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Our Day to End Poverty: 24 Ways You Can Make a Difference

Our Day to End Poverty: 24 Ways You Can Make a Difference

by Shannon Daley-Harris

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Not long ago the New York Times ran a front-page article about child labor as seen through the eyes of a six-year-old African indentured servant. He lives far from his family and is roused from a dirt floor to work long, hard hours, dragging a heavy wooden oar nearly his own weight and paddling and bailing out the leaky fishing boat of his master, who deals out


Not long ago the New York Times ran a front-page article about child labor as seen through the eyes of a six-year-old African indentured servant. He lives far from his family and is roused from a dirt floor to work long, hard hours, dragging a heavy wooden oar nearly his own weight and paddling and bailing out the leaky fishing boat of his master, who deals out beatings but little food. I thought about every six-year-old I knew when, out of earshot of his master, the little boy whispered to the reporter, ''I don't like it here.'' What was equally powerful was the response to the article, as readers wrote to the Times and expressed their frustration that the article didn't tell them what they could do to help. Wrote one reader who wept over the article, ''There are moments when there is value in simply feeling the deep pain of another's situation. But in an age when most of us ... already feel powerless about what happens in the world, a little bit of guidance toward action - anything to hang on to - would have been both kind and potentially helpful for all.'' Our Day to End Poverty: 24 Ways You Can Make a Difference is a book for all of us who know that there is poverty and suffering in our world and who want to know what we can do to help. This isn't a book to convince you to care about global poverty - we trust that you already do. This is a book for those of us who have felt hopeless or helpless - a book to show what each of us can do to make a difference. Our Day to End Poverty invites us to look at every day and begin thinking about poverty in new and creative ways. Inspired by the landmark bestseller 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth, this book offers scores of practical, doable (although not always simple) actions anyone can take to help eliminate poverty....If we rise to the challenge, working together, one day six-year-olds across our globe may declare aloud, ''I like it here.''

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Our Day to End Poverty

24 Ways You Can Make a Difference
By Shannon Daley-Harris Jeffrey Keenan Karen Speerstra

Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2007 Jeffrey Keenan
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-57675-526-6

Chapter One

Break the Fast

"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?" "What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?" "I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet. Pooh nodded thoughtfully. "It's the same thing," he said. — A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

Wake-up Call

Mornings find most of us stumbling around, starting a pot of coffee, pouring the cereal, or keeping the toast from burning. Some of us are getting the morning news, mentally running through appointments and to-do lists, or just trying to get the kids off to school or ourselves out the door. We're usually too groggy to make the connection between breakfast and something exciting happening that day.

But here's an eye-opener: breakfast literally means "breaking the fast"—ending a period without food. Although most of us feel hopeless when we see images of famine—children with matchstick arms and skeletal parents—it is now possible to break the fast of starvation and ease the most severe hunger in our world. New early-warning systems (of coming drought, for example) are giving the world a heads-up that we can use to avert starvation that is unprecedented. The United Nations now has a Central Emergency Response Fund to respond more quickly and effectively to emergencies.

We still need to make sure that there is enough emergency relief money, that food aid is delivered quickly, and that recipient countries are prepared to distribute it effectively. We can focus attention on all of the hunger emergencies, not just the few that capture media and political attention, and we can support long-term solutions to the problems of ongoing hunger so that people are less vulnerable when emergencies of drought and famine strike. That's exciting.

Imagine This ...

It would take only pennies. If developed countries gave a penny more per person every three days to the UN Central Emergency Response Fund, we could have enough to meet the urgent need for food to prevent starvation during emergencies, according to Oxfam International.

The United States currently gives $10—the cost of a movie ticket or a couple of rentals—per person each year for humanitarian assistance. Because we are the richest country in the world, we give more than any other, but we give a smaller amount per person than do nine other countries.

Getting Off to a Good Start


Read more about hunger in the United States and around the world in Bread for the World's annual report on the state of hunger, which can be downloaded or ordered <bread.org>. Explore the other resources prepared by the Bread for the World Institute.

Visit the UN World Food Programme <wfp.org> to learn more about world hunger, what WFP is doing about it, and how you can help.

Get to know such organizations as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities <cbpp.org>, the Food Research and Action Center <frac.org>, the Institute for Food and Development Policy <foodfirst.org>, Oxfam International <oxfam.org>, RESULTS <results.org>, and World Vision <worldvision.org>—all of which have Web sites, reports, newsletters, and conferences that are excellent information and action resources.

Have some serious fun with children. Download Food Force, a video game developed by the UN World Food Programme to teach children about world hunger <food-force.com>. Players work to get food aid to a fictional country in need, overcoming challenges and discovering the thrill of working to solve a serious global problem.

Participate in Oxfam's Fast for a World Harvest to deepen your firsthand understanding of hunger. Involve others by organizing a world hunger banquet to dramatize global food distribution, coordinating a one-meal fast and donating the cost of the skipped meal, or planning a full-day fast and collecting pledges. Visit Oxfam for planning resources.

Watch the one-hour documentary Silent Killer: The Unfinished Campaign Against Hunger (2005) with family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, or members of your place of worship and talk about how you can respond <silentkillerfilm.org>.

Gather a group from your religious community to study hunger and your faith tradition's response. Use resources prepared by your religious body or other resources such as Hunger No More, Bread for the World's curriculum for churches and synagogues, and materials from MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger <mazon.org>.

Refer to community kitchens instead of the more dated term soup kitchens, which conjures up stereotypes of who is hungry and what is served. Community kitchens reminds us that we are all part of a community and that this is where some in our community come for a free, nourishing meal and others provide food from their own overflowing pantries and gardens.

Check out the other chapters in this book that discuss various aspects of hunger: chapters 6, 9, 10, and 17.


Click on <fighthunger.org> or <thehungersite.com> to help feed a child. It's free, it takes only a few seconds, and you can do it every day. You click, and Web site advertisers contribute.

Help the UN World Food Programme feed more hungry people. Every dollar donated for emergency operations can provide one day of food rations for a family of four (in some countries each dollar feeds even more). For instance, just $99 donated can purchase five thousand cups of rice to feed an entire community or support recovery projects in which food aid is used to pay people to rebuild their communities in the wake of humanitarian tragedies <wfp.org>.

Donate food to community food pantries to meet the urgent needs of hungry people living in the United States, including 13 million hungry children. Find a local food pantry by entering your ZIP code at America's Second Harvest, the nation's largest network of food banks <secondharvest.org>.

Engage school, community, and religious groups in events such as Church World Service's CROP Hunger Walk <churchworldservice.org/crop>, Share Our Strength's Great American Bake Sale <strength.org>, and The Souper Bowl of Caring's Souper Bowl Sunday <souperbowl.org> to raise money or collect food for programs serving people who are hungry.

Spur donations of good, leftover food. Encourage restaurants, hotels, caterers, and even universities to donate usable food instead of throwing it away. Done right, it does not violate health code guidelines. For more information about the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act of 1996, which protects donors from liability, go to the America's Second Harvest Web site <secondharvest.org>.

Understanding hunger at a gut level can change lives. While in college Alex Counts participated in a one-day fast sponsored by Oxfam International and became committed to ending hunger. He volunteered with the antihunger lobby RESULTS, later becoming its legislative director. A trip to Bangladesh ignited his passion for the potential of microcredit—small loans to help people earn a living so that they can produce or purchase enough food and have the resources to withstand Bangladesh's frequent emergencies. Alex now heads the Grameen Foundation, helping millions of families access microcredit and have enough to eat. And it all started with his own one-day fast.


Prepare and serve meals in a community kitchen for some of our nation's 35 million hungry people.

Lend a hand. Volunteer at a local food bank or other program that serves people who are hungry. Visit <secondharvest.org> to find a local food bank or food rescue organization that can use your help.

Start or help strengthen a food pantry, community kitchen, or other emergency feeding program, with help from World Hunger Year's resource Serving Up Justice: How to Design an Emergency Feeding Program and Build Community Food Security <worldhungeryear.org>.

Write letters to your newspaper and your members of Congress to focus their attention on hunger crises and urge immediate responses to provide humanitarian assistance to ward off starvation and promote long-term solutions. The organizations listed in the "Learn" section provide information and sample letters.

Encourage teachers to present lessons on hunger. Check out the resources from Feeding Minds, Fighting Hunger <feedingminds.org> and a high school curriculum from kNOw HUNGER <knowhunger.org>.

Organize World Food Day <fao.org> activities in your community to help people learn more about causes of and solutions to world hunger.


Serve at least one meatless dinner a week, using nonanimal sources of protein that require fewer of the world's resources to produce, or commit to another lifestyle change regarding all the foods you eat: avoid overpackaged foods, or become a "locavore," buying your food from local sources.

Assess how much food is wasted in your household and find away to reduce it.

Actions Make a Difference

Norman Borlaug, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his efforts to end world hunger and increase international prosperity, is credited with saving 1 billion people from starvation. As director of the Rockefeller Foundation in Mexico and head of an international team of scientists, he created a "green revolution" that developed improved wheat seed, higher-yield rice, and more-efficient use of fertilizer and water to produce larger food crops in Mexico, Pakistan, India, and elsewhere. While a professor at Texas A&M University, Borlaug founded the World Food Prize in 1986 to recognize others who are helping increase the world's food supply and end hunger.

Chapter Two

Educate Every Child

Small children are the most powerful learning engines in the known universe. — Daniel Quinn, My Ishmael

Promises to Keep

January 1 marks the New Year on our calendars, but doesn't September feel like the real start of the year? Maybe it's because we remember our own first day of school, stomach filled with butterflies instead of the breakfast we were too nervous to eat. Or perhaps it's a more recent experience of seeing children head off for their first day of school, backpacks full of newly sharpened pencils and blank notebooks. Going off to school fills a child with promise and unlimited possibility.

It's hard to believe that children in the United States didn't always go to school. Children of slaves were forbidden to learn to read, and farm children were needed for work. (Our school calendar still reflects this history of keeping children out of school when they were needed to harvest crops.) Children once worked in sweatshops to help support the family, and disabled children weren't guaranteed a public education until 1975. Today all children in the United States are guaranteed a public education, although we still have much work to do to make it the best education possible for every student.

Around the world, 100 million children are still waiting for the promise of an education, denied the opportunity because they are girls, because they are needed for work, or because their families living on $1 a day can't afford school fees that average $50 per child in developing countries.

One day education may be so universal that children everywhere will be amazed to read in their history textbooks about a time when children did not go to school. But that time is not yet. Let's make a resolution to act so every child is educated. That's a promise worth keeping.

Imagine This ...

Think about the ways your daily life depends on skills you learned in primary school. How did you learn to read, write, and do math? Now think about the productivity and the contributions to the world that would be unleashed if all of our world's children were able to go to school. Imagine their innovative thinking. Imagine their creative power!

Learning to Change the World


Discover the hopeful stories of children who are finally able to attend school. Visit the Web site of the United Nations Girls' Education Initiative <ungei.org> and click on "Multimedia," "The Gap Project," and "Real Lives" for stories, photo essays, and videos. E-mail the ones that inspire you most to friends and family.

Interview a teacher, the parent of a school-aged child, or the local Parent Teacher Association president to discover needs and opportunities to strengthen schools. Ask students what they think is needed, too.

Visit the Global Campaign for Education <campaignfor education.org> to learn how you can get involved to help meet Millennium Development Goal 2 of all children in primary school by 2015.

Read books, articles, and reports exploring challenges and opportunities in U.S. schools. Good places to start include Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol, Uncertain Lives: Children of Promise, Teachers of Hope by Robert V. Bullough Jr., The Silent Epidemic: Perspectives of High School Dropouts at <civicenterprises.net>, and resources from the Education Trust <edtrust.org>. Invite others to join you for a book group to read, discuss, and act on these resources.

Learn about what local businesses are doing to provide internships for high school students, then spread the word and support those businesses. Check out Big Picture <bigpicture.org> for help.


Commit to ensuring a girl's education all the way through primary school. For $2,500 a Room to Grow <roomtogrow .org> Girls' Scholarship will secure a girl's school participation for ten years.

Visit Web sites such as DonorsChoose <donorschoose.org> that post and match teachers' requests with contributions that pay for needed supplies and other expenses large and small.

Round up used but not outdated computers to donate to schools or community programs where children without computers at home can do their homework. Or get involved with such organizations as Computers for Schools <pcsforschools.org> to get good computers to schools around the world. See chapter 10 for more ideas.

Organize a school-supply drive or a book drive through your school, workplace, civic group, or place of worship. Donate the supplies to a school in the United States or overseas.

Honor a student's graduation with a gift in his or her name to benefit other children's education, such as providing the $50 school fees for a child in a developing country. Learn more from UNICEF <unicef.org/whatwedo>.


Become a tutor. Go online to review the reading scores of local public schools. Call the school with the lowest scores and volunteer to help. Or volunteer with a community tutoring or Head Start program.

Organize a team to fix up a local school (painting, planting, donating books and computers, providing comfortable furnishings—any need that can be filled). Ask teachers and principals what kind of support they need most.

Involve others to plan your community's participation in the Global Campaign for Education's Global Action Week to focus attention on global education. Planning resources are available at <campaignforeducation.org/resources> and at <ei-ie.org/globalactionweek>.

Join with others who are advocating legislation that seeks to eliminate school fees in the developing world. RESULTS <results.org>, a grassroots lobby dedicated to ending world hunger and poverty, is taking action on this initiative.

Start Sister Schools. Establish a relationship between a school in a developing country and your school, workplace, civic group, place of worship, or other group <sisterschools.org>. (Read Terry McGill's story above.)


Excerpted from Our Day to End Poverty by Shannon Daley-Harris Jeffrey Keenan Karen Speerstra Copyright © 2007 by Jeffrey Keenan. Excerpted by permission of Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

After a distinguished career in business book publishing (while at Butterworth-Heinemann, a division of Reed-Elsevier, Karen Speerstra served as Executive Director and Publisher as well as editor/creator of a line of transformative business books), Karen founded a publishing consulting business called aSophia Serve,a where she coaches and edits writers from around the country. She is also the author of several books and lives near Burlington, VT, on a small mountain, where, in addition to writing and editing, she teaches and plays the piano and gardens and tends her nationally registered Chartres-style labyrinth.

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