Becoming Hungerfree

Becoming HungerFree-Blog Title

If you were to stand at the edge of Nelly’s family’s fields, you would see earth that looked a lot like a checkerboard. Every few feet there is a rectangle where the ground is a little lower.

The checkerboard is actually zai pits, a farming technique that involves mixing the dirt with fertilizer and leaving the pits several inches lower than the earth around them. This allows water to accumulate to better grow crops like kale and corn.

Nelly’s family lives in rural Kenya. When Nelly’s mother was young, crops were easier to grow; farmers could confidently know the rains would come. But they were also harder to farm. Digging the earth took more work and yield was small.

Now, rains are intermittent and unpredictable. But with zai pits, it’s easier to be sure that food will grow. In fact, the technique has doubled the crop production for the community.

Becoming HungerFree-Zai Pits

HungerFree is helping families generate food for today and tomorrow through programming commonly referred to as Cash for Assets. Farming techniques – like zai pits – allow families to more efficiently grow food to both eat and sell, ensuring resilience during periods of drought.

Becoming HungerFree-Cash for Assets

And farming isn’t the only way Nelly’s family has more economic stability. They also help care for their community’s goats, and Nelly’s mother participates in a savings and loan group with their neighbors.

One of the challenges of food assistance is the balancing act between immediate assistance and long-term stability. Often, hungry communities urgently need food to be able to continue learning and farming. But they also need the tools to continue to support themselves.

By participating in 30 Hour famine, you are helping families just like Nelly’s grow not only corn, but also sustainability.

But we’re not called to help create a hungerfree family. We are called to help create a hungerfree world. Nelly’s story is just the beginning.

This is the time to accomplish great things. Are you on board?

Call to Action Tile-09

The Only Thing That’s Missing Is You

Mother Teresa once said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”

Two weeks ago I saw firsthand the effects of many young and passionate youth coming together to cast stones for a better world.

World Vision hosted a Justice Lab in Edmonton, and for the first time I saw the power of community. Having twenty-five passionate young leaders in the same room created an atmosphere of action and change. We addressed global issues such as education, child protection, water and hunger. However the room really came alive when we started talking about global hunger. Suddenly we were all bouncing ideas off of each other of what we could do in our communities to start making a difference. Our advocacy immediately turned into action. Ideas of contacting local grocery stores to harvest the food they don’t use and starting food trucks where proceeds would go to where extreme hunger is present in the world began to fill the air. I had to take a moment and step back in awe at what I was seeing.

Justice Lab 2

Justice Lab was entirely based off of the idea of “what would happen if you brought together a community of young people who were passionate about social justice?” When we gathered together in Edmonton on February 20th the answer to that question was change. Real global change was igniting our conversation like wild fire. Why? Because extreme hunger is not acceptable and this group of students recognized it and knew they had the power to make a difference. And so do you.

Right now people from all over the world, not just Edmonton, are joining the fight to end extreme hunger. HungerFree is a global movement that believes a hunger free world is possible. There is enough food and resources on the planet to feed everyone. The only thing that’s missing is you.

Join the fight to end this injustice and be a part of the solution to seeing a hunger free world. Organizing a 30 Hour Famine event is great to experience the daily struggle of someone who experiences extreme hunger as well as creating your own community of world changers.

We can’t change the world alone, but we can cast a stone to create many ripples of change.

You’re Never Too Young

A lie we often tell ourselves is that we are too young to make a difference in the world.

At 25 years old, you might expect that I have grown out of the lie, but I still catch myself believing it.

The lie allows us to abdicate our responsibility. We shrug off making a difference, because we are “powerless” to do anything; We “have no influence” on the course of human history. Believing the lie allows us to stand idle, waiting for someone else to put in motion the solutions to the world’s problems.

Unfortunately, it’s not true. No one is too young to make a difference.

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In December, I had the privilege of meeting the students of Carseland School, and encouraging them as they fund-raised in support of World Vision’s Gift Catalogue. As I stood in the school gym, waiting for the students to come in, I started talking with Mrs. Wade, the teacher that invited me to the school. She told me the origin of the fundraiser and how it all started with her young son, Oliver.

The previous year, Mrs. Wade and Oliver were sitting at a table in their local coffee shop, when Oliver noticed a World Vision gift catalogue sitting on their table. As Oliver flipped through the glossy pages and looked at the pictures of chickens, goats, and cows that could go towards helping people around the world, he was filled with a desire to make a difference. Mrs. Wade told me, “He knew bottles made money, so he started a bottle drive, encouraging all of his friends to help with the project.” That year, Oliver was able to raise enough money to reach his goal of purchasing a goat and a chicken for a family affected by extreme poverty.

This year, Mrs. Wade returned to work at Carseland School. Hoping to teach her students to be global citizens, she remembered Oliver’s successful Gift Catalogue campaign, and decided to hold a fundraiser for her students. So far this year, their Change for Change project has raised over 400$. Oliver held another bottle drive and was able to contribute 140$.

No one told Oliver he was too young to make a difference. The students at Carseland School didn’t believe the lie that they were too young to affect change. As a result, families around the world will benefit from their generous gifts through the World Vision Gift Catalogue.

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I want to tell you one more story. 45 years ago, in 1971, a 17-year-old named Ruth Roberts in Calgary was overcome with compassion for African children suffering from famine. Along with a group of 14 friends, Ruth Roberts organized a “starve-in” in the basement of their church to raise money and bring awareness to the famine. The group raised 600$ towards famine relief.

In the following years, the “starve-in” became an annual, international fundraiser known as the 30 Hour Famine. Every year, young people in 15 different countries who have rejected the lie that they can’t make a difference forego food to empathize and support those around the world that lack food security.

You are never to young too young to make an impact in the world. Stop waiting for someone to tell you it’s your turn to make a difference. The time is now to help.

The bicycle

“Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the human race.” ~H.G. Wells.

It’s about ten and a half kilometers from my house in the suburbs of Ottawa to my office downtown, a trip that I like to take on my bicycle when the ground isn’t covered with two feet of snow. It’s days like today, when the sky is grey and the ground is frozen, that my mind drifts to summer days of pedalling down the River Pathway bike trail, to the sights and sounds of nature, and the flocks of baby geese and their mamas sitting by the water.

Last year I bought a fairly mid-range bike that quickly glides along the path and is light enough for me to carry with one hand. The trip downtown can easily be made in less than half an hour, making it much faster to hop on my bike every morning than subject myself to the throngs of SUVs and minivans stuck in rush hour traffic. The beautiful scenery and steady stream of endorphins relax and energize me all at the same time, and I often find myself smiling at the thought that I am not one of the thousands of agitated drivers slowly putting along in first gear.

My dad has been an avid cyclist for nearly as long as I can remember, ever since a sabbatical a few years ago left him feeling quite bored and restless. He spent hours riding around town while we were at school, and every day returned with stories of adventures and discoveries and bonding with fellow cyclists over challenging weather and flat tires. Bicycling changed the way my dad experienced the world. It was good for him, good for his soul.

The Bike Movement has been growing steadily across North America and it’s not hard to see why. For some, it’s part of a decision to be healthier, to burn some fat and build some muscle. For others, it’s a convenient way to beat rush hour traffic. Sometimes it’s a financial necessity. For many, cycling is (admirably) part of their effort to decrease fuel emissions, reduce roadway congestion, and lower their carbon footprint.

But the more I pedal instead of drive, the more I realize that bicycling isn’t simply a recreation issue or a health issue or an urban planning issue. It isn’t even just a ‘green’ issue, at least not entirely. When it comes down to it, bicycling is a justice issue.

The effects of motor vehicles on our environment should be pretty much common knowledge by now: in Canada, road transportation made up nearly 25% of Greenhouse Gas Emissions.1 Even more shocking? A recent Canadian census estimated that somewhere around half of Canadians live within 8 kilometers of their school or place of work – a commute that can easily be done by bike.2 And because of the mechanics involved in engine “warm up” time, these short trips are the worst polluters by a long shot.3

But think about this: we are now beginning to discover that many global issues are caused or made worse by climate change, including such basic needs as food, water, health, and shelter. Let’s take agriculture as an example. Climate change – caused in large part by pollution from cars – is causing a huge increase in heat stress, droughts, and flooding, making it much more difficult for farmers to grow the food that they need for their families and communities. And if we don’t do anything to change this, it looks like the problem is only going to get worse, with climate scientists predicting that farms relying on rain to grow their crops (instead of more sophisticated and expensive irrigation systems) could see a 50% decline in the amount of food that they produce.4

There is no distinction between a people issue and a planet issue, or a local issue and a global issue. They are one and the same. What I do in Ottawa affects the life of someone in Arnprior and Toronto and Idaho and Mexico. My commute affects communities around the globe. Small decisions matter.

The other day I asked my dad why he bikes, what gets him in the saddle even in sweltering heat, deluges of rain, and sub-zero temperatures. Bottom line? he said, Cycling equals a simpler and more wholesome life. No pollution. You’re not stuck in traffic. You’re not feeding this unfettered oil-based capitalism where profit is the only thing.

So, it’s mainly about the environment? I asked.

The environment is a big part of it, for sure, he replied. But mostly I love the sense of community. Bicycles lower barriers and people are more relaxed interacting with you. I can pass someone and look at their face, and often get a smile and ‘hello’ in return. In the locker room at work, there is a real sense of community and camaraderie and common purpose. It’s beautiful.

You see, changing the world is no easy task. What is easy, is getting bogged down by the weight of the world’s problems, overwhelmed by injustice and inequality. And big problems like the ones we’re fighting certainly demand radical solutions. But maybe the most radical solution starts with the bicycle. Maybe big problems can be solved when we start to think small. Local. When we invest in our communities. When we realize that every choice we make, moment by moment, day by day, can either make the world a better place or keep the world turning just the way it always has been. The most radical world changers, the ones who look at their planet and see a broken system and who nevertheless decide that they will challenge that system head-on, those are the ones who know the power of even the most simple, small, seemingly inconsequential action.

And when local communities are strong, when we start to realize that it’s not just us in the world but that we are all connected together, when we get to know our neighbours and when a stranger stops to help change a flat bicycle tire, beautiful things start happening. We start thinking about others, about being selfless. Our world begins to change.

So the next time you feel that you are too small and the problem is too big, remember this: it all starts with the bicycle.

1. Environment Canada, “Canada’s Emissions Trends,” p. 15. Available online at: http://www.ec.gc.ca/ges-ghg/985F05FB-4744-4269-8C1A-D443F8A86814/1001-Canada%27s%20Emissions%20Trends%202013_e.pdf. Last accessed 27 February 2015.

2. Statistics Canada, “2006 Census: Analysis Series: Table 2: Median Commuting Distances of Workers (in kilometers), Canada, Provinces and Territories, 1996, 2001, and 2006,” Available online at http://www12.statcan.ca/census-recensement/2006/as-sa/97-561/table/t2-eng.cfm. Last accessed 27 February 2015.

3. National Geographic Green Guide, “Buying Bikes: Environmental Impact,” Available online at: http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/green-guide/buying-guides/bikes/environmental-impact/. Last accessed 27 February 2015.M
4. United States Environmental Protection Agency, “Climate Impacts on Global Issues,” Available online at http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/impacts-adaptation/international.html. Last Accessed 27 February 2015.

Change the World

This is a clip from the founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, 20 years ago.

He decided not to live the life that was handed to him, but to carve his own path. He realized that “Everything around you that you call life, was made up by people no smarter than you.” You can influence, shape and change.

Steve went on to change the computer, music, and phone industry, while capturing the imagination of millions around the world.

What would it look like if the same genius that helped spread smartphones across the planet, was applied to spreading hope, justice, and peace?

In the words of Mary Oliver – what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

Maybe one day you’ll work for World Vision, maybe you’ll start your own social enterprise, or maybe you’ll find yourself living on the other side of the planet caring for orphans.

What’s for certain is, if you fully embrace the fact that your life is yours to shape, you will never be the same, and neither will our world.