Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Barefoot in Haiti

Sharon Barefoot is a cello player, anti-hunger activist and a nurse.  Whenever she can, she likes to combine these skills and talents, just as she did at the recent Emerging Christianity conference.  Putting together her deep spirituality and her concern for poor and hungry people, she played the beautiful background music that went along with a meditation on hunger, fasting and poverty.

Now Sharon, a Bread for the World supporter, has a new opportunity to combine her skills and talents. She is going to Haiti in November to volunteer for a year as a nurse with the Catholic Medical Mission Board.  Read about CMMB's program in Haiti.

And Sharon has set up a blog, called Barefoot in Haiti, so she can share with us her experiences.  Here is an excerpt from her first post.
Vital to my preparation for my 1st long term volunteer experience was speaking with previous volunteers. The volunteers shared their experiences in the "bush" and resources they use to provide care to the communities they worked in. 98.7% of every dollar contributed to CMMB is used for healthcare, and I certainly feel aligned with CMMB's core values:
  • Building Individual and Community Capacity
  • Social Justice
  • Integrity
  • Leadership
  • Accountability
  • Quality Collaboration
  • Courage and Risk-Taking
  • Compassion

Be sure to bookmark Sharon's blog and follow her journey over the next year. And I'm sure she would welcome your prayers and your support.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Book from a ONE Soccer Mom

Back in 2005, Bread for the World and The ONE Campaign asked a group of activists to travel to Gleneagles, Scotland, to ensure that we had a presence at the meeting of the Group of Eight (G-8) industrialized nations.  The purpose was to remind the leaders of the economic powers that we wanted them to give priority to global poverty and AIDS in their discussions.

I missed the trip to Gleneagles because I had another important commitment.  Had I gone on the trip, I might have had the chance to meet Shayne Moore, who was among the dozens of activists invited to be there.

Shayne has taken her commitment to ONE very seriously.  Her new book, Global Soccer Mom, which will be hitting the stores in January 2011, talks about her journey as a ONE activist.   Her website describes the book, which is entitled  Global Soccer Mom; Changing the World is Easier Than You Think
Shayne is an ordinary, full-time “soccer mom” who joined the ONE Campaign at its inception and who represents the heart of the movement. Shayne is an original member of DGAAN, Dupage Glocal AIDS Action Network, an advocacy group in her hometown.
Her prominence has opened some doors for her to talk about ONE and the global anti-poverty movement.
In 2007 Shayne was featured in a commercial with Julia Roberts, George Clooney and Matt Damon. Shayne has been interviewed by CNN, NBC, and was quoted and pictured in The Wall Street Journal (2006).    Shayne traveled to Capitol Hill for a photo shoot which was featured in the Africa issue of Vanity Fair (July 2007) with ONE members such as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Pastor Rick Warren, Matt Damon, and NAACP chairman Julian Bond. Shayne has traveled to Honduras and to Africa twice to see first-hand the devastating effects of AIDS and extreme poverty on communities.
Be sure to put Shayne's book on your shopping list.  You can pre-order on the websites of some of the major booksellers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble and others.   And if you're involved in ONE and the global anti-poverty movement,  keep on truckin'. Keep up those visits with Congress, those letters to the editor, and those one-on-one discussions with our neighbors.  We do this with the knowledge that there are people like Shayne, Bono, Bishop Tutu and others who are making sure that our country's commitment to the Millennium Development Goals is not forgotten.

Below is a CNN video with an interview with Shayne. 

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Join with Ecumenical Action Alliance in Food for Life Campaign

The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, a global coalition of  church organizations and anti-hunger agencies,  is offering a wonderful opportunity for congregations around the world to take a close look at hunger and its root causes through its Food for Life Campaign.

The Presbyterian Church USA, Church World Service, the ELCA, Catholic Relief Services and others are also part of the alliance.  See full list.

One of the main promoters of the campaign in the US is the Presbyterian Hunger Program  and two other programs associated with the Presbyterian Church USA, the Campaign for Fair Food and Food and Faith.

The campaign recommends actions for the week of Oct. 10-17 through an effort entitled Week of Action on Food. Organizers have made it easy by providing the  Food Week Guide
During the Week you will be connected to thousands of people, churches and communities around the world in a movement calling for change in the way food is grown, sold, distributed and shared. It is a time to lift up the voices of small-scale food producers, particularly women, to have choices on what crops to grow and how they can grow these crops.  
If you want a simple alternative to observe the connection between food and faith on Oct. 17, you could organize a worship on Bread for the World Sunday.   And don't forget about other opportunities in October, including Fair Trade Month, the Fighting Poverty with Faith campaign, and World Food Day,

October is also an important month for the organizers of the World Food Prize.  In addition to presenting awards to this year's recipients, David Beckmann of Bread for the World and Jo Luck of The Heifer Project, the WFP has put together the 2010 Bolaug Dialogue, which features a program entitled "Take it to the Farmer: Reaching the World's Smallholders."

There are ample opportunities during October to raise awareness, learn more about the root causes of hunger and poverty and make food and justice a focus of your worship during the month (and throughout the year).

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Storehouse Among 39 Organizations to Get USDA Grants

This past week the U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded a total of $6 million to food banks, food pantries, and soup kitchens around the country  to improve and expand their capacity and infrastructure.

The awards total close to $6 million and are funded through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) Infrastructure Grant program. Nearly $3.3 million will be awarded to 19 organizations in 17 states which primarily serve rural areas. The remaining funds will be awarded to another 20 organizations in 15 states that serve a mix of rural, suburban, and urban communities.
One organization in the second group is The Storehouse in Albuquerque, which received an award $249,550 from the USDA.  See full list of recipients.  
Organizations like food banks, food pantries, and soup kitchens are critical to ensuring that the most vulnerable Americans have access to quality, nutritious foods, especially during difficult economic times," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "With the help of these grants, many of the recipient organizations will be able help more individuals and families to access healthy food.
The funding will come in handy for The Storehouse, which will use the money to acquire an additional box truck, fork lift and other equipment,  The funds will also help update its computer system and help with new programs/projects.  

Sarah Newman from the New Mexico Collaboration to End Hunger points out that The Rio Grande Food Project  was also included in this grant award, and will share the prize and responsibility with the Storehouse.

By the way, The Storehouse suffered major storm damage in August.  Rain and wind ripped a 6-foot hole in the ceiling of  its main structure. Funding for these repairs has been secured from other sources.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Generosity Requires a Permit

"The police are claiming that feeding the homeless requires a permit and that that is why these men were arrested. Since when does kindness require a permit? Across all cultures worldwide, sharing a meal is one of the most basic examples of what makes a community."    
That is an excerpt from an open letter that Rene Ronquillo of Albuquerque wrote to Mayor Richard Berry regarding the city's treatment of the homeless and those try to help the homeless.   Her letter was in reference to the arrest of Alfonso Hernandez and Michael Herrick for distributing food to homeless people on Sunday morning.  Police cited Hernandez and Herrick for not having a business license.   Read report and watch video in KOAT-TV piece entittled Good Deeds Land Two Men in Jail

Read Rene's full letter in Rosie Chinea Shawver's Catholic in the City blog

Monday, September 20, 2010

Dominican Long-Distance Swimmer Promotes MDGs

Marcos Díaz, a 35-year-old ultra distance swimmer from the Dominican Republic, completed an aquatic tour across five continents when he arrived in New York City last week. The Santo Domingo native partnered with the United Nations on the  Swim Across the Continents  tour to raise awareness for the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).  

Marcos and his fellow swimmers ask you to join them in demanding that world leaders accomplish the Millennium Development Goals.   Click here to help

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Everyone Has a Role - The Millennium Development Goals

Here’s a simple but powerful YouTube video from the U.N. Foundation about the Millennium Development Goals. The video was posted ahead of the UN Summit on the MDGs in New York City next week.   There are many nongovernmental and multilateral organizations clamoring for the countries of the world to make a greater commitment to meet the goals by 2015.  Some are doing it with a protest of presence, and some are banging drums.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

David Beckmann's Address to the National Press Club

C-SPAN, the cable and satellite public affairs network, covered David Beckmann's address to the National Press Club on Sept. 13.

Here's the text from C-SPAN's Web site, followed by the video.
Anti-hunger and poverty advocate the Reverend David Beckmann talked about eliminating world hunger. An economist and ordained Lutheran minister, he was named a World Food Prize laureate in June 2010. The award, established in 1986 by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Norman Borlaug, is considered the Nobel Prize equivalent for food and agriculture. The Reverend Beckmann has led Bread for the World since 1991, and is the 2010 co-winner with Jo Luck, founder of Heifer International, for their "landmark achievements in building two of the world's foremost grassroots organizations leading the charge to end hunger and poverty for millions of people around the world," the World Food Prize said. In honoring them, the organization "recognizes the critical efforts of NGOs in mobilizing and empowering everyday citizens to end hunger in communities around the world."

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Café Campesino introduces 'Fair Trade Wire' Blog

Café Campesino, an Americus, Ga-based company that sells fair-trade and organic coffee and yerba maté , recently introduced its new blog, called Fair Trade Wire. The blog, which is produced in partnership with Sweetwater Organic Coffees of Gainesville, Fla., takes a hard look at all the issues related to the fair trade process.
Here's a description.
Fair Trade Wire puts the concept of “Fair Trade” into context, working to explain what being a Fair Trade coffee company means.  We will report to you from coffee farms, roasting facilities, coffee houses and all places in between.  Our posts will be honest, heart-felt, and whenever possible-  Fun!
As an example, the latest piece posted on Sept. 12,  Small Coffee Producers Air Grievances to FLO, tells us how small coffee producers in Latin America are concerned that the fair-trade labeling process does not work in their favor.  There are also posts about a fair trade conference near Boston, coffee quality control, and much more.  There are videos, featurettes, and other useful information.  This is one of those blogs that is definitely worth bookmarking!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Interfaith Prayer for Fighting Poverty with Faith

This past Sunday I posted a piece about the great interfaith campaign called Fighting Poverty with Faith, a broad effort by Christian, Hindu, Muslim and Jewish groups to address hunger in our country through education, actions and prayer during the month of October.

I would like to share an interfaith prayer related to this effort.  This was put together by Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA); Rev. Larry Snyder, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA; Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in Christ in the USA; and Dr. Sayyid Syeed, national director for the Islamic Society of North America’s Office for Interfaith and Community Alliances.  

Click here to see other worship resources for all these faith traditions

The prayer calls for the creation of new, sustainable and green job opportunities for the poor. We are encouraged to read this prayer at our Fighting Poverty with Faith events, at our church, synagogue, mosque or temple:
Merciful and compassionate God, Divine Architect, Your people and your planet call to you, for both are suffering.

So many of your children cry out for shelter, food, and meaningful work. Make us partners, we pray, in your work of caring for all in need.

So much of your Creation groans from the effects of our pollution. Make us partners, we pray, in your work of healing the earth. Help us to create jobs that both honor the need of your planet as well as those holy souls who have no work,

Please give to those who lead a vision of the day when every person, created in your sacred image, has employment with a living wage.

Give to us gathered here the courage to speak for those without voice, the strength to act on our convictions, the discernment to see the world as you want it to be, and the wisdom to respond together as persons of different faiths.

In these moments with one another, may we feel your presence and together praise your holy name.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Wide Interfaith Coalition Joins in 'Fighting Poverty with Faith' Effort in October

Next to Thanksgiving, the period that is set aside to take actions to address hunger and poverty in our country and around our world is the month of October.  For many years, our organization has encouraged churches to set aside one Sunday during the month to observe Bread for the World Sunday.

The ceremony to recognize the recipients of The World Food Prize is also held in October.  And this year the laureates are Heifer Project founder Jo Luck and Bread for the World president David Beckmann.

For years, the global community has also observed World Food Day every October 16. The theme of the US World Food Day teleconference is Food Choices in a Global Context.  This fits perfectly with the global theme United Against Hunger, manifested through events sponsored by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) around the world.

And did I mention that October is Fair Trade Month?

I will do separate posts about World Food Day and Fair Trade month at a later date.  

Thirty Four Join in Interfaith Effort  
Which brings me to the subject of this post.  There is now a new option for communities of faith to put a high priority on issues related to hunger and poverty in our own country during October called Fighting Poverty with Faith

The campaign asks individuals, churches, and local councils alike to join together in the month of October 2010 to educate and to advocate around poverty in America. This commitment to take specific actions is similar to the one that Feeding America sponsored during September through Hunger Action Month.

Fighting Poverty with Faith is sponsored by a diverse coalition of national and local faith organizations dedicated to cutting domestic poverty in half by 2020. There are 34 organizations (scroll down for full list) who have joined in this effort, including Bread for the World and such diverse partners as Sojourners, the Rabbinical Assembly, Islamic Society of North America, Hindu America Seva Charities, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the National Council of Churches and dozens of others.

Here's what the participants pledge:
During the month of October, we will provide opportunities for local congregations, student organizations, faith-based service-providers, and other affiliates to engage in candidates’ forums, community relations building activities, public education programs, interfaith volunteer projects, and advocacy efforts on the issues of shared economic prosperity and reducing poverty.
By coordinating our messaging, holding joint events, and promoting partnerships among our respective faith groups, we hope to build the political and public will to reduce poverty.
The Fighting Poverty with Faith 2010 mobilization will focus on two key strategies:
  1. Protecting critical human needs programs during these challenging economic times; and
  2. Advocating for new policies that enable more families to find employment and move toward economic self-sufficiency.
Every day, faith organizations serve individuals in need within our communities. But our efforts to sustain our brothers and sisters living in poverty must be complemented with a serious plan of action from our political leaders to reduce the number of needy.
And here is a message to federal and state legislators as they make budget decisions:
Though we believe in responsible stewardship of our nation’s resources, we are also committed to ensuring that the burden of deficit reduction is not placed on the backs of the most vulnerable members of our society. 

In addition, we will work for the development of positive economic opportunities for the millions of people who are out of work, underemployed, or displaced from their job.

Watch for a campaign conference kickoff on Tuesday, October 5, with a press conference at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time. 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Albuquerque Journal Editorial Criticizes State Cuts in School Breakfasts

Sarah Newman from New Mexico Collaboration to End Hunger recommended this editorial from the Albuquerque Journal, entitled State Serves up a Very Bad School Budget Idea.

You won't be able to see the full piece,which was published on Sept. 1, unless you have an online subscription to the Journal (which comes when you subscribe to the newspaper).  But we will pass on some excerpts.

The editorial starts with the following question:
At what point did state officials decide it was a good idea to cut supplemental funding for school breakfasts at some of the poorest schools in the state?
The editorial makes the point that state officials are cutting money after massive waste and misappropriation of funds.
It was long after West Las Vegas Schools misappropriated $1,500 for a plasma TV. And the New Mexico Environment Department threw away $23,500 refusing to release public records. After the Mora Independent School District frittered away $64,000 on items as inane as beef jerky and "appreciation" jackets for staffers and legislators. And highway commissioners blew more than $87,000 on state jet travel.

Amid all those wasted tax dollars, school districts like Quemado have to give up the $3,000 to $5,000 it costs to ensure all its elementary students get cereal and milk or a quesadilla after a 90-minute bus ride.
So here's the bottom line:
That's right. Rather than ask the state to crack heads over — or require its districts to crack down on — wasteful/unnecessary spending, education officials facing budget cuts pulled $1.2 million from 22 high-poverty districts for universal free breakfast.

State and district officials should be able to find enough cash in all the obvious waste to ensure every child in a high-poverty elementary has something in his or her stomach to fuel a learning day.
Because that's an investment that will actually last — long after the cheesy jackets are in a donation box and the jet flights have been forgotten.
You get the point.  School breakfasts are NOT a luxury that  can be cut.  Savings can be easily found elsewhere.

Friday, September 10, 2010

'Baba Yetu' (The Lord’s Prayer in Swahili)

One of the resources available for Bread for the World Sunday is a version of The Lord's Prayer in Swahili and English (along with phoenitic pronunciations).

The Swahili version has been put into song. Below is a beautiful a capella performance by Talisman, a wonderful choir based at Stanford University.

The Soweto Gospel Choir sings a different version of the song composed and arranged by Christopher Tin for the computer game Civilization V. You might recognize still another version of Tin's composition and arrangement in the Disney movie The Lion King II.


Thursday, September 09, 2010

Blooming Fair Trade Flower Business Makes a Bigger Difference

By Alaina Paradise

Business remains strong for One World Flowers, a licensed importer of Fair Trade flowers, even growing in today’s struggling economy.

Each quarter, licensed importers of Fair Trade products submit reports about purchases and sales to TransFair USA. The reporting system is one of the many ways that TransFair ensures accountability, transparency, and labeling accuracy for the Fair Trade program.

Reporting time offers a good opportunity to take a look at our growth as a company and growth in the Fair Trade flower industry as a whole. 

We’re happy to say that Year-to-Date numbers show that we have increased volume of flowers sold by 51% over 2009, because it means that we’re making a bigger impact on the farms as we grow.

Fair Trade flowers haven’t taken off in the U.S. market as much as they did in Europe when they were first introduced. This is partly due to timing of their market introduction and the current economic woes, and partly due to the cultural differences that make flowers a more seasonal gift item in the United States. In addition, market awareness of Fair Trade flowers in the United States is not as prevalent.

Despite these challenges, One World Flowers has managed to develop a strong business since opening in 2007. It has sold over 100,000 stems of Fair Trade flowers, each of which carries with it a 10% Fair Trade Premium that One World Flowers pays directly to workers’ unions.
The company has grown steadily by carving out a niche market among locally-owned cooperative markets where consumers are more aware of Fair Trade and its benefits.

The more we grow the more flowers we are able to buy from the Fair Trade farms we work with. Those dollars translate into wonderful social and environmental changes. One World Flowers hopes to begin expanding into other markets for wholesale flowers including reaching out to more local florists and wedding planners.

The author is proprietor of Albuquerque-based One World Flowers and a passionate advocate of fair trade.  Read her previous posts about fair trade flowers on Valentine's Day and on Mother's Day

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Advocates Bang the Drum at U.N. for Millennium Development Goals

In about two weeks, the UN headquarters in New York City will be the site of a global development summit on Sept. 20-22.  

Will the participants at the summit renew their commitment to address global poverty in an effective and comprehensive manner?

A group of anti-poverty advocates have organized a series of rallies outside the UN to make sure that global poverty is addressed in the proper context.  The advocates are are trying everything from giant letters to banging pans to raise awareness of the high-level event.  A big goal is to ensure that meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) becomes a high priority in the summit.  Here's an excerpt from the IRIN news service.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) suffer from a lack of widespread public recognition, not least in the summit's host country, the U.S. 
Mobilizing popular support and influencing delegates will demand a range of online and offline techniques, according to advocacy specialists, some more quirky than others. 
Human rights in general, and gender rights in particular, are at the heart of these calls. Amnesty International, for example, has a 3,865-strong online petition to put human rights at the center of the fight against poverty. In addition, an enhanced focus on gender rights will likely be reflected in the revised “outcome document” to be signed by global leaders in reaffirming their commitment to the eight goals at the 10-year mark.
(above photo also comes from IRIN)

Stay tuned for updates from the summit.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Exodus from Hunger

In his powerful and hopeful new book Exodus from Hunger, Bread for the World president David Beckmann examines the causes of hunger, presents case studies of countries that have made great strides against it, and puts a human face on the problem by sharing stories of people who are, quite simply, hungry every day.

The problems can seem overwhelming, but Beckmann, one of two winners of the 2010 World Food Prize, lays out a clear and workable plan for effectively using political channels to make great progress.

David discussed the book and his World Food Prize in the YouTube video below.  Here's what he said about the book:
The World has made a lot of progress against hunger. poverty and disease over the last few decades. More progress is clearly possible.  I see this as the great Exodus from our time, an great Exodus from hunger.  It's evidence of God's loving presence in our own history.  And I think God is also calling us to get with the program, and especially to push our government to do its part, to continue the Exodus from hunger in our own country and around the world.
The book has received endorsements from many prominent theologians and church leaders, including Ron Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action.  Here's what he said:
For several decades, more and more Christians have been listening anew to the biblical summons to empower the poor and to do justice. David Beckmann’s Exodus from Hunger builds on that growing movement and provides a clear, concrete agenda for effective change that would dramatically reduce global poverty.

Buy the book via the Bread for the World online store.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

A Sacred Dance Company Celebrates Silver Anniversary

Keri Sutter dances at Open Hearts, Open Doors service in 2002
For many years Bread for the World New Mexico had this great tradition of starting our year with uplifting ecumenical worship services.  The preachers (Richard Rohr,  Martha Honecker, Susan Sager, Daniel Erdman, Elise Higginbotham, Carolyn Hughes, Paula Gonzalez, Art Meyer and others) offered thought-provoking and inspiring words.  

Those services were graced with the gift of song from choirs from Iglesia Congregacional Unida, Aquinas Newman Center Catholic Community, Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church, Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Shepherd's Voice (St. Timothy Lutheran Church) and the Albuquerque Girl Choir.  There were also soloists and cantors like Frank Manning and Russ Sutter.

And there were other who enhanced our worship with their talent, including a sacred clown (Michael Haley).

But I would especially like to celebrate the sacred dance company Surgite and its founder Keri Sutter, which joined us at a couple of services (Hunger has a Cure and  Open Hearts, Open Doors).  The group shares the gift of dance not only with congregations, but also performs at retirement homes and assisted living centers.  See the July-November 2010 schedule.

Surgite has a very special birthday this year, a silver anniversary!  The company is celebrating its 25 years of bringing Psalm 149:3 to life.  "Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with timbrel and lyre! "

Surgite's mission statement adds that the purpose of its sacred dance is to create events that use movement to empower people to celebrate their lives, weave new relationships, and explore themselves, their values, and the universe. 

I urge you to come celebrate with Keri and this remarkable group of youths and adults. 

Join in the Celebration

Surgite, a sacred dance company
25th anniversary celebration
Saturday, September 25
3:00 – 6:00 p.m.
The performance will start at 4:00 p.m.
114 Carlisle Blvd. SE
Albuquerque, NM
Surgite, a sacred dance company, was founded in 1985 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. A not-for-profit corporation, Surgite presents liturgical dance in the worship services of many different denominations, as well as leading workshops for people of all ages and presenting concerts in retirement and assisted living communities.

Surgite creates events that use movement to empower people to celebrate their lives, weave new relationships, and explore themselves, their values, and the universe. Sometimes that means participating in worship or in concerts, performing music and dance for an audience. Sometimes that means letting people participate, and explore within themselves.