Oh, how meaningful.

My sister and I were reunited in Toronto after I moved back from Kingston and together, we committed to creating a space that was inviting for anyone to stop by, grab a bite and hang out. Out of the many commonalities we share, this is a top favourite: gathering people together (eating is a close second). When World Vision Canada launched the Meaningful Meals initiative, I knew it was just the thing for us. And it’s probably just the thing for you, too.

Meaningful Meals is a HungerFree initiative that is all about celebrating food while helping create a hunger-free world. Whether it’s Thanksgiving, Christmas or your birthday, isn’t food one of the first things considered when planning a celebration? The idea is super simple: enjoy a meal and cover the cost of your own plate as well as another to help support long-term food projects. You can have a Meaningful Meal at a fancy restaurant, your favourite fast food chain or the comforts of your own home. You can choose to donate the cost (or part of the cost) of your plate when eating out or suggest a donation as you prepare a meal for your friends.

Our plan was this: invite friends, cook up a storm, start some great conversations and give people the opportunity to be generous with their finances. Recent graduates don’t have a lot of disposable income, but we have enough to treat ourselves to good food once in a while – so instead of going out to eat, we invited people to come over and give what would have been spent elsewhere for food. We decided to set a target goal of $1000 and committed to hosting dinner parties in our apartment every single week until we reached our goal.

9 dinner parties later, we reached our goal! We also made new friends, engaged in important conversations and created unique recipes along the way. Committing to a dinner party every single week was not easy, but the opportunity to gather friends from all walks of life supporting one, important cause made it so meaningful. Global poverty is not on everyone’s mind, but I learned that people are willing to hear out what their friends have to say about it – and for me, that was worth the messy kitchen and the piles of dishes.

I say that this campaign is just for you because you probably enjoy food almost as much as I do and while a huge dinner party may not appeal to you, I bet you can think of at least a couple of people you enjoy eating with. Host your own and post it on social with the hashtag, #HungerFree.

-Joon Oh


Two summers ago, I found myself in a tiny, run down, outdoor school in the middle of an impoverished community just outside of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I went to teach English because although many people assume volunteering abroad is actually a disservice by taking jobs away from the people or not being knowledgeable about the culture, the demand for English speaking citizens is extremely high. Teaching English as a volunteer is one of the greatest things you can do because it provides children with the opportunity of breaking out of the cycle of poverty through the attainment of a higher paying job. And, higher paying jobs in developing countries tend to be the jobs where English is a requirement. When I got there all eager to make a difference in these children’s lives, I witnessed teachers not teaching, children not eating, and babies being left at the school because the parents needed to work. It was basically a day care with no care.

This is not to say that this is the normal or that it is caused by the people living there. But, it’s a representation of the reality for children and the education (if they’re lucky enough to get one) in impoverished areas.

So, that’s where we come in – the privileged young Canadians with a passion to travel and help the world at the same time. Seeing the teachers barely teach the children motivated me to teach to my best abilities even though I was not getting paid. Seeing the children without food for lunch motivated me to be mindful of what I eat and donate what I don’t eat. Seeing the babies being left there because the parents had no other options motivated me help families break out of poverty in any way possible.

A sad video on Youtube about a child with no food or access to education may or may not motivate you to create change, but volunteering in the reality that is poverty in developing countries will.