions of people trapped in crisis like I was. Please give whatever you can to support Bread for the World’s campaign to fight these changes.

The days in the camp are past now, but the memories stick with me. Very few people here in the United States understand what we refugees endured, what it’s like to feel less than human. What it’s like to starve.

No one should have to live like that. I don't want any more mothers to lose their children, and I don't want any more women like Selam to die. More than anything in the world, I want to help people like those who survived with me in the camps.

Organizations like Bread for the World are working to do just that by protecting and improving food aid, but for real change to happen, we need thousands of people to come together. I’m sharing my story with you today in hopes you'll be one of them.

Please donate today to help end hunger all over the world. If you give now, your gift will go even further. A group of Bread members has promised to match your gift dollar-for-dollar. Someday I hope I will be able to give myself, but until then, I'm counting on people like you. Let's all come together to protect God's children by lending our voices, our votes, and yes, our earnings to efforts that make a difference for hungry families.

Jannah is an Eritrean refugee living in the United States (Names changed to protect privacy).

If you give right now, a generous donor will match your gift, so every $1 turns into $2. Don't miss this opportunity to help Bread in its mission to end hunger.

Photo: Jannah today, years after leaving Sudan. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

Journey Around the World in Prayer With Bread

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Woman prays during Bread for the World's 2014 National Gathering on June 9-10 in Washington, D.C. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

This is a new weekly prayer series that will appear each Friday on the Bread Blog.

One aspect of Bread for the World’s new Bread Rising campaign is prayer (the campaign is asking Bread members to pray, act, and give). Staff of Bread for the World in Washington, D.C., gather every Friday morning for prayer, and as part of our participation in the Bread Rising campaign, we will be praying for a different group of countries each week and their efforts to end hunger.
 
We will be following the Ecumenical Prayer Cycle, a list compiled by the World Council of Churches that enables Christians around the world to journey in prayer through every region of the world, affirming our solidarity with Christians all over the world, brothers and sisters living in diverse situations, experiencing their challenges and sharing their gifts.
 
We will especially be lifting up in prayer the challenges related to hunger and poverty that the people of each week’s countries face. In prayer, God’s story and our own story connect—and we and the world are transformed. In a prayer common to all of us—the Lord’s Prayer/the Our Father—we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” This line from this prayer can also be a prayer for the end of hunger.
 
We invite you to join Bread staff in our prayers for the world’s countries to end hunger. And we encourage you to share with us your prayers for the featured countries of the week or for the end of hunger in general.
 
For the week of July 13-19, we will be praying for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Panama:

Lord, we pray for these Central American countries, where hunger and poverty persist and force people to leave their lands for an opportunity at a better life. We pray for the unaccompanied children who leave these countries and come to our country, where they don’t know the language, don’t have family, and are met by people who have forgotten your message of love and welcome. We pray for the families that have to make the agonizing decision to send their children away. May your love console and protect them. Amen.

Percentage of the population below the poverty line in these countries:

Costa Rica 24.8% (2011 est.)
El Salvador 36.5% (2010 est.)
Nicaragua 42.5% (2009 est.)
Panama 26% (2012 est.)

Source: The World Factbook of the CIA
 

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