Archive for category Activism

Fighting Hunger

Since switching churches to the Emmaus House Chapel I have had the opportunity to help teach Sunday school to the kids. This past Sunday the lesson was based on Mark 1:40-45 where a man with leprosy is healed by Jesus. Even though Jesus tells him not to tell anyone who healed him, the man goes into town so excited and thankful about what has happened that he tells everyone. I had the kids share about stories where they were told secrets and were so excited they accidently told other people. After the discussion, all the kids filled out little pieces of paper stating what they are thankful to God for and want everyone to know, and they taped them up on a poster board.

Unsure of how the kids would respond to the activity I was surprised to see how much thought they put into it. In particular, one boy who I’ve gotten to know put a lot of thought into what he wrote. He quietly got up, taped his paper up, and looked at what everyone else was putting up. Then one of the other kids blurted out, while laughing, “who wrote they were thankful for food stamps!?” This boy looked at the group of kids and simply said, “I did…you know some of us wouldn’t have anything to eat without them.” And he walked off. While some of the kids continued to laugh, there seemed to be a sense of understanding amongst others.

This boy spoke a truth that not only he faces, or his friends may face, but what millions of people across this country face every day. In my neighborhood, Peoplestown, it is an issue I see daily. The Senior’s discussing the need for more money because food is expensive, writing constant referrals to various food banks around the city, Emmaus House’s own food pantry on Friday’s, and the number of kids I know on free or reduced-price meals at school.

In 2010, 14.5 percent of households (17.2 million households, 48.8 million Americans) were considered food insecure. Also, 5.4 percent of households (6.4 million households) experienced very low food security. Food security is defined as access to enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle. 16.9 percent of households in Georgia experienced low food security from 2008-2010.

Here are some national hunger and poverty statistics:

  • 46.2 million Americans (15.1 percent) are now living in poverty according to the latest report released by the US Census Bureau American Communities Survey profile in September 2011 – up by 3.3 million people from the 42.9 million reported in last year’s report. (U.S. Census Bureau American Communities Survey Profile2010. Data released Sept. 2011)
  • In 2010, 4.8 percent of all U.S. households (5.6 million households) accessed emergency food from a food pantry one or more times.
  • In 2010, 59.2 percent of food-insecure households participated in at least one of the three major Federal food assistance programs –Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly Food Stamp Program), The National School Lunch Program, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children.

Here are some more hunger and poverty statistics for Georgia:

  • Nearly 1.7 million Georgians (17.9%) are living in poverty according to the latest US Census Bureau American Community Survey report released in September 2011. This is up from 1.6 million (16.5%) in 2009, and represents an increase of 100,000 people in poverty. (U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey Profile. 2010. Data released Sept. 2011)
  • An estimated 1.4 million different Georgians receive emergency food from partner agencies of Georgia food banks. (Feeding America “Hunger in America 2010” Study)
  • The number of Georgia households receiving food stamps jumped from 581,709 total households in July of 2009 to 716,749 households in July of 2010 – an increase of 23.2% in just one year.  (USDA Food and Nutrition Service, Data and Statistics Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Number of Households Participating, released Oct. 2010)
  •  When the Federal minimum wage rate went from $6.55 to $7.25/hour in July of 2009, Georgia once again did not increase its minimum wage rate. (It remains at $5.15/hour.) Georgia is currently one of only five states with minimum wage rates lower than the Federal minimum wage rate. (U.S. Dept. of Labor, Employment Standards Admin. 2009)

Check out feedingamerica.org to get more information. Also, get involved and learn more about the issues of hunger in your area. Food banks nationwide need donations, both food and monetary.

 

 

 

Statistics were from:

Atlanta Community Food Bank

 Feeding America

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World Malaria Day

Today is recognized as World Malaria Day, which can be known as a celebration for what has been done in the fight against malaria, a day of remembrance for the lives lost to this preventable disease, and day of calling to do more.

“About 3.3 billion people – half the world’s population – are at risk of malaria, which is endemic in 106 countries. In 2009 there were an estimated 225 million cases and some 800,000 people died, the vast majority of them children in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. Malaria costs Africa an estimated US$ 12 billion every year in lost GDP, even though it could be controlled for a fraction of that sum.” ~ The Global Fund: Fighting Malaria

This calling is close to my heart due to firsthand experience in seeing the devastation Malaria can cause. During the summer of 2008, I spent 5 weeks in The Gambia, which is a small country on the coast of West Africa. The entire population of Gambia is at high risk for malaria at all times of the year because of the country’s warm and wet climate. On top of this the United Nations Development Program considers The Gambia one of the Least Developed Countries in the world. The largest struggle the country faces when fighting malaria is insufficient resources and funding.

The primary purpose of my trip was academic, with the focus to learn about how the healthcare system worked and specific focus on Malaria treatment and prevention. I spent time meeting with Ministry of Health officials, heads of NGO’s, healthcare workers, and community health volunteers. During this time, I also spent time volunteering in local clinics throughout the capital Banjul. I was able to see how the various policies for Malaria treatment and prevention were configured from the national and international perspective and how and if they were carried through to the actual population. The largest dilemma I noticed was that while the government worked to hand out preventative measures, such as long-lasting insecticide treated bed nets (LLNs), they only had enough resources for the most vulnerable population – pregnant women and children under 5. For the rest of the population most could not afford the supplies.

[Gambia fact sheet on Malaria from WHO]

The most effective way of preventing Malaria infection is distributing LLNs. Not only are they cost effective, LLNs provide proper protection to people while they are sleeping, which is when the most transmissions occur. Indoor residual spraying of insecticides on the indoor surfaces and roofs of all houses provides protection by killing mosquitoes that enter and rest on the treated surfaces.

So what can you do?

The most effective way is to raise awareness and provide funding to organizations that are providing Malaria prevention and treatment supplies to at risk populations.

Nothing But Nets

Malaria No More

Africa Fighting Malaria

Here is a list of organizations that are involved with this fight: Roll Back Malaria

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Rise in Food Prices

With food prices, we are at a real tipping point.  Food prices are 36 percent above the levels of a year ago and remain close to the 2008 peak.  Already 44 million people have fallen into poverty since June of last year.  If the Food Price Index rises by just another 10 percent, we estimate another 10 million people will fall into extreme poverty – that is where people live on less than $1.25 a day.  And a 30 percent increase would add 34 million more people to the world’s poor, who number 1.2 billion.

We can do something about this.

~ World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick

There is a worldwide food crisis that is affecting not only the poorest countries but the US as well. Many of the riots that are occurring across the globe, especially in Northern Africa and the Middle East, have been rooted in the issues of access to food. On top of this the continuing rise in oil prices increase the funds needed to simply transport the food.

Here are some resources for you to learn more:

One Campaign

World Bank

“Food price rises pushing millions into extreme poverty, World Bank warns”

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Finding A Voice

I would rather make people feel uncomfortable and get in trouble for speaking out than sitting back and never letting my voice be heard. Apathy is no longer an option. Giving up and saying no one cares and no one is listening doesn’t exist anymore. In our technological age, news travels fast, so when injustice occurs, I feel compelled to speak out.

Growing up I was usually quite timid about what I thought. I would become very involved and passionate about specific causes, but I was terrified about being the person who would stand up and speak out. While attending Xavier University for my undergrad, I began to find my voice. Through a student group and research fellowship I was a part of my junior year, I took a stand on the genocide in Darfur by leading events, bringing in speakers, and collaborating with organizations throughout the city. On top of all of this, Xavier is a Jesuit institution, so at the core of the school are principles of finding the intrinsic value in all while engaging and promoting the issues of peace and justice.

Since my time at Xavier and my beginning preparations for me and my husband’s move to Georgia to volunteer, I have felt strengthened in making my voice heard. This blogging experience has been a huge instrument for that.

Through continued experiences, encounters, frustrations, and times of joy, I have learned that choosing to act voiceless is not what I am called to do. I don’t claim to have all the answers or be perfect. I try my best to make sure all my facts are straight before speaking out, and if you disagree then let me know because I’m more than willing to listen. I just ask that in the same way I do my research that you take the time to check your facts.

Ignorance is longer an option when the rich continue to become wealthier and the poor are driven further into poverty, when people are killed daily in acts of war, when people across the globe continuously go to bed hungry, when people are dying daily from preventable diseases, when slavery exists, when children are forced into grueling work conditions, when unjust laws are passed.

We are all called by Our Father to different causes. Christ was more than willing to make people feel uncomfortable, especially if it meant challenging them to change their ways. At the beginning of His ministry, Christ returned to his home synagogue in Nazareth, and when handed to scroll of Isaiah, Christ read a very specific passage that caused him to be driven out of town….

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” ~Isaiah 61:1-2/ Luke 4:18-19

So I challenge you to find your voice. As Shane Claiborne says, “Welcome to the revolution of little people, guerrilla peacemakers, and dancing prophets, the revolution that loves and laughs. The revolution begins inside each of us, and through little acts of love, it will take over the world. Let us begin to be Christians again.”

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The Lazarus Effect and Fighting HIV/AIDS

History will judge us on how we respond to the AIDS emergency in Africa….whether we stood around with watering cans and watched while a whole continent burst into flames….or not. ~ Bono

The ONE campaign initiated an event titled “Lazarus Sunday” for today. The goal was to bring the story of the Lazarus Effect, which is a documentary made to show the transformative effects that anti-retroviral drugs can have on people with AIDS, to congregations across the United States. The term “Lazarus Effect” comes from the story of Jesus raising Lazarus of Bethany from the dead in John 11:1-45, and the idea that life can happen again.

Since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, more than 60 million people have been infected with HIV and nearly 30 million people have died of HIV-related causes. In 2009, 5.2 million people in low- and middle-income countries had access to antiretroviral treatment, up from 700,000 in 2004. There are 10 million people still in need of treatment who do not have access. However, for about 40 cents a day, two anti-retroviral (ARV) pills can transform the life of someone living with AIDS in as few as 40 days. As one of largest donors of the Global Fund, the United States directly supports and provides ARV treatment for more than 3.2 million men, women, and children.

I had the chance to see the devastation of what the AIDS epidemic has done, especially to sub-Saharan Africa. I spent the summer of 2006 in Namibia, in Southern Africa, traveling and teaching about treatment and prevention measures for HIV/AIDS.  Since that time, I have made a point to stay informed and involved with raising awareness and getting others engaged, and as a Christian, I have a further calling to care for my brothers and sisters in Christ.

HIV/AIDS is not only a problem of those that live overseas; it is a disease that affects those living in our very own cities. There are 1.5 million people living in North America with HIV, 70,000 new infections in 2009, and 26,000 AIDS-related deaths.

Christ called us to action, to care for the least among us, so take the time and learn how much of an impact you can make.

Here are several websites where you can learn more about HIV/AIDS and get involved:

The Global Fund: Fighting AIDS

Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS

One Campaign

Partners in Health: HIV/AIDS project

 

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Finding a Voice

During the past couple of days I have not posted anything because I was unsure of what to write. Through frustrations of current events, stressors of work, and weariness of the uncertainties of this coming year, I was at a lack for a voice and something to say. After a night of relaxing and talking with some good friends and sisters in Christ, I came home to open the prayer book my husband and I have been going through to see that today’s was focused on pastor, theologian, and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

During a dark time in the history of the world, Dietrich Bonhoeffer chose to speak out about the atrocities of the Nazi’s and their leader Adolf Hitler. He began his work by first studying theology in Germany and the United States, pastored a church in London, and returned to Germany as a leader of the Confessing Church. Upon his return to Germany, Hitler was instated as the Chancellor, and Bonhoeffer was one of the only voices to speak out against the persecution of Jews.

While considered a pacifist, he joined the Abwehr, which was a German military intelligence organization that was at the center of the anti-Hitler resistance, and he was part of a failed plot to assassinate Hitler. At no point did he justify his action but instead took the guilt upon himself, only hoping for God’s grace in the end. Bonhoeffer was eventually arrested for his political activism and executed.

Bonhoeffer was able to find his voice amongst great atrocities. He has given voice of encouragement to many others, including Martin Luther King Jr., and I find great encouragement in his message and story. So I leave you with this prayer from the devotional:

Lord, reveal to us all that makes itself an enemy to the life you want for us. Help us hunger so deeply for the freedom of all your people that we risk walking among enemies who pervert justice. Reveal to us when we ourselves act as enemies to your kingdom of justice and peace. Amen.

 

 

Some of his quotes include:

“We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, but we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.”

“Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end, all of his disciples deserted him. On the cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life, but in the thick of foes.”

“The ultimate question for a responsible man to ask is not how he is to extricate himself heroically from the affair, but how the coming generation shall continue to live.”

“Only the one for whom the final standard is not his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom, his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all these, when in faith and sole allegiance to God he is called to obedient and responsible action: the responsible person, whose life will be nothing but an answer to God’s question and call.”

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dietrich_Bonhoeffer

http://www.pbs.org/bonhoeffer/timeline.html

http://www.ushmm.org/museum/exhibit/online/bonhoeffer/

 

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