Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Videos Worth Watching (at an Offering of Letters Workshop)

Cathy Pfefferle, Jeanne Elmhorst, Albuquerque Mennonite Chuch
Bread for the World's skilled media staff produced several fabulous videos related to the 2014 Offering of Letters campaign So when we discovered at our recent Offering of Letters workshop that the DVD player was not connecting properly to the television set, we had to scramble.

Fortunately, the videos are found online, so we called them up on a small laptop using our host church's WiFi. The image was small, but the message and the audio were very clear. And it helps that many of the participants in the workshop at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Albuquerque had already seen the videos or knew how to access the videos online.

The first video we accessed offers a general overview of the campaign. The second video (below) tells a gripping personal story of a mother in Guatemala whose circumstances caused her and her children to suffer from hunger and malnutrition. Thanks to a program for women with children under 2, she was able to gain access to the nutritious food she needed for her children and for herself. The program was supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

Jasmine McBeath spoke about Oxfam and food aid reform
Guest Speaker from Oxfam 
In a nutshell, our Offering of Letters seeks to make our food aid more effective and to foster long-term solutions to hunger, including a provision to buy food near the country where it is needed.  The aim is also to enhance the nutritional quality of food aid and target it to vulnerable populations. A third goal is to protect funding for emergency and development food aid.

 Bread for the World is partnering with several organizations in the food-aid reform effort, and we invited Jasmine McBeath, a volunteer with New Mexico Oxfam Action Corps, to tell us about Oxfam America's campaign.

Our knowledgeable participants from 10 churches engaged in  a deep discussion about food aid and asked very good questions related to our campaign and food aid in general.

One  person inquired about the timing of possible legislation related to our campaign. I mentioned that Bread is working with partner organizations and members of Congress from both parties about possible legislation. And Jasmine indicated that Oxfam America has targeted food reform as one of its top issues in recent years and that  Oxfam Action Corps volunteers went to Capitol Hill in April 2013 to promote a bipartisan bill that was nearly approved in the House. Furthermore, there has already been some legislative action this year via the newly approved Farm Bill.
There are many more questions about food aid reform. What is U.S. food aid? What does it consist of? What countries are the top recipients of U.S. food aid? How does the U.S. government administer food aid? The answer to these and other queries can be found in the Offering of Letters booklet provides good answers on pages 5-7.

Kirsten Marr, Rev. Karen Hill, First Presbyterian Church
Ten Churches Attended
Participants at the workshop represented Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Catholic Church, First Congregational Church, St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, St. Thomas of Canterbury Episcopal Church, All Saints Lutherna Church, Albuquerque Mennonite Church, First Presbyterian Church, Immaculate Conception Catholic Church,St. Paul Lutheran Church and Aquinas Newman Center Catholic Church.

At least two other Albuquerque churches--St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church and La Mesa Presbyterian Church--have plans to conduct an Offering of Letters this year but were unable to send a representative to the workshop.  The churches in Santa Fe that held Offering of Letters in recent years include Westminster Presbyterian Church, First Presbyterian Church, St. Bede's Episcopal Church, United Church of Santa Fe and St. John's United Methodist Church. Smith Memorial Presbyterian Church in Truchas, First United Methodist Church in Gallup and Peace Lutheran Church in Las Cruces have also recently held letter-writing Sundays in recent years.

Anna Redsand (St. Andrew Presbyerian) chats with Else Tasseron (St. Paul Lutheran)

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