A quick introduction to Esperanza and the work we do in Chicago


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Response to the Horn of Africa’s Food Crisis

The situation in the Horn of Africa has the potential to be the greatest humanitarian crisis of our generation. The UN estimates that some 10 million people in the region are starving or on the brink of food insecurity due to drought and armed conflict.

Today the World Food Programme, UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and Oxfam issued a joint statement detailing their “Action Plan to address the root causes of food insecurity to bring resiliency to a region that has suffered from protracted crises for nearly three decades.”

In their plan they call for:

Emergency and Sustainable Food Assistance – Full funding of emergency requirements to stop the current hunger and malnutrition from accelerating and support of safety net programs, such as school feeding and local purchase and P4P initiatives.

Small farmer support – Immediate support to national food security plans to ensure that countries support the poorest farmers with essential assistance such as tools, seeds, fertilizers, food-based nutrition and the knowledge needed to boost agricultural production and sustain rural livelihoods.

Proactive policy and risk reduction and investment – Supporting policies and investments that address core challenges such as climate change adaptation, preparedness and disaster risk reduction and management, rural livelihoods, productive infrastructure, production and marketing, institutions and governance, conflict resolution, pastoralist issues and access to essential health and education.

While this sounds good, there are some systematic issues that limit the ability of their plan to break the cycle of starvation in the region.

Locally sourced food is the key to feeding those in need, yet a majority of food assistance distributed in the region is from American and European sources. The current local purchase targets that are in place, while helpful, are still not enough when compared to Western commodities distributed in the region. Africa has enough food to feed itself, and the dumping of Western commodities in the region drives down local prices and cuts into the narrow profits of local farmers further perpetuating the cycle of poverty and food insecurity.

US commodities also cost more and take longer to reach those in need than locally sourced commodities. US Government is even critical of their food programs noting that “food aid purchased and shipped from the U.S. cost 29% to 34% more than if procured locally, and food aid deliveries averaged between 106 and 112 days longer to deliver than locally produced food aid.” Even after the US responds to this crisis, millions of starving people will have to wait three to four months to receive any aid, a period of time that will mean certain death to those already starving.

The money that is used for shipping commodities overseas can be put to better use by transporting commodities from regional sources that have seen agricultural success. Roughly 40% of all food grown in Africa never makes it onto a plate because of poor transportation, lack of access to markets and inadequate storage opportunities. Food purchased from local sources would be distributed more quickly than imported food, thereby halting the crisis before it gets worse. Also, the added investment in regional farmers will promote strong local markets that will be able to sustain themselves as droughts and other crises subside.

Supporting small farmers is by far the most effective way to end poverty. Many NGOs have engaged in small shareholder support and have been incredibly successful with promoting the use of fertilizer, hybrid seeds, and modern tools. However, this simply is not enough. The US and EU have harsh restrictions barring developing countries from subsidizing their own farmers. Countries that wish to receive aid from the US cannot legally subsidize their farmers. Not only is this oppressive, but it is quite hypocritical. The US spends $260 billion on crop subsidies and price supports (five times as much as global aid to poor countries) while preventing developing countries from participating in the same activities.

We need to invest in small farmers beyond levels that allow them to simply survive. We need to reverse oppressive policies that prohibit large-scale investment in farmers in developing nations and open up the global food markets to competition from farmers in developing countries.

Want to learn more? I highly encourage anyone interested in the global food crisis to read Enough. The world has more than enough food to feed her people, but a realignment of values and politics need to happen before millions more starve to death unnecessarily.

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Excellent and creative presentation of the Gospel.

Well worth watching

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Returning Home to Uganda

I’ve have spent the past three and a half years leading Global Family Rescue – first as the board chair, then most recently as the executive director.  Since last August, I have been living in Tanzania as GFR’s executive director, and it has been a life-changing experience.  I have appreciated so much the experience I have been able to have as a result of GFR, and I am fully confident in the board’s ability to be able to lead this agency forward into the future.

As of June 15th, I will be stepping down from my position at Global Family Rescue and stepping into a new role with Grace Ministries.  You might remember me discussing Pastor Robert Nabulere from the Miracle Centre in Kawempe.  Pastor Robert and I have been friends for several years, and quickly after meeting him I was impressed by the level of passion and leadership capability found within this man.  Grace Ministries is a missions organization out of Shorewood, IL who has been supporting Pastor Robert and the Miracle Centre for several years now.  I will be partnering with Grace Ministries to oversee and expand their mission in Uganda in partnership with Pastor Robert.  I have joined their team and will be transitioning over to this role as soon as my responsibilities with Global Family Rescue are complete.

 I am extremely excited about this new opportunity, as my heart has been in Uganda ever since my first trip there in March of 2009.  To take a leadership position alongside of one of Uganda’s foremost leading pastors in an effort to significantly impact the surrounding communities and villages is something I feel honored to be a part of.

All of you who have stood beside me during the past several years, I appreciate you more than you could know.  Your prayers, your generosity, your words of encouragement, your love have all been things that I could not have survived without.  As I look to this next phase of ministry, it would mean a lot to me to have your support in my new role at Grace Ministries.  A majority of my salary as well as our project funds need to be raised from my donors, and so I am asking if you might consider being one of the first ones to be a part of this.  You can click here to make a gift.  It would mean so much to me if you would join our team and help transform Uganda.

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If You Want To End Poverty, Give Money To Poor People.

Conditional Cash Transfers.

It is a simple concept: Give money to people in poverty when they meet certain criteria.

We all get paid. We all provide some level of output that has society has placed a value upon and we are paid accordingly for this production. What if we applied those same concepts to people in poverty? What if we paid poor people for helping correct the social ills that crippling our world and have proven impossible to beat by conventional charitable avenues?

Extreme poverty, maternal mortality, malaria, and slavery can all be combated by paying poor people for contributing to the outcomes that we all value.

For people living in extreme poverty, the process is quite simple.

Take a class on how to expand your business or increase your agricultural output – you get paid. Send your daughter to school – you get paid.  Sleep under a treated bed net – you get paid.  Undergo prenatal care and deliver your baby in a licensed medical facility – you get paid.

It is happening. And it works.

The World Bank has been monitoring these programs, and has shown that these programs are increasing economic output, raising consumption levels among people in poverty, reducing child labor, creating greater use of healthcare and educational services, and are elevating the status of women. All of which are key to reaching development goals aimed at eradicating poverty.

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Commitment to Weight Gain In 2011

Most people head into the New Year looking to lose weight. Not Fidea. She is 3 months old and weighs less than 8 pounds. This is a mere 60% of the target weight for her age. Delivered by our midwife in Igwachanya this fall, Fidea was born into a variety of obstacles.

Fidea at weigh-in

Fidea and Her Mother At Weigh-In

As a child to poor rural farmers in Tanzania, Fidea’s livelihood will be dependent upon a family income derived from a harvest in some of the hardest farming conditions in all of Tanzania. Depleted soil, poor rain accumulation, and lack of proper knowledge of farming are all challenges to her family’s income. Neither of her parents went to school, and her school aged siblings are not enrolled in school due to a lack of funds, and an improper valuation of education. Her family’s house is made of mud and has a grass thatched roof. Bugs, rats, and mosquitoes are frequent house guests that bring with them a variety of diseases and sicknesses including malaria.

All of this is made worse by her malnutrition.

Research shows that malnourished children had significantly lower congnitive function that will last for many years into the future. This is a huge problem for Fidea and others like her that will want to compete in a developing work force. Without the proper nutrition at a young age, these children face lifetimes of reduced cognitive function.

Global Family Rescue recently launched a prenatal and early childhood care program out of a clinic in Igwachanya run by a highly trained Tanzanian midwife. In the four months that the project has been operating, 97 babies have been delivered, and nutritional prenatal care including HIV testing has been provided to 100s of women.

We have been taking care of babies before they were born, but starting in 2011 we will also be placing a strong emphasis on providing early childhood care for the babies born in and around Igwachanya to ensure that these little ones have a shot at life.

One of the things that GFR will be doing to promote early childhood development will be to provide nutritional training to new and expectant mothers to ensure that they know the basics around feeding their children. Many of the local dishes have been depleted of most of their nutritional value, but with slight modifications can provide healthy and well balanced meals.

For emergency support we will also be providing supplements designed to boost a child’s vitamin and nutrient intake while their parents learn about, and prepare for, the new nutritious cooking opportunities. We need to reverse the trends of malnutrition and get these babies up to their target weight.

There are over 500 children in the region that the clinic serves, and it is our goal that all children finish 2011 at a healthy and appropriate weight.

Here’s to significant weight gain in 2011!

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When “One Purchase” Really Means $85 Worth of Products

Last week I posted comments on the Trade as One video promotion that made the following claim,

“If every person who attended church in this country made just one fair trade purchase, one million families would be lifted out of poverty for one whole year”

I found this math hard to believe. The economic impact of “one purchase” really couldn’t lift that many families out of poverty, could it? 

Well, no. And, yes.

If you use my calculations, it certainly cannot.

But, according to Trade as One it is all in how you define the term one purchase. For Trade as One, the term one purchase does not means one product, but rather $85 worth of products.

Here is what Trade as One had to say about my post,

“Your math isn’t that far off ours but the crucial thing you misinterpret is that the average fair trade purchase (not product) is roughly $85 on our site. People rarely buy just one product.”

Not exactly how I would define one purchase, but now the math makes so much more sense. Yes, if every man, woman and child that attended church last weekend, all 124.4 million of them, purchased $85 worth of fair trade products the $10.5 billion in economic impact could lift 1 million families out of poverty for a one year.

 I just wonder how many people that went to the Trade as One booths and website last week after seeing that video knew that they needed to purchase $85 worth of products to keep up their end of the bargain.

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