Saturday, July 31, 2010

Santa Fe Museum Hosts Exhibit on Empowering Women

Members of the Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco, courtesy of Nilda Callañaupa Álvarez and the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market

By Graham Ross Golden 

The Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe is hosting an exhibit entitled Empowering Women: Artisan Cooperatives That Transform Communities. The display, which will be up until Jan. 2, is housed in the museum's Gallery of Conscience

I had the opportunity to view the showing last week.  It is a small display but very well done and well worth viewing if you are already making a trip to Santa Fe for any reason between now and January.

It does a wonderful job of illuminating the process of artisan cooperatives in sustaining just economic development and addressing other pressing social issues as well (war, HIV/AIDS genocide etc.).  This showing, with its focus on women, also brings to the fore many issues and challenges facing women as well as triumphs in the developing world. 

The exhibition highlights include weaving, beadwork, painting, baskets, embroidery and other traditional folk arts from Bolivia, Rwanda, Peru, Swaziland, India, Kenya, Laos, South Africa, Morocco and Nepal.

All of the cooperatives featured in the exhibit had artist booths at the 2010 Santa Fe International Folk Art Market on July 9-11.

It is a challenging but inspirational exhibition, at least from my experience of it. I felt it was a good tool for more tangibly encountering the fair trade movement and those communities it impacts. 

Read more about the exhibit

(The author was offsite coordinator for Peacecraft in 2007-2008)

Letter Carriers Food Drive and Other Responses to Palomas crisis

Silver City, located in southwestern New Mexico, has a population of just over 10,000. For a community this size, you only need a handful of letter carriers.

So why am I blogging about letter carriers in Silver City? I want to publicize the fact that the letter carriers and their route supervisors decided to hold a special food drive on August 7 to benefit the community of Palomas, Chihuahua, which is just across the border from Columbus, N.M.

As with most food drives, the letter carriers are collecting non-perishable food items, which will be collected at mail boxes during delivery.  (Picture: Volunteers and some of the donated  food)

One mail carrier, Guadalupe Núñez, is also collecting school sponsorship funds for the children, who are in dire need in order to be able to attend shool this fall. If you'd like to help, please contact Mr. Nunez at (505) 538-1232.

"Many children in Palomas are in danger of not being able to attend school this fall because of the economic and humanitarian crisis. School enrollments have never been as low in Palomas as they are now. Please open doors to a child's future on our border with Mexico," said Victoria Tester, volunteer coordinator for La Luz de La Esperanza Palomas Outreach

As we blogged a couple of weeks ago, there is a food emergency ("hunger crisis," if you'd like to call it that) in Palomas, due to high unemployment levels and the impact of violence by drug cartels on the movement of goods, including food, into the community.  Ms. Tester described the situation in an earlier blog post.  (The above piece of art was drawn by one of the children of Palomas)

The donations collected from the Silver City mail carriers drive will supplement the food that La Luz de la Esperanza Palomas Outreach distributes in that community's center on Calle Buenaventura.

Many people in New Mexico and in El Paso, Texas, have responded generously to the crisis in Palomas, including a benefit concert in Silver City.  The communities of Silver City and Deming have also set up drop-off locations.

Here is a note from Mary Oleske from the New Mexico Human Services Department:
I spoke with Claudia Trueblood from the Diocese of Las Cruces this morning and she is working closely with Victoria Tester. Claudia let me know that there are a number of churches and parishes collecting food and funds to help, as far as Silver City. Claudia has a donation from ConAgra, which will need to be picked up in Colorado in September or October (flour, rice, and beans) which I said my Bureau can pick up and deliver for them. I let her know that the Roadrunner Food bank will be sending mobile pantries.
Melody Wattenbarger, executive director of the Roadrunner Food Bank, offers more details about the mobile pantries.
We are absolutely going to do a series of Mobile Pantries in Columbus in partnership with the food bank in Las Cruces. They will do the labor/transportation and we will supply the food. Our goal is to deliver 5,000 pounds per week for the five crucial weeks. We will start the food going to Las Cruces next Thursday (July 8) and start the Mobile Pantries to Columbus in the middle of July.
We are delighted that you are interested in a food drive. The food could go either to RRFB (designated for delivery to Columbus) or to the CAAFB in Las Cruces (again designated for Columbus). As we are absorbing all of the costs, cash contributions are also welcome. I believe we could use any kind of non-perishable food. We are delighted to have HSD partnering with us in whatever way works best for you.
And Jamye Boone Ward, a Bread for the World member in El Paso, Texas.
El Paso will be collecting a special emergency offering and plan to purchase at least 1,000 lbs of beans and a 1,000 lbs of rice.  We are looking at purchasing powdered milk in bulk. Jerry and Susie Hobson, church members with a farm near La Union, N.M. have, for the 2nd year, planted more than an acre of vegetables to donate to the West Texas Food Bank and to distribute to food insecure families living near our church building in downtown El Paso. 
We should be able to take some of the fresh produce to La Luz de la Esperanza this summer.  Please, keep me on your contact list for this project and thank you, so much, for making us aware of our neighbors' crisis.
Of course, this are actions intended to deal with the emergency at hand. And it's likely that short-term responses will be needed for some time.    
If you want to help please send a note to Victoria Tester, or Esperanza Lozoya,
Long-term solutions are more complex and depend on a recovery in the economy of Mexico (which depends on a recovery in the U.S.) And then there is the problem of drug-related violence (again a problem that must be addressed jointly by the governments of the U.S. and Mexico)

The Theme Song From ...Until All Are Fed..."

Back in April, I blogged about Bread for the World member Bryan McFarland's project to put together an album about our faith response to hunger and poverty.  Production of the album, which is funded through small donations from ordinary folks, is partly a fundraiser for the Presbyterian Hunger Program

Even though the album is about finished and will be launched in October, there is still an an opportunity for you to help.   If you want to know more about Bryan's ministry, here is his website
Below is the title song of the album ...until all are fed...

Monday, July 19, 2010

An Amazing Experience

By Alicia Sedillo and Debbie Ruiz

We went to Capitol Hill on Tuesday, June 15, for Bread for the World's annual Lobby Day. Nearly 300 people from 108 congressional districts attended.

Participants met with 172 different congressional offices, asking our members of Congress to make permanent the current Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit levels.

We happened to be in Washington for Bread for the World's Hunger Justice Leaders Program, which was an amazing experience.  More on that later.  First we want to talk about Lobby Day. We went to the offices of Rep. Martin Heinrich, Sen. Jeff Bingaman and Sen. Tom Udall.

Our meeting with Rep. Heinrich was especially memorable because we managed to score a face-to-face meeting with our congressional representative.

The meeting did not take place at his office, but just outside the floor of the House of Representatives, where members of Congress cast their votes.

We were not even sure we were going to get a chance to meet with him because  his schedule was unexpectedly packed.  But he was determined to meet with us. It really made us feel that he took us seriously and did not feel like he could just brush us off to a staffer.

So, we were led down to the floor where we spent a few minutes talking about the major issue, the Earned Income Tax Credit. Rep. Heinrich was supportive of the tax credits but he did express some uncertainty about convincing other representatives who think those credits are a good place to balanced the budget but he said he was going to try.

We also spent some time talking about other initiatives that might help our state succeed and help those in poverty, which empowered me (Alicia) to continue my efforts to address hunger.  That one conversation with our representative ignited a fire within my heart to heal the impoverished in our community, spiritually and physically.

Our Senate meetings

Aide Derek Dorn at Sen. Jeff Bingaman's office said the senator was 100% supportive of these tax credits and he even felt like they should be expanded so more people could be included. He said the senator would fight to renew the tax credit.

The congressional aide at Sen. Tom Udall's office was also very supportive of the EITC and other tax credits.  She noted that despite the discussion about the national deficit, Sen. Udall position in support of the tax credits was very firm.

Hunger Justice Leaders Training
We were blessed to have the opportunity to attend the Hunger Jutice Leaders training on June 12-15.  We were among the 75 participants, ages 20 to 30, who took part in the program.  New Mexico was one of 34 different states represented.  There was also a wide spectrum of denominations and Christian faith traditions.  We are both Roman Catholic.

The training was an invaluable experience. The workshops, practice labs and covenant groups were interactive and spiritual, there wasn’t a day that we went without prayer or praise.  

My (Alicia) favorite workshop was a practice lab called "Mobilizing Teams" by LaVida Davis.  She showed us how to execute our ideas in forming a Bread team and helped us think outside the box and set realistic goals.

By the way, that's me (Debbie) pictured with our western regional field organizer Robin Stephenson.

Our Favorite Speaker
We agreed that our favorite speaker was Alexie Torres-Fleming, who spoke so humbly about her experiences and really touched our hearts.

Her story was powerful and inspiring because she had a conversion experience that gave her the strength to create change in one of New York's harshest neighborhoods. She spoke of suffering and the impact it had on her relationship with Christ, and with her community.

Our Faith Experiences
Alicia:  Being able to share our faith and pray and worship with other Christians regardless of our denomination was an experience that meant a lot to me because for the first time in my life, I felt what it truly meant to be in solidarity with others.

Not only was I in solidarity with my fellow Christian hunger Justice Leaders but we were in solidarity with Bread for the World and with the poor and hungry that benefit from the work of Bread for the World does. I am now looking forward to collaborating with the existing efforts of Bread in Albuquerque .

Debbie:  My experience with Bread for the World’s Hunger Justice Leader’s training was a true blessing.  In the past, I had always taken a prayerful approach to the problems that plague our world, and was comfortable.  When people approached me about events that required me to take a stand, I respectfully declined and instead spent my time in the church praying.  I feel this was a very transformative experience.

(Photos by Alicia Sedillo, Debbie Ruiz and Robin Stephenson)

A Haiti Update from Food for the Poor

Food for the Poor is an organization that has been working in Haiti since 1986.  Here is an update from the Miami-based organization six months after the terrible event.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

David Beckmann Speaks about Foreign Aid on PBS

In case you missed David Beckmann's appearance on PBS' Need to Know on Friday, here is the video courtesy of PBS.  He was interviewed by Jon Meacham as part of a wider program on malnutrition and hunger in our country and overseas.  The program also included interviews with some of the people who helped create the multimedia exhibit The Crisis of Malnutrition sponsored by Doctors Without Borders and the agency VII.

Watch the full episode. See more Need To Know.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Watch David Beckmann on KNME-Channel 5 Tomorrow

Bread for the World President Rev. David Beckmann will appear on nationwide television Friday, July 16, in the public affairs show, “Need to Know.” 

In Albuquerque and central and northern New Mexico, the program will air on KNME Channel 5 at 8:00 p.m. Mountain Time.

For our friends in Las Cruces and southern New Mexico, the program will air on KCOS-TV (El Paso) at 7:30 Mountain Time

Jon Meacham, program host and editor of Newsweek, interviewed David on the silent epidemic of malnutrition. David appears in the second segment of the show.

Here's a note from Adlai Amor, Bread's Director of Communications:
I hope the interview will move you to write a letter to your member of Congress to ensure that our children receive better nutrition.
As you may know, nearly one in four children suffers from hunger in our country. Congress needs to fully fund the additional investments for the Child Nutrition Act. The programs authorized by this law—school lunches and breakfasts, summer feeding programs, and the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program—are critical to ending childhood hunger.

A Great Opportunity to Learn More About Fair Trade

The Archdiocese of Santa Fe 
and Catholic Relief Services (CRS)  

WHAT:  Come to this free workshop about Fair Trade, Catholic social teaching, solidarity, and how YOU can make a difference by your choices of coffee, food items, crafts, and more.  The workshop will include practical information on promoting Fair Trade fairs, using Fair Trade coffee and other ideas for your parish.

WHO:  Parishioners, pastors, parish social concerns ministers, youth ministers, directors of religious education, catechists, St. Vincent de Paul volunteers, graduates of JustFaith, or anyone interested in learning about what Fair Trade is all about!   
Check out the Web site for CRS Fair Trade

Saturday, August 14, 2010

8:45 am-12 noon - English workshop
1:15-4:30 pm - Spanish workshop
John XXIII Catholic Community
4831 Tramway Ridge Dr. NE, in Albuquerque
(Off Tramway Blvd just north of Montgomery)

Please pre-register for this free event by calling

Trainer:  Carla E. Aguilar, Catholic Relief Services Program Officer
Carla E. Aguilar holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English/Communication Arts from St. Mary’s University where she is currently pursuing a M.A. in International Relations with an emphasis on sustainable human development. Prior to joining CRS Southwest in January, 2010, Ms. Aguilar worked in fundraising/special event planning, Communications & Development, and reporting for Spanish media.  As Program Officer for CRS, she is responsible for educating and promoting Catholics’ use of advocacy and Fair Trade. 

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Will We Meet Our 1Goal between Now and Brasil 2014?

Today is the final of the historic 2010 World Cup in South Africa. There are many reasons to call it "historic," including the fact that this is the first time that the international fútbol soccer event has been held on the African Continent. As of this writing, the game had not been played, so it is to be determined whether Spain or The Netherlands will win the contest. Neither of the two countries has won the championship before.

This is also the first time I remember having seen the event used directly to address an issue related to global poverty. 

I'm talking about the 1goal campaign, which is is bringing together soccer players, coaches and administrators, fans, charities, corporations and individuals to lobby and achieve our ambitious aim of education for everyone.  Read More

Organizations as diverse as the World Food Program support 1goal.

At the beginning of  the 2010 World Cup, I wrote about  how this campaign is entirely compatible with the second of the Millennium Development Goals.

At some point today, the referee is going to blow his whistle marking the end of  the Spain-Netherlands game.  And one of the two teams can declare itself a winner.  (It's not any secret that I'm pulling for La Furia Roja--which is the nickname for Spain).

But the whistle also marks the transition between the 2010 World Cup and the next international soccer event, which will take place in Brazil in 2014.  I hope by the time 2014 rolls around that we would have made significant progress toward the targets of 1goal. After all, it will be just one year before 2015, the all-important year that the nations of the world set to complete the MDGs. 

Even though it will be the "offseason" between World Cups, we have the chance to continue to participate in 1goal and the target of attaining universal primary education.  Here's something by which to measure our level of success:

The target of the second goal of the MDGS is to ensure that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling

2.1 Net enrolment ratio in primary education
2.2 Proportion of pupils starting grade 1 who reach last grade of primary
2.3 Literacy rate of 15-24 year-olds, women and men

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

A Benefit Concert for the Children of Palomas

The Brandon Perrault and the Rhythm Mystic bands, both from southwestern New Mexico, will play a concert benefit dance on Saturday, July 10, 7 to 10 pm, at the Silco Theater in downtown Silver City to raise funds for summer meals for the children of Palomas. 

Admission is any cash or check donation, and donations of any non-perishable ready-to-eat child friendly foods are also very welcome.
If you can't go to the concert but still want to support this effort, please mail your donation to:
La Luz de la Esperanza
P.O. Box 38
Columbus, NM 88029

Drawings by the children of Palomas will be displayed (above poster based on one of the childrens' drawings).

Since school ended many children in Palomas are going without a daily meal, and your attendance will make a real difference in a child's difficult summer. All proceeds will go to food for the Luz de La Esperanza Palomas Outreach Meals for the Children Program

Here is a YouTube video of Brandon Perrault

Please help the Palomas Outreach continue its summer work of feeding the children until school reconvenes on August 23. Without your help, many sad children whose lives have been profoundly affected by the vastly unreported violence in our neighboring border town of Palomas will have no daily meal.  Read more

Palomas Outreach coordinator Victoria Tester can be reached at 575-536-9726 or

Palomas Outreach food donation barrel drop off locations are at Food Basket grocery stores in Silver City and Bayard, and at both Snappy Marts in Deming. Diaz Farms also accepts bean and rice donations and dropoff food donations on behalf of the Palomas Outreach.

The Palomas Outreach is a secular U.S. nonprofit organization operating inside Palomas on Buenaventura Street for the past six years. They are currently feeding one thousand meals a day to children in Palomas who would have no meal otherwise.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Responding to the Hunger Crisis Just Across the Border in Palomas

Our efforts on hunger this year have focused on the big picture and long-term and broader solutions to addressing hunger and poverty.  They include this year's efforts to protect and strengthen tax credits for low-income families and to increase funding for child nutrition.  We do respond to an immediate crisis during an event of high magnitude (like the tsunami in the south Pacific and Indian Ocean and the earthquake in Haiti) or when someone points out a situation that is occurring under the radar.

It is one of those "under the radar" situations that I would like to address with this blog post.  I'm talking about an ongoing crisis in the community of Palomas in Chihuahua, just across the border from Columbus, N.M.

Palomas has been hit by the global economic downturn (which led to the departure of a manufacturer of auto parts), increased insecurity due to the activities of drug traffickers, and tighter enforcement by U.S. authorities, which keep many residents from crossing into the U.S. for jobs in the service industry in cities just across the border.  As a result, many members of that community are having problems obtaining food to meet their nutritional needs.

It's not that this crisis has not received some publicity.  The Palomas Hunger Project highlighted an article by Rene Romo in the Albuquerque Journal, December 2008.  And Marjorie Lillie, a resident of Deming, N.M., discussed the problem in a guest column in the Albuquerque Journal, May 28, 2010. 

The truth is that the situation has worsened significantly over the past year.  Victoria Tester, the U.S. coordinator for La Luz de Esperanza Palomas Outreach, on June 23 issued an urgent appeal for help via the Las Cruces Forum and The Deming Headlight.  She also wrote a letter to John Garcia, a cabinet secretary in New Mexico. Here are a couple of excerpts.
One of the main tasks of the Outreach is to distribute emergency food to many families who can show they would have no food otherwise. Our most current experience records this figure at approximately 325 families in Palomas in dire need of emergency food...
A mother told us recently that children felt fortunate that they had at least a bowl of eggs in their otherwise empty refrigerator, because “we go to our aunts and uncles houses, and they have nothing...
We’re receiving information that families are eating rats, or surviving on horsemeat, mothers sending their children to bed early, with only a teaspoon of sugar as their food for the day...        
You get the picture.  Please read the full letter to get a better sense of the full extent of the crisis

There has been some responses to the worsening crisis.  The state of New Mexico is offiering lunches for those who can get across the border to Columbus, and Roadrunner Food Bank has sent a mobile pantry to help. 

And in Las Cruces, Catholic Charities and the Catholic Diocese of Las Cruces are also trying to provide some assistance. A trailer of food has been donated in Colorado, and they are trying to coordinate transportation to get the donation down to Columbus-Palomas.

We recognize that there are significant structural problems (related to immigration, the economy, trade, the role of Mexico's federal and state governments) that must be fixed to develop a long-term solution to the problem.   But in the short term, our faith requires us to respond with whatever help we can give. 

Here's a note from a Bread member in El Paso, Texas.
My church is mounting an emergency campaign this week (First Christian Church of El Paso, TX) and we are sending the letter to other churches in the downtown El Paso area.  Please keep me on your e-mail list.  We feel a close kindred with the people in Palomas and plan to continue to provide support in other ways.
If you want to help please send a note to Victoria Tester, or Esperanza Lozoya,, or visit La Luz de Esperanza Palomas Outreach

Palomas: 'A Teaspoon of Sugar is a Child's Only Meal"

By Victoria Tester 
Three hundred and fifty children who are U.S. citizens live in Palomas and attend school on the U.S. side in Columbus, where on June 11, when school ended, many lost their only meal of the day, as have most of the remaining estimated 2,500-3,000 children in Palomas.

When the work of La Luz de La Esperanza Palomas Outreach first started six years ago, it was hard but not impossible to accomplish our work of addressing need in Palomas. We operate a daily meal program for seniors and the disabled, and we do emergency family food distribution. 

Unfortunately, during recent years, due to cartel violence and the consequent high unemployment and high numbers of disappearances or murders of family providers, hunger has escalated to such a degree that we are finding 2010 to be plainly the worst so far.

This violence in Palomas and the subsequent hunger are unreported or vastly underreported, due to the brutal murders of so many journalists in Chihuahua, and the danger faced by U.S. journalists who try to go there. We did take Channel 7 out of El Paso crew Tom Scott and Jill Galus into Palomas at the end of May 2010, where even as we were put under police guard in the highly tense situation they documented some of our story.

We are writing to you out of grave need, overwhelmed by the number and circumstances of extreme cases of hunger presented to us.

Through the Outreach’s trained promotoras who go into homes and work confidentially with families to identify and report on need, we’re receiving information that families are eating rats, or surviving on horsemeat, mothers sending their children to bed early, with only a teaspoon of sugar as their food for the day.  Families without refrigeration (we estimate a quarter to a third of the families are now either without electricity or else without water as they used their money to buy food instead) are forcing themselves to eat spoiled food that they reboil in order not to waste.

We have reports of mothers unable to nurse their infants because their own basic nutritional needs are not met, and with only cornmeal and water or else plain water to feed their infants.

We are hearing about mothers of families turning in desperation to prostitution, to feed their children.

We have personally witnessed the grief of families in Palomas who cannot even help their suffering relatives, for fear of literally starving their own children. A mother told us recently that children felt fortunate that they had at least a bowl of eggs in their otherwise empty refrigerator, because “we go to our aunts and uncles houses, and they have nothing.

Even in the face of the very high unemployment, in the last two years food in Palomas has become as or more expensive as it is in the United States. Beans that two years ago were 75 cents a kilo in Palomas are now a 1.85$.  Milk in Palomas is between 4 and 5 dollars a gallon.  Most people no longer have meat or milk in their diets.

Many of the people who come to us for food are mothers whose spouses have disappeared, murdered in the drug violence, or who have abandoned their families, unwilling to watch them starve, or they are the elderly parents of sons who’ve disappeared or been murdered, and these mothers and elderly are utterly without resources.

One of the main tasks of the Outreach is to distribute emergency food to many families who can show they would have no food otherwise. Our most current experience records this figure at approximately 325 families in Palomas in dire need of emergency food. Early this June, the day after the Outreach did a distribution of 3 to 4 days of food to over 250 recorded families, approximately 75 more families applied to us because they were completely without food. We had no food left to give them.

We are devastated by our inability to help so many Palomas families now living near starvation level.

Our most immediate concern is that of the needs of the estimated 2500-3000 children who lost their only meal of the day when school ended.

We are in the second week of our new Meals for the Children program, during which from June 14 to July 16 we are distributing 1500 boxed meals a day Monday through Friday to school age children at three locations in Palomas, the Outreach building on Buenaventura Street, the Main Plaza where the Catholic church is located, and in Pancho Villa Plaza, near Ford Elementary school. We now find we will lose 500 of those meals on June 25, and have no means of replacing them.

So far we also have no means to continue this program or any program of this scale from July 17 to August 22, the last crucial five weeks before school starts again. We are deeply fearful that most children in Palomas will then be utterly without a meal.

We hope you will agree this situation should not be tolerated.

On behalf of the people of Palomas we beg for your help in addressing this extreme suffering in our neighboring border town.

(The author is U.S. Coordinator for La Luz de la Esperanza Outreach of Palomas, a U.S. secular nonprofit operating inside Palomas, Chihuahua on Buenaventura Street.  The piece is based on a letter that she wrote to New Mexico Cabinet Secretary John Garcia.

The above photo is a mural of St. Francis at a chapel on the premises of La Luz de Esperanza Outreach)