Southeast slope of Kilimanjaro
Under his blue shirt, his small chest heaved. He wrung his hands and gulped, not exactly sure what to expect. His teacher said he was nervous and that telling his story was never easy, but he wanted to share it so that people knew all the pain he’d endured, the challenges he’d overcome and the victory he’d experienced.
Yes, he said, there had been countless days without food. Yes, his father had abandoned the family. Yes, his mother soon followed suit, saying she was too brokenhearted to carry on as the head of household. Yes, he had been kicked out of numerous schools once they learned he could not pay the fees. Yes, he had spent countless days scavenging for food on an empty stomach. And yes, his parents’ decisions to leave had hurt him badly.
“The saddest day of my life was the day I found out my father left us,” he said, as his voice cracked, and a stream of tears betrayed his seemingly unconquerable spirit. “I thought my father had just traveled somewhere for work, but he left us. I felt so much sorrow in my heart … ”
He paused, unable to talk by this point, and wiped his tears with the back of one of his sleeves.
“I didn’t want to live with bitterness,” he managed to say, “so, I went to God and prayed.” He paused again, this time longer than before. “Even today I don’t have any anger toward my father or mother.”
His story is one of more than 147,000 as represented by each child enrolled in our Children’s Feeding Initiative. He and each of the others we feed and care for are why in 2015 we are so intent on ensuring their futures through a dynamic strategy where every child is ensured participation in Beyond the Meal, an innovative and holistic approach to caring for children, their families and even entire communities.
By providing every child with Beyond the Meal, we’re putting a stake in the ground in our fight against poverty and malnutrition. In doing so, together with our partners, we’re ensuring the futures of hundreds of thousands of people and we’ll help end generational cycles of hunger and poverty.
“By providing every child with Beyond the Meal, we’re putting a stake in the ground in our fight against poverty and malnutrition,” says Hal Donaldson, co-founder and president of Convoy of Hope. “In doing so, together with our partners, we’re ensuring the futures of hundreds of thousands of people and we’ll help end generational cycles of hunger and poverty.”
Beyond the Meal includes myriad interventions — beyond nutritious meals — focused on reducing malnutrition: hygiene promotion, micronutrient supplementation, clean water, preventing diseases associated with malnutrition, and emotional and spiritual care are just a few. In addition, it also works with parents on child care, income generation, and giving families the training and tools to grow their own nutritious food. Beyond the Meal can include training women how to start businesses and giving local farmers the training and tools they need to grow reliable crops. It provides emotional and spiritual care for children, medicine to ward off diseases associated with malnutrition, education and more.
“Time and time again we’ve seen how focusing not just on children, but also their families and communities, can have a positive impact,” adds Donaldson.
Experts say there is enough food in the world to feed everyone on the planet. In many places where food is scarce, it’s just a matter of getting the food there. Over the past two decades, we have developed an expertise in getting food and supplies to far-flung, difficult places where the poorest of the poor are suffering.
“Last year we distributed more than $80 million of food and supplies around the world,” says Erick Meier, vice president of supply chain. “In doing so, we reached into some of the world’s most impoverished communities, giving people help and hope.”
According to Kevin Rose, senior director of international program operations, many of those impoverished communities are food-insecure communities, meaning that a disproportionate section of the population does not have regular access to sufficient nutritious, clean and safe food.
“These are communities where disease, hunger, malnourishment and poverty run rampant,” says Rose. “Whether such communities are distant outposts or in the slums of major cities, our entrance into those communities is always through our Children’s Feeding Initiative. It sets the stage for the introduction of other interventions, such as our Agriculture Initiative and Women’s Empowerment.”
Rose says Convoy of Hope is committed to continuing the momentum already built by the two initiatives so that entire communities are transformed. He points to the more than 4 million meals that have been acquired from local farmers in Haiti for our Children’s Feeding Initiative, and to the fact that each week, women in seven countries are being trained or are putting their newly acquired skills to the test in the marketplace, thanks to the Women’s Empowerment Initiative.
“We begin by feeding and educating children in communities wracked by poverty and hunger,” he says. “Then we can begin to work with parents on issues that affect their children, including nutrition, hygiene, sanitation, proper child care, and emotional and spiritual development. By acknowledging and meeting these needs, a great platform has been created to launch Agriculture or Women’s Empowerment projects that address some of the underlying causes of malnutrition in a community.”
By threading together Children’s Feeding, Women’s Empowerment and Agriculture, we achieve lasting transformation.
In 2015, Convoy of Hope will continue to reach America’s working poor through our Community Events, which are held in multiple cities throughout the nation each year, and our Rural Compassion work that takes food, supplies and a message of hope to some of America’s most impoverished rural areas.
Our Disaster Services team will also continue to respond to disasters wherever they may strike. Last year, for instance, the team rebuilt, replaced or repaired at least 600 homes, including 393 that were decimated in 2013 by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.
“We’ve seen that giving people hope is best done by being present and ready to give a hand up during a difficult situation,” says Co-Founder, Dave Donaldson. “For some that simply means emergency supplies during a disaster. For others that means a bag of groceries and a free haircut. For those trapped in extreme poverty it can mean a nutritious bowl of food, training and some supplies. No matter the need, we want to be ready to give each person what they require to realize their potential — it’s our way of ensuring the futures of as many people as we can.”
As the interview with the boy, whose mother and father abandoned him, wound down, a wide smile spread across his face.
“I want to tell everyone at Convoy of Hope thank you,” he said. “Without them I wouldn’t have food to eat and I wouldn’t be in school. Please also know that I pray for the people of Convoy of Hope every week.”
With that said, he shook everyone’s hand and slid out a side door. A few minutes later he was playing with his friends, laughing, talking loudly and having fun, knowing his present at-hand was secure and his future ensured.