Kudos to the Non-profit Organizations and Volunteers Who Fight the Fight… to alleviate hunger, poverty and homelessness

Earth fragile future

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

Anne Frank

 

I have always viewed volunteer workers and non-profit organizations – such as (but not limited to) The World Food Programme, Feeding America and Action Against Hunger/Action Contre La Faim – with deep and profound respect.

It is a difficult and thankless job.

Ahhh, but many of these dedicated men and women don’t view it as a “job”…  nor do they expect a pat on the back, let alone an actual “Thank You.”

Imagine, for a moment, what it must feel like to see hardship, hunger, poverty and sickness… day in and day out. Yet, these volunteers press on… hoping, no, praying that they are somehow making a difference, making a dent in this world epidemic that is Hunger.

Imagine what it must feel like to try to recruit people to help… to contribute their time and yes, their money, to a problem that – like it or not – affects us all.  So many people (too many) prefer to turn a blind eye.  Until it happens to them. And for those raising their eyebrow: it can happen to them. And to you. And to me.  It is never wise to be complacent. As we’ve seen with disasters like Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina, it can happen in a flash.  Here today, gone tomorrow.

So today marks the last day of my 3½-week Help Fight Hunger book promotion.

To say that I am “disappointed” is a huge understatement, but it will not deter me from continuing to contribute my time and writing to helping others, to raise awareness on important issues that ultimately affect us all, and to hope that someone – anyone – will listen and perhaps even join the effort to help those who need our help.

I’d like to take a moment to thank the family members, friends, and colleagues who have been kindly “spreading the word” on behalf of my Help Fight Hunger campaign. Most importantly, I’d like to express my deep love and gratitude to my husband for putting up with all the intensity. 

I hope that I’ve provided you with some informative, thought-provoking blogs on a subject that is discomfiting, but nevertheless very current and critical. 

Thanks for reading.

― Heather

HFH2

Image (t the very top) via erikarachel.com.

Quid pro quo

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Business transactions have always been based on the principle of “quid pro quo” (something for something). Individuals and organizations barter their goods/services in exchange for other goods/services or for monetary compensation.

When there is a fair and equal exchange of give and take, all parties walk away satisfied and happy. However, when the exchange is uneven and unfair, this will inevitably result in dissention and conflict.

This translates to human interaction and relationships ― between spouses, families, friends, and communities. When the “give and take” is unbalanced, problems ensue.

Taking the concept of “quid pro quo” and placing it in the context of philanthropic work, what do philanthropists, non-profits, and community volunteers receive – in exchange for their good work?

First and perhaps most importantly, they get a sense of well-being from knowing that they have helped ease the suffering of another human being. That is, in my opinion, the highest form of quid pro quo.

Additionally, they receive visibility (for themselves and for their cause), potential business opportunities, and additional funding (to further their cause; to sustain their philanthropic efforts).

By reducing and, ideally, eliminating hunger, homelessness, and poverty, we help to make a nation prosper and thrive ― as a whole. We are stronger (as a nation) when we no longer need to allocate funds for assistance. Imagine a country devoid of poverty and hunger…  what a wonderful triumph that would be!

The flip side to quid pro quo is when organizations offer the poor and hungry an opportunity to pay it forward or to work, in exchange for food and board.

Thus, they finally have access to one of the most basic rights of all: the right to human dignity.

And if that isn’t quid pro quo, I don’t know what is.

HFH2

From Aug 14-Sept 7, purchase a copy of  Casualties of the (Recession) Depression, and for every $20 book purchased directly from me, through my website, I will be donating $5 from the proceeds of each book sale to either: Feeding America (US), Action Against Hunger (Canada), or The World Food Programme (Global). The purchaser chooses one of the three. As I’ve stated before and clearly state on my website, this promotion does not apply to books purchased from third party distributors, such as Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

 

Image (t the very top) via bubblews.com.

Want a dose of wisdom? Talk to a taxi driver.

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Over the years, I’ve had some highly entertaining and very informative conversations with taxi drivers. If you ever want a spot-on gage (or gauge) of current socio-economic issues and seer-like accurate predictions of future events, speak to a taxi driver. These guys (although there are female cab drivers, it is still a male-dominated field of work) will always tell it like it is, without frills or any long-winded speeches. 

In an election year, forget what the polls say.  Ask a cabbie, and he’ll tell you who will win. He will usually be right.

Want to know how bad (or good) the economy really is?  Speak to a taxi driver.  He will filter out all the marketing rhetoric that the political pundits are espousing.  He will refute many economists (particularly the ones who back up the politicians) as they predict current and future economic trends.

Taxi driver wisdom is not unique to the United States.  Take a cab in any city or suburb in Canada, in Europe, or indeed anywhere in the world… and you will be a captive audience of one – a student in the University of Reality.

Before you laugh and shake your head in disbelief, I tell you that what I say is true.  I’ve “attended” many such “class lectures” – from Dublin and London to Paris and Berlin, from Vancouver (British Columbia) to Charlottetown (Prince Edward Island), and in at least 35 states right here, in America.

I will tell you the latest “word on the street.”  Recently, I phoned my favorite taxi driver (Martin), to wish him a happy birthday (he and I were born in the same year).  I’ve known Martin for 15 years and he has become a dear friend.  After all the birthday wishes and catching up on each other’s news, I asked him the million-dollar question:

“So what do you think, Martin… are we in an economic recovery…  as we’ve been told?”

He laughed mirthlessly and said:

“Are you kidding me? Maybe the country club folks think that this is a recovery. They are not feeling the  pinch.  The middle class is. People are still struggling to make ends meet. Even my regular corporate customers are traveling minimally, taking no more than one or two business trips each quarter.”

I asked one last question:

“Is there an economic recovery in sight, perhaps in 2014?”

With a sigh, he said:

“Yes, probably towards the middle or end of 2014…. but it won’t be the recovery that we’ve all been praying for.  It will be a weak recovery. But, at least it will be a little better than it is now.”

From your lips to God’s ears, Martin.

So, there you have it. Taxi driver wisdom.

We’ll see how everything pans out.

HFH2

From Aug 14-Sept 7, purchase a copy of  Casualties of the (Recession) Depression, and for every $20 book purchased directly from me, through my website, I will be donating $5 from the proceeds of each book sale to either: Feeding America (US), Action Against Hunger (Canada), or The World Food Programme (Global). The purchaser chooses one of the three. As I’ve stated before and clearly state on my website, this promotion does not apply to books purchased from third party distributors, such as Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

A Coffee Shop is Not Just a Coffee Shop

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In cities across America, coffee shops have become a mecca for professionals to gather in one place and share experiences, intel, advice and networking opportunities.  Most of those guys and gals sitting at the corner table, intently working on their computer while nursing a cup of coffee for three+ hours…  are  educated people just trying to do their work or drum up some lucrative business in an economic market that has been challenging at best.  The real estate development folks refer to these coffee shops as “third places,” an extension to one’s living room.

It’s true, a coffee shop is not just a coffee shop anymore.  Many an interesting character can be seen frequenting these “offices” …   a lot of wisdom, gathered in one room.

Coffee Shop Jive

“It took him only fifteen minutes to walk to the coffee shop. It was hot and humid, but he was used to it.  The Panama hat that he wore shielded him from the sun, which was a good thing. He opened the door and was greeted by a blast of frosty air. “The staff always keeps the air conditioning on way too high,” he muttered to himself.  His favorite seat by the window was thankfully empty, so he strode over and placed his computer bag down.

Looking around, he noticed all the regulars. There were students, architects, retailers, some mellow reggae musicians, a poet and a few homeless veterans who had a lot of interesting stories to tell. Everyone usually stayed there for at least three or four hours, nursing their one cup of coffee and nibbling on a pastry. Money was still very tight for most people. The coffee shop was over-priced, but the customers enjoyed the music. The ambiance was nice.

He remarked to himself that he hadn’t seen some of his old buddies and colleagues for a long, long time.  2013 sure looked and felt a hell of a lot different from 2006.  A lifetime ago. Back then, they were all starting to feel the pinch of a tanking economy. One by one, his friends dropped out of the consulting scene. A few went bankrupt. Some divorced. Others had left the state and even the country. A few had died. There were several guys who seemed to have fallen off the face of the earth. He decided to check his LinkedIn, to see if they had made any status updates.

He fired up his computer and, after an annoying few minutes, was able to sign on to his LinkedIn.  “The Wi-Fi is really slow in this coffee shop,” he mumbled. He clicked on some of his connections and what he read made him throw his head back and laugh out loud. One of his engineering friends wrote, under “Current Job:” … “Something Entirely Different.” 

As he scrolled down, he noticed that most of them were doing something entirely different. And he was no exception. That’s the nature of the beast. When the economy tanks and stays tanked for such a long time, you either sink or swim. You hope for the best, but plan for the worst.  It’s called Plan B. The interesting thing is that sometimes “Plan B” turns out to be the best thing that ever happened to you.

He started moving his leg to the music. It was an old reggae song by Frighty & Colonel Mite.  The title, Life (Is What You Make It).”š

(PS: Seriously, this was truly the actual song that was playing!) 

Excerpt/vignette “Coffee Shop Jive” (pp. 104-105) from Casualties of the (Recession) Depression. Copyright © 2013 by Heather Joan Marinos. All Rights Reserved.

HFHFrom Aug 14-Sept 7, purchase a copy of  Casualties of the (Recession) Depression, and for every $20 book purchased directly from me, through my website, I will be donating $5 from the proceeds of each book sale to either: Feeding America (US), Action Against Hunger (Canada), or The World Food Programme (Global). The purchaser chooses one of the three. As I’ve stated before and clearly state on my website, this promotion does not apply to books purchased from third party distributors, such as Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Image (at very top) via visagemobile.com.

Plan B. Why we should always have one handy.

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“When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.”

Of course, in reality it’s not always that simple.

When we shrug our shoulders and “let the chips fall where they may” – without any forethought or plan – we can’t really control the consequences. This is reactive thinking. And, nine out of ten times, we always regret not having planned ahead.

We are human. We make mistakes. We play the odds and miscalculate the results. Sometimes, our innate optimism clouds our thinking and we realize it only too late. And then the unimaginable suddenly becomes very imaginable, very real.

This happened to many middle-class men and women who were unprepared for such a severe and prolonged economic downturn. Jobs were downsized or eliminated. Savings dwindled. Credit card debt soared. Health insurance policies were suspended. Homes foreclosed. Food became a luxury.

In hindsight, what could we have done to prevent this from happening?

None of us expected this economic crisis to last so long, but it did.  That was out of our control.

We did, however, have control over how much we spent, how much we consumed, and whether or not we chose to live within our means. Many of us who were not proactive are now chanting “mea culpa, mea culpa.”

Let’s look at each of the problem areas:

(1) Jobs.  No job (full-time, part-time, or consultant) is secure. Even a loyal employee, working 25 years in the same company, can get a pink slip…. just like that. It’s important to keep skills honed, stay educated, and cultivate multiple optional career paths/opportunities. When we have back-up options, we are able to counteract the fallout from job loss.

(2) Savings. We must try not to succumb to the mentality of “immediate gratification.” This is a common problem in today’s society. The generation of men and women who lived through the Great Depression would probably be rolling their eyes and shaking their heads at us. We should take our cue from them and exercise a little frugality and self-discipline. Save a portion of each check and don’t touch it unless absolutely necessary. Make sound investments. “Get Rich Quick” schemes are just that: schemes. As my mother used to tell me, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

(3) Credit Cards.  Ideally, we should only use debit cards. Credit cards should be used only on the condition that we pay them off (in full) each month. If we can’t do that, we are buying trouble by digging ourselves into debt. Stay in the black, not the red.

(4) A Roof Over Our Head. Here’s the unsettling reality: if we have a mortgage, we don’t own our home.  The bank does. If we can’t pay the mortgage, the bank will take “our home” away from us. We own our home only when we’ve paid the entire loan off.  This usually tales years, even decades. The good news is that eventually, we do own our home outright… if we play our cards right. Here’s the caveat: if we choose to get a second mortgage or an equity loan because we want to add a room or renovate a kitchen, then we drive ourselves deeper into debt… making that dream of full home ownership a more distant reality.

(5) Food. Eat wisely. Don’t waste.  Be sustainable. Buy fruit trees and grow vegetables… then there will always be food – even when money is scarce. 

Remember the adage: “Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.” 

If we follow this simple advice, we may not overcome all of our problems, but we will definitely be on a stronger footing.

HFH2

From Aug 14-Sept 7, purchase a copy of  Casualties of the (Recession) Depression, and for every $20 book purchased directly from me, through my website, I will be donating $5 from the proceeds of each book sale to either: Feeding America (US), Action Against Hunger (Canada), or The World Food Programme (Global). The purchaser chooses one of the three. As I’ve stated before and clearly state on my website, this promotion does not apply to books purchased from third party distributors, such as Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Perseverance and Hope

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“Only in the darkness can you see the stars.”
― Martin Luther King, Jr.

Since launching this Help Fight Hunger book promotion, I have been posting blogs in an effort  to raise awareness on the hunger crisis that is not only afflicting the very poor, but also the middle class ― a class that is steadily descending below the poverty line, as a direct consequence of this serious, prolonged economic downturn. I’ve illustrated how this crisis has no geographic boundaries.  Its force and devastation is reaching communities around the world. I’ve shown you statistics, possible solutions, and highlighted some of the wonderful work and philanthropic efforts that individuals, communities, and non-profit organizations have been doing to help alleviate hunger. I’ve also posted some excerpts from my book, Casualties of the (Recession) Depression, to give you a snapshot in words of some of the challenges that people face. The vignettes are not fiction. They are real stories, featuring real people.

I am sad to report that my Help Fight Hunger book promotion has been a dismal failure thus far. Not one direct sale.

That said, I will continue the effort.

In this last week of my book promotion, my posts will focus on a powerful force which provides essential spiritual “fuel” to many of these men and women:  Hope.  

Hope is that source of renewable energy which helps us to wake up each morning, ready to face and battle the daunting challenges head-on.

I don’t know how many times I’ve said this, but I’ll say it again and again: There is always hope.

This, I know for sure.

Tomorrow’s post:  “Plan B.”

HFH2

From Aug 14-Sept 7, purchase a copy of  Casualties of the (Recession) Depression, and for every $20 book purchased directly from me, through my website, I will be donating $5 from the proceeds of each book sale to either: Feeding America (US), Action Against Hunger (Canada), or The World Food Programme (Global). The purchaser chooses one of the three.  As I’ve stated before and clearly state on my website, this promotion does not apply to books purchased from third-party distributors, such as Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Food insecurity around the world

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“Those who wish for a more peaceful, just and sustainable world are helping to make ending world hunger a major priority… Together we can end hunger.”

Robert Alan Silverstein

That we, as a global community, could end world hunger is not a naïve notion. No, it is not as far-fetched as it seems, despite the daunting numbers and the amount of time, effort and resources needed to accomplish such a gargantuan task.  As with any challenge of great magnitude, the reasonable approach is (and has been) to compartmentalize the problem into smaller, more manageable components. Since the whole is equal to (not lesser than or greater than ) the sum of its parts,  each “part” (and, by extension, each of the subparts, and sub-subparts) can be (and have been) uniquely addressed.  In this instance, the “parts” refer, of course, to the continents;  the “subparts” are the countries, and “sub-subparts” are the cities, counties or communities.  If it sounds simple enough, experience has taught  us that the real bottleneck lies in the allocation and acquisition of the “time, effort and resources” required to eradicate the problem.  Just how big a problem is it?

The Numbers:

According to The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization:

  • In 2010-2012, estimated that nearly 870 million people throughout the world (that’s one in eight people) suffer from chronic undernourishment and food insecurity.
  • an estimated 852 million live in developing countries; 16 million live in developed countries.
  • Asia and Pacific region: saw a 30% decrease (from 739M to 563M) in the number of undernourished people – due to socio-economic progress. <heatherfromthegrove: I believe that these numbers may increase by next year, as the recession makes its hasty way to Asia>
  • Latin America and the Caribbean:  also saw a decrease, from 65M (1990-92) to 49M hungry (2010-2012).
  • Africa: by sharp contrast, saw a huge increase, from 175M to 239M hungry (one in four people are hungry).
  • In developed countries, the number increased from 13M (2004-6) to 16M (2010-12).

The Causes:

According to The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, there are five (5) principle causes of hunger:

  1. Poverty.
  2. Harmful/unstable economic and political systems.
  3. Conflict (the influx of refugees from unstable, conflict-ridden regimes/countries).
  4. Hunger (hunger causes physical and mental health issues which, in turn, bring on poverty – due to the inability to work or function properly; and this creates greater hunger).
  5. Climate Change (drought, flooding, erratic  climate patterns).

The Solutions:

According to Josette Sheeran, formerly the Executive Director (until her term ended in 2012) of the UN World Food Programme and now the Vice Chairman of the World Economic Forum, there are ten new approaches to eradicating world hunger:

  1. Humanitarian action.
  2. Provide free school meals.
  3. Safety nets (for when disaster strikes or a food crisis occurs).
  4. Connect farmers to markets.
  5. Special focus on providing children under two years old with proper nutrition, to help them develop properly and give them  fighting chance.
  6. Empower women.
  7. Technology is a powerful tool.
  8. Building resiliency… against national disasters.
  9. People power (individuals, partners, organizations, communities)
  10. Accountability (countries’ political leaders make it their mission to ensure that no child (in their country) will die from hunger.

For a more comprehensive understanding of world hunger, please refer to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s report, The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012.

Ending world hunger… an impossible dream, or an attainable reality?

You know where I stand. 

HFH2

From Aug 14-Sept 7, purchase a copy of  Casualties of the (Recession) Depression, and for every $20 book purchased directly from my website, I will be donating $5 from the proceeds of each book sale to either: Feeding America (US), Action Against Hunger (Canada), or The World Food Programme (Global). The purchaser chooses one of the three.

Image via blog.igt.com.

The Kindness of Strangers

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“She walked briskly out of the supermarket.  The aisles of food and the smell of fresh fruit and vegetables had made her light-headed. She had spent two dollars on a dozen eggs and some bread and only had ten dollars left in her purse – in quarters.  She passed by a man who was standing near a bench by the store entrance. He was tall, thin, about thirty-something, dressed in clean jeans and a t-shirt, and was African American. He was asking people for money to buy some food. She glanced at him, mumbled “Sorry, I can’t” and continued walking.

Then, something in her sub-conscious made her stop and turn around. He was sitting on the bench, his head in his hands. She noticed something that she recognized only too well.  Despair.  She reached into her purse and counted five dollars worth of quarters (half of what she had left to last her for the next two weeks) and she walked back to the man and said “Excuse me sir, but here is five dollars in quarters. I hope this will help tide you over.”  He looked at her.  She could hear the intake of his breath.  His eyes were clear and intelligent.  He stood up and thanked her, very earnestly and with respect.  Their eyes met and he understood.  They were the same.”

― from  the vignette “The Kindness of Strangers” – pp. 52-53 of Casualties of the (Recession) Depression, by Heather Joan Marinos

(Copyright © 2013 by Heather Joan Marinos – All Rights Reserved)

HFH2

From Aug 14-Sept 7, purchase a copy of  Casualties of the (Recession) Depression, and for every $20 book purchased directly from my website, I will be donating $5 from the proceeds of each book sale to either: Feeding America (US), Action Against Hunger (Canada), or The World Food Programme (Global). The purchaser chooses one of the three.

Image (of hands) via dosomething.org.

Hunger up north

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 “Reducing household food insecurity, and the poverty that underlies it, is a win-win situation. It is a win for people facing low income, and for Canada as a whole. One does not need to look far to find many libraries worth of evidence that poverty is a key negative influence on health. Reducing low income leads to better health, which leads to higher levels of economic participation and lower costs related to health care and social services.”

Food Banks Canada, Hunger Count 2012

Here is the hunger news from our northern neighbors, and  my “Home and Native Land” …

The Numbers:

According to Food Banks Canada:

  • each month, 882,188 Canadians need to rely on food banks to feed their families
  • 31% more Canadians rely on food banks now, than before the recession
  • over one third are children and teens
  • 14% of the elderly Canadian population who live alone, are impoverished
  • 3.2 million Canadians live in poverty

The Solutions:

Food Banks Canada recommends some small policy changes that will help rectify some of the root causes of hunger and poverty:

  • make housing more affordable, and therefore more attainable
  • increase social investment in Northern Ontario
  • make pensions more adequate for the seniors who are impoverished, and who are experiencing food insecurity, as well as health issues
  • invest in good quality, support-intensive social assistance programs
  • address the issue of the decline in well-paying jobs

For more solutions, itemized in the Say No To Hunger campaign petition(sponsored by Food Banks Canada), go to:

http://www.saynotohunger.ca/SayNoToHunger/Our-Solution.aspx

Canadians, you may want to consider signing the petition!

 

HFH2

The “Golden Years” are not always so golden

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Unless one’s heart is made of stone, most can agree that the reality of child hunger is a heartbreaking and very unpalatable pill to swallow. 

Human existence is cyclical. We begin life as children who depend on parents or family members for our food, our living conditions, and our sense of well-being and worth.   

As we move towards the last chapter of our lives, our health and frailty make it impossible to survive without depending on our children, family members, or community − for our food, our living conditions, and our sense of well-being and continued worth.

The golden years are supposed to be a time in life when we, who have worked so hard and who have taken care of so many, earn the right to kick back, relax and enjoy the company of loving family and friends, as they surround us with their affection and care.

Sadly, this is not everyone’s reality.  Many seniors are left to cope alone.  Many have to juggle with decisions like whether to eat or pay the utility bills, whether to eat or pay for medication, and whether to eat or pay the rent. 

As I mentioned earlier, human existence is cyclical.

Unless one’s heart is made of stone, most can agree that the reality of senior hunger is a heartbreaking and very unpalatable pill to swallow. 

I’ll leave you with some sobering statistics, cited by the folks at Feeding America.  Next week, I will be taking a virtual hunger tour around the world because, as we all know, hunger has no geographic boundaries.

According to Feeding America,

“The number of older adults is projected to increase by 36% over the next decade and continue to rise in the following decade. In 2030 there will be 72.1 million older adults, almost twice as many as in 2008. Additionally, the senior population is becoming increasingly diverse.  Between 2010 and 2030, the white population of 65 and plus is projected to increase by 59% compared with 160% of older minorities.”

“These changing demographics will have profound impacts on the demand for social services, especially the need for adequate and culturally appropriate nutrition services.  Seniors may have unique nutritional needs and challenges that separate them from the rest of the population and must be considered.”

“In 2011, 4.8 million Americans over the age of 60 were food insecure. This constitutes 8.4% of all seniors. “

“The number of food insecure seniors is projected to increase by 50% when the youngest of the Baby Boom Generation reaches age 60 in 2025.”

HFH2

From Aug 14-Sept 7, purchase a copy of  Casualties of the (Recession) Depression, and for every $20 book purchased directly from my website,  I will be donating $5 from the proceeds of each book sale to either: Feeding America (US), Action Against Hunger (Canada), or The World Food Programme (Global). The purchaser chooses one of the three.

Image (at the very top) via mycarforcharity.com.