Food for Thought: How Hunger Affects Your Education

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How many of us have sat through a class that’s right before lunch, staring at the second hand on the clock, imagining our teeth crunching on chips? Watching that clock becomes far more important than French or algebra.

For too many kids in the world, their first meal of the day is dinner. Lunchtime doesn’t mean relief from chronic hunger, and that hunger drastically impacts the way children learn.

It turns out hunger doesn’t just affect how we learn or pay attention in school – it also affects how well our brain works or develops. A healthy brain uses 20% of your body’s energy, and energy comes from food. That means that hunger starves the brain.

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Children who are malnourished fall behind in school because they can’t concentrate or often miss classes to help the family put food on the table.

Is it really surprising that it is difficult to learn and break the cycle of poverty when your body needs all the energy it can get just to get to school?

With proper nourishment, children are able to learn and grow, sometimes even going on to become teachers themselves.

With your help, families are equipped to grow healthier, more abundant crops and livestock to feed her family and generate income.

Unfortunately, that’s not always enough. When families and communities need more immediate assistance to get started or withstand life’s setbacks, World Vision ensures there are safety nets in place, like school feeding programs, emergency food supplies when there’s a disaster, and special assistance for vulnerable groups, such as the sick, elderly, orphaned, pregnant/lactating mothers and young children.

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In a HungerFree world, children are able to grow and learn the way they should. Through 30 Hour Famine, you are helping make that world a reality.

A HungerFree world means everyone gets enough food for both today and tomorrow. It means families can become self-sufficient through the skills, education, and productive assets. It means they can be hungerfree for a lifetime.

That world doesn’t have to wait. This is our time to make it happen, our time to boldly embody change. Will you join the voices calling for better?

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If You Had To Live From A Backpack, What Would You Bring?

If you had to live out of a backpack, what would you bring? I’ve had to ask myself that question quite a few times in my wandering life. Recently, I found myself asking it again, as I sifted through photos and stories of Syrian refugees and the few belongings they carried from home.

A carrier of memories

I am a little obsessed with my backpack. It’s one of those early generation Mountain Equipment Co-op Pika packs, the kind every college girl had about five years ago. Everyone else seems to have moved on to the uber-cool Herschel or the tried-and-true Jansport, but not me. I’m still rocking my cobalt blue, threadbare MEC pack.

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Whether trekking overseas or walking to work, I’m rarely without my backpack.

There’s a reason I’m holding on to it, though. We’ve been through a lot together. I bought my backpack six months after I finished university. I was about to move back to Senegal to live with my family. Soon after that, it came with me to my very first job as a writer at a news organization in Tunisia. I can still remember packing it with my Moleskine notebook, my favourite pens and a very loud whistle in case I should run into trouble.

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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.

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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.

Heart of Integrity

Do what gives your heart the most integrity
A friend of mine said this to me a couple years ago on New Years eve. We were talking about our dreams and goals for the new year and all I could say was, ‘I just want to heal the world- but sometimes I don’t know how, or I’m afraid’.

This passion that we have for wanting to see a change in the world, should always be matched by listening – listening to those living in injustice and listening to our hearts. We might not know how to change the world, but we know that we can. If that intention was put on your heart, it is there because there is enough strength and courage in you to do it.

This past year I wanted to do what gave my heart the most integrity.

1. Connect with people that I had met on my travels- without relationship, my so called love for the world is a broken promise.
2. Break walls down- Push through.
3. Be grounded- But let your dreams soar, you are capable.
4. Take risks.
5. Seek Justice in the everyday.- Justice is the restoration of every violation of love.

As I look past these last 12 months, I can tell you that having these intentions in my heart and living them out was the best way to sew back the fibres of the broken promises I had made to myself and all the wonderful people I have met on my past ‘service’ trips.

I started with calling and emailing amazing people I had met in Tanzania, Bolivia and El Salvador. People that at one moment showed me what it was to tangibly live Justice out as a life style, from Meru Peak orphanage, to The Bolivian Children’s Mission and Mons. Ricardo Ayala(Oscar Romero’s secretary). The encouragement that comes from a community of people who everyday fight for the betterment of children, the restoration of our planet and access to education was the fire I was going to build on, in order to continue with my intentions for the year.

I did what I knew I could tangibly do in that moment – which was tell my story and the story of my family – a family that fled a war stricken El Salvador but that saved many peoples lives while living through brutal violence.

So I wrote, and got published in the Latin American Researcher’s of Ontario Annual Magazine Tell Your Story. It matters.

This was my way of breaking down walls and pushing through, not being afraid of my own voice.

I was reminded daily that I had a dream of working in a job that would stretch me, force me to take risks and live out the day to day I was trying to live. World Vision was on my horizon, sometimes its when you feel the most broken, that you find courage in your heart to be who you have always been. Building and being community have been forces in my daily life that remind me that restoration in communities come from youth that lead with open hearts. We are invited to be that hopeful.

Be bold – Dream – You are capable.

Take risks.

At the end of October of this year, I was given the incredible opportunity of traveling to Colombia to visit two friends who are doing beautiful work in the city of Medellin. Being back in Latin America (where my family is from) gave me back the passion I had willfully given away, when I allowed my fear of not knowing how to change the world get in the way. My friend Maria Antonia has an art school for kids, visual art, music, dance, theatre- it was beautiful to see the kids as they discovered their creativity at Maquerule School. Padre Cesar is a priest working at the Seminary of Medellin, a teacher at the Pontifical University and works in one of the poorest barrios of Medellin, Santo Domingo. I spent an afternoon in that Barrio with him- and it broke me, it filled me with many emotions that I don’t have words for. All I know is that as I calculated my words all I could do was blurt out love- my way of healing the world, was to connect, was to honour communities, to listen, and to write. This community has been slowly integrating, education for children and adults, opportunities for employment and transportation in order to access the rest of the city (as they are on top of a mountain). As I share the story of this community, I can tell you that we have started a conversation with World Vision Colombia and we are hoping to see more changes come to this community. The lack of education and the poverty of this community (like so many) is a systemic plague, but by working with the community, we know that injustice can disintegrate itself from the future of this community.

Seek Justice in the everyday – Justice is the restoration of every violation of love. – This goal I will be bringing with me in to the new year, I want every movement I make, to be embedded in to the foot prints of justice that is reborn everyday, when we decide to let love move us. Take this year as a challenge- the whole year. Smile brighter, be kinder, act more intentionally and do what brings your heart the most integrity.

To set you off for this year, I invite you to take our 12 Days of Christmas Challenge, step in to this experience with fire in your bones, a racing heart and hands ready to work!

We are bound by justice – seek it everyday.

Planting seeds of justice

Written by: Leona (Student Leader – Alberta)
I remember when we sponsored our first child with World Vision. It was at a Christian event when they did a call to action at the end. I walked by the sponsorship table and a young Thai girl my age caught my eye. Her kind smile immediately told me “we can be friends”. And as a friend, I could not allow her to live without the basic human needs that I take so easily for granted. I knew I wanted to help her. Grateful for the next 12 years because my mother helped me provide the finances need to cover the sponsorship, but that was my first exposure to World Vision and the work they do to change lives all around the world.

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Since I was young, my mother has planted a seed of justice in my heart. She would point out the right thing to do in situations. She made me return a stolen toy and apologize to the store owner even after we had returned home and I hadn’t been caught. She would teach me to stick up for people who were bullied at school—whether or not I had the courage to do it was another topic. I do not know when I became aware of this sense of justice in me, or even when I became fearless in stepping out and speaking out, but I can credit my mother and Father for watering that seed and never giving up on me.

After a 3 week trip to rural China, I became filled with this compassion for people and curiosity for the work of many non-profit organizations do to help people in developing countries. I was inspired by the sacrificial love of one person for the life and joy of someone else. Amazingly, just as I was organizing a 30 Hour Famine event with my youth group, the West Regional Coach at the time, Alexandra, contacted me telling me of this internship opportunity. I bubbled with excitement –what a great opportunity to work for one of the largest relief and development organization in the world! Even more amazing was that I was chosen to be a Provincial Leader for not one term, but two terms in a row! It was the perfect experience for me because I wanted to contribute to overseas development work but due to my commitment to University, I was stuck at home. Without leaving my schooling, family, and friends behind, I participated in changing lives of children, families, and entire communities. No other part time job I was looking at gave the same experience and circle of influence. I gain nothing but money punching in orders at a fast food restaurant or folding clothes at a retail store. While on the other hand, every hour doing work for World Vision was time and effort given to bring life and joy to people—and nothing was more worth my time.

Throughout this internship experience, I was given freedom to creatively impact my local community. It was an open work environment where you were free to share any ideas, confident that the people you work with share the same values and goals. Although we were all separated by provinces across Canada, we had a strong sense of team spirit because we were working together for children, for change, for life. The trust and kindness among co-workers are at a level I had never experienced before with previous jobs. Their encouragement was a boost every week. I built lasting friendships with the people I work with and with many awesome young justice advocates and famine leaders. I also received one on one care and mentorship from one of the most awesome, real, beautiful teacher in the world, my coach Alexandra. I am grateful to serve with a team full of passion and compassion, and to give with the resources that I have—however big or small. This internship was a big contributor to developing my skills and capabilities as a leader, and for watering the seed of justice in my heart.

At first, I thought it was all about how I can do this job well, but as the internship is coming to a close for me, I realized it has become more than a job. The things I did in this internship have already became part of my life and everything I do; my desire for social change grew so much. It opened my eyes to so many more injustices in the world, but I also witnessed all the compassionate people spending every second and energy in their day to work for change, inspiring me to do the same. I do not know where life will take me, but I will always carry a part of my World Vision experience wherever I go.

If you want to get involved and make a difference contact the youth team at World Vision: yourmovement@worldvision.ca