Building a Future: Where do we go from here?

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Over the last few weeks, we’ve been travelling with Nelly, a 10-year old girl from Dzinkunze, Kenya. Nelly’s family – as well as her community – gets most of their nutrition and income from farming corn and cassava, particularly through a technique called zai pits, which enhance plant nutrients.

World Vision has been working in Nelly’s area since 2007, helping the community to develop a safety net through agriculture. More than 1,300 people, in this community of 3,500, participate in agriculture programming similar to those benefiting Nelly and her family. By diversifying food sources through zai pits and adopting drought tolerant crops, more families are becoming hungerfree.

In fact, zai pits have helped families double their crop production, generate income from the sale of surplus crops and improve nutrition. Farmers are learning how to care for the land and plant trees, reducing soil degradation and enhancing soil nutrients and water retention. World Vision has also improved access to water for drinking, agriculture and livestock. As a result, the distance travelled by community members has been reduced in half, creating more time for individuals to work on their farms, go to school or generate income. The access to water also helps improve the condition of livestock which in turn increases their price of sale.

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As the community looks to the future, it recognizes that a hungerfree Dzikunze is only possible if it involves young people.

Across Kenya and much of Africa, the average age of farmers is 60 years and getting older – meanwhile, the population overall is getting younger. More than half the population of Kenya is under the age of 25. Today’s generation of young people are facing unprecedented unemployment and having difficulty finding a job, yet they are uninterested in agriculture. Many young people don’t see agriculture as profitable or sustainable.

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World Vision’s HungerFree hopes to change that by training vulnerable young people how to not only use agriculture to feed themselves and their families but by also providing the skill training to run their own agricultural business and grow enough food to create their own future by generating sustainable income.

By being a part of the 30 Hour Famine, you are supporting opportunities to empower young people in Kenya with the skills they need to become hungerfree. But it is so much more than that. You are also joining a global community of young people who believe that the way the world is now isn’t the way it has to be in the future. You are questioning stasis and telling the world that we can change. You are accepting the challenge to build something better than what we have.

You are joining a movement that believes a hungerfree world is possible – and that it starts with youth. Are you in?

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Investing in Tomorrow: Florence and the Machine

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In Kenya, economic empowerment can have many faces. For some, it looks like corn stalks growing tall around their house.

That’s how it is for Nelly, the 10-year-old girl we’ve been following with 30 Hour Famine, and her family. By growing healthier and more productive plants, they are able to begin to live #hungerfree.

Today’s average Kenyan farmer is 60 years old. But Kenya is getting younger, and more than half the population is under the age of 25. Those young people are often unemployed, and yet agricultural jobs go unattended. Farming doesn’t seem sustainable…or cool.

HungerFree is coming alongside young people to use methods of empowerment that have been proven to work. It’s the same model World Vision uses with other small farmers, and makes sure that young people have small business. Why? Because then they can grow food for their families and develop an income they can count on.

Not that far from Nelly lives a young woman named Florence, who is a perfect example of what HungerFree helps young people accomplish.

With 14 mouths to feed among her extended family, Florence could be under a lot of pressure. But through HungerFree, she participates in a farming group using new technology to maximize the quality of corn. Food for today is taken care of.

And the food for tomorrow? That’s taken care of with one small asset: a sewing machine. Florence can make her own clothes and sell them for a profit, ensuring that she has enough to provide economic stability.

Facing the Unexpected: What Happens when your plans get shattered?

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Johnny was the star pitcher on his high school baseball team. He was on-track to go to college on a scholarship and had plans to get drafted after sophomore year. But during his last year, a shoulder injury forced him to quit playing. All the plans he had made were suddenly ruined.

You’ve probably heard some variation of that story before. Maybe it’s you. Maybe it’s a friend. Either way, it’s something that we can all relate to: having to adapt when our plans get shattered.

In Africa, plans for a future are getting drowned by a weather phenomenon called El Niño. It is essentially big shifts in weather patterns across the world due to the extensive warming of the central and eastern tropical Pacific.

El Niño is causing circumstances to change dramatically all over the world, and is just one example of what can happen when the unexpected occurs in food insecure places.

The weather system is manifested in two opposite extremes in Africa – either too much rain or extreme drought. In Kenya, where drought has been drying the earth for years, the sudden onslaught of rain is causing flooding; the rain can’t soak through the clay-like earth.

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That means ruined crops and dying livestock. And each of those means hunger.

Those who are already vulnerable may not have the mechanisms in place to cope with natural, man-made or economic disaster. Instead, families try to cope with their loss of livelihood by having their children drop out of school, depleting their assets, or reducing meal quantity and quality.

HungerFree wants to present an alternative coping mechanism by helping communities in Kenya and South Sudan develop strategies for resilience. Not only does your support through 30 Hour Famine provide food for today, it also helps those who are being flooded by the unexpected.

How, you ask?

Programs already in place make sure that families have back-up resources. Savings groups allow struggling families to take out protected loans from their neighbors. And new farming techniques help crops stay a little bit more protected.

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So now, in the worst El Niño on record, families are able to have a little bit of a safety net. Now, they don’t have to become statistics in a humanitarian crisis.

Through 30 Hour Famine, you can make sure that stays true for a lifetime. This isn’t the first time disaster has struck, and it certainly won’t be the last. But we dare to see beauty and brokenness. We dare to see a world that grow, not diminish, in the face of disaster. What about you?

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Investing in Tomorrow: A Stroke of Cluck Can Change a Life

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Kenya is getting younger and younger. Over half the population is under the age of 25, and many of them are unable to get sustainable employment. That means more stress and less food.

But many young people don’t see agriculture as the best way to a hungerfree life. The average farmer is 60 years old. But what if that farming – which makes sure there’s food enough for today – was combined with a small business?

For Nelly, the girl we’ve been following as we get ready for the 30 Hour Famine, a hungerfree life looks like farming combined with raising goats.

For Erastus, another young Kenyan, economic empowerment comes with a stroke of cluck.

Erastus is the sole caregiver for his brothers and sisters. Crammed in a small house, the family often found themselves going to sleep hungry (and waking up even hungrier).

But since getting chickens, Erastus can not only feed his siblings, he can also plan for a future. Soon, he hopes to build a house that will fit his family.

A HungerFree world doesn’t just involve food. It also takes community, young people, and empowerment. With economic stability – and chickens – dreaming for the future becomes possible.

Keep pushing for a #HungerFree world –

Becoming Hungerfree

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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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Welcome to Dzikunze: A hungerfree world starts here

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Kilifi is a resort town in Kenya. Beaches and hotels are the claim to fame, and tourism is the backbone of its economy. If you were to visit the resort town, you might stay at the Mnarani Club resort, where you can enjoy the amenities of the on-site spa or explore the ocean on a scuba tour.


But an hour’s drive outside of Kilifi lies Dzikunze, a small village where the hard Kenyan rains can cause the walls of the mud houses to start coming apart in chunks.

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During the weeks leading up to the 30 Hour Famine, we’ve been following Nelly, a 10-year-old Kenyan girl. Her story is not that different from children all over the world, whose families cannot thrive in their current environment. Dzikunze is where she calls home.

Like many rural towns in Kenya, Dzikunze is a collection of families who live in houses made out of mud packed into a skeleton of branches. Because they are made with earth, the homes blend in with the red clay surrounding them. But clay is not all there is to see.


Coconut trees, corn, kale, and other crops stand out starkly against the red. These are the sustainability and livelihood of many of the people who live here. There are less trees than in years past; many people cut them down for firewood during the drought.

If you were to visit Dzikunze, you would have to make the drive down a red road cutting through thick forest, passing under gates designed to keep out elephants. And instead of signing up for a scuba tour, you might help the family make dinner in a small corner of the house. Corn is stored on a shelf above to dry, and smoke accumulates easily. You’d need to wipe your eyes often.

The bleating of the community goats, which are all penned together, mingles with the laughter of children playing soccer. They’ve made themselves out of cloth and string.

This is Dzikunze village.

Through 30 Hour Famine, we’ll be helping Dzikunze and other towns like it live hungerfree. Right now, the people of Dzikunze struggle to feed their families every day. Memories of green crops are sweeter than the seemingly sparse future.

But together, what’s ahead can be greater than days past. Because a better world is possible, and we believe this is our future to create.

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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.

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.

Read more…


Sean and Karli Quigley believe in music of hope, so it just made sense to partner with HungerFree. The duo, which hails from Winnepeg, Manitoba in Canada, fronts band Bold As Lions. And this February they’re going on a HungerFree tour.

HungerFree sat down with Sean and Karli to learn more.

HungerFree: Why are you dedicating your tour to HungerFree?

Bold As Lions: We believe in this. From the beginning we’ve always said that we want to make music that means something. When we’re in the studio, writing, every single word is thought out and has an important purpose in the song. What good is having a platform if you don’t use it for something productive, if you don’t use it to better someone else’s reality? That is why we’re donating our time and dedicating this tour to HungerFree. This is something we stand for as a band. When people think Bold As Lions we want them to think HungerFree. We want people to know that its cool to care. And here’s a great place to start.

HF: How did you first get connected with World Vision?

BAL: When the Little Drummer boy music video came out, it gained attention over night. One day I [Sean] was driving down Broadway in Winnipeg and I got a phone call from someone asking me if I wanted to travel across the world to play music…all of this before he even told me who he was! It turns out his name is Devon and he worked for World Vision. 3 weeks later I ended up in a couple countries called Georgia and Armenia that border Iran. From that point on, we’ve been working with World Vision with the artist Collective, but mostly with the youth team. Speaking or playing music in schools and churches on behalf of World Vision and our passion to see a better world.

HF: What of the HungerFree message and approach inspires you most?

BAL: We love the idea of branding it as HungerFree. It’s an idea that students can get behind. Hunger Free sounds positive; it sounds possible! The model that World Vision has laid out is probably one of our favourite things about it. The way they will stay in one community until they are totally self-sufficient and then move on to the next – it’s a legit way to end hunger. It’s an ACTUAL solution and it isn’t that far off. Whenever we talk to people about this, their reaction is always my favourite because they seem so surprised that it’s so thought out and you can see skeptics thinking up a storm about how this just might work.

HF: What has been the response to working with World Vision and HungerFree so far?

BAL: Working with HungerFree so far has had such a great response; it’s becoming a term people are using just by seeing it continually branded as the HungerFree tour on our social media. Schools have been excited about getting involved. Currently we have a 20 school reach in the month of February and still more requests and responses coming in. Unfortunately for some dates, multiple people have wanted to book a spot on the tour and we’ve had to turn them away, which is a good problem to have!

HF: What advice do you have for young people who are interested in connecting their passion and talents to making a difference in the world?

BAL: This is something I really feel makes all the difference. If you aren’t passionate about something, you aren’t going to put everything into it. The things you do with your time, life, and resources really show where your heart is. For us, because we are passionate about music, doing this tour – putting in hundred of hours, late nights, little sleep, doing all the booking, editing, writing, speaking, producing, programming – makes it all worth it. It doesn’t seem like work because we love it.

Some advice that we would give young people who are interested in doing this? What do you love? Start there. Start with your passion and then pick a cause that you care about. When those two things mix, you have to succeed. So you love to snowboard? Enter every snowboard competition and donate the winnings. You love math? Have a mathlete competition and donate the funds! Trust me, any time you put yourself second to someone else, people think its weird and want to hear about it. It doesn’t take too much selflessness to start spreading awareness.


Double Up 30 HR Famine

Why I’m Fasting

*Update: #WhyImFasting just got better! Head on over to yconic and submit your 30 Hour Famine #WhyImFasting video for a chance to win up to $1000 to fund a project that you are passionate about. Is it hunger and food related issues? Child slavery? Education for girls? No matter what it is, Yconic wants to help. Submit your video and have your friends vote for yours today. Make sure you hashtag #WhyImFasting and #yFundUs.

We all have that one things that makes us itch; something that sets us on edge and makes us question why things happen the way they do.

At World Vision Youth Canada, we reject the fact that things are how they are because that’s “how they’ve always been done.” We won’t stand for taking everything at face value because we are a movement committed to making our lives count. We all have our reasons to rise up and instigate change: this is ours.

Why am I fasting? Find out.

How do you get involved?

Use your voice and share your story. Why are you doing the 30 Hour Famine?
– Take your phone and record a 15 second video answering the question “Why am I fasting?”.
– Then upload it to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and hashtag #WhyImFasting.
– You can tag us on Facebook, Twitter – @30HRFamine and Instagram – @wvyouthcanada

Don’t forget to hashtag #WhyImFasting

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