The Food Frontline; how support changes futures.

Ayalu

Last year an amazing group of parent bloggers and I came together to support the trip that Sian went on to Niger, launching the #ShareNiger campaign to raise awareness of the plight of families struggling against drought and hunger. We now sponsor 11 beautiful children between us from Tera and the letters that come back to us are wonderful.

While Sian’s trip had much hope in it, gardening projects and education that was seeking to put in place a future for a whole country, the effect of seeing the reality of entire families living on just one packet of baby food was devastating. There is no doubt that unless we see and feel and connect with the impossible nature of life lived like that, we cannot hope to make changes. Reporting horror brings change, without a doubt. But reporting success and hope, that matters too; we are a savvy world these days and we need to see that giving away our hard earned money makes a difference.

Anyone who was a child of the 80’s will remember the horrific images of starving people from Ethiopia; in many way the country became such a touchstone for despair and then the determination to change things that it became typecast as an ‘African Nation In Need’. The truth in the 21st century is very different. This week WorldVision is taking 3 bloggers out there to see what 30 years of sustained investment has achieved in a country that most adults in this country still have a mental picture of as desperate, hopeless, despair. Slummy Single Mummy, Food Stories and Hunter Gather Cook out there as part of the  Enough Food For Everyone IF campaign – with the hashtag #FoodFrontline – it’s a campaign designed to show how Ethiopia has changed, cultivating crops and land, starting businesses, educating children and developing a population supporting infrastructure. What started off as feeding the starving has turned into a country able to care for itself again.

Why Bloggers Again? Why Parent Bloggers? Why Food Bloggers?

Global Hunger has to end; we can end it, one bowl of grain, one change, one family at a time. We have the money, we even have the food, we just have to make it happen. In weeks when our own western food chain has been thrown into bleak disarray, it is only too evident that we need to understand better how the world feeds itself and see what lessons can be learned from places in the world which have had to start afresh. And why mums? The fascinating thing about so many countries like Ethiopia and Niger is how many of the people driving change are women and mothers, women driven by gritty determination to see their children thrive. Gardening, earning, building businesses.. . they have their children at the heart of what they do.

The photo above is Ayalu, my Ethiopian mum partner for this campaign. We have many similarities between us. We are similar in age (she steals the youth march on me by a couple of years and significantly better arm muscles) and we both have a large family but Ayalu also took in her orphaned niece after her mother became deeply depressed and committed suicide. She has a passion to see all her children well educated and her older, now married children give her great joy by doing well. They are a close knit, supportive family but Ayalu admits that bringing up a large number of children in difficult circumstances has been very tough; like me, her advice to young mums is to be established and secure first. Easy to say after the event!

What can you do to help?

Follow the trip online using #FoodFrontline and @MummyBlogger, @FoodStories and @HuntrGatherCook. We’ll have daily blogs and actions straight from Ethiopia.

Use your voice. Blog, tweet and share these stories with your friends, family and followers on social media. Make sure to use the hashtag #FoodFrontline and tweet us at @WorldVisionUK to let us know.

Email your MP and ask them to act on global hunger today. With the UK government soon to announce this year’s budget, we must urge leaders to prioritise ending the global food crisis.

With someone like Ayalu behind her, there is every chance for Chaltu, especially if Ethiopia can continue to thrive. Food, love, aspirations. We are so similar, we mothers, across the world. If we get behind the women in the world who are determined to better their chances, via sponsorship and by asking our government to work to end Global Hunger, we can be part of bringing all those things to them and while we do so, we can learn some lessons for ourselves and our cultures too.

One in eight people still go to bed hungry each night. That is too – much too – many.

 

Childhood

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This is the image that says childhood to me. The sun is shining, the children are wearing clothes which suit their style but which have seen their day. Those clothes are an invitation to play; everyone came home dusty and scruffy that day. The sun hats show they are loved and that someone has taken care of their health. The bag has water and snacks in it. I might not be in the picture, but I’m taking it because the six of us are together, having fun, having a day out. And it’s a daffodil day, so Freddie is peeping out at us too in this picture, in the daffodils, in the space between Fran and Max, where a one year old might have been toddling, holding hands with them.

Maybe that is why this picture means so much to me. What is present in this photo is not that childhood is always perfect but that love and care and togetherness counts for a great deal. Childhood in England and the developed world is not made by things, nor even by getting through it untouched by grief or pain. We may not always be perfectly protected from pain but if we are loved, safe and part of a caring family, that gives us an amazing start. In this picture are the things upon which a childhood is built; memories, family, food and water in plenty, joy, play.

In West Africa, children are losing their childhood before they have a chance to enjoy it. Hunger and poverty are robbing them of the chance to go to school, smile, play, see their siblings grow up, expect their parents to always be there. It seems incredibly unfair that a childhood could be lost for want of things my children might moan about – while my girls moan about doing their maths, children wish for school, while mine complain about drinking water not juice, children are losing their childhood because they need to dig all day for water.

WorldVision have until the 30th August to make the most of their matched funding from DFID. Every single £1 will be doubled by the government. It’s a great time to donate some money and know it will go to funding long term projects that will rescue lost childhoods and put hope into the future of West Africa. We need to raise awareness and get people putting just a few pounds into that fund and make the most of the matched funding.

What you can do. Blog!

Find a picture that says childhood to you, from your childhood or your own kids and blog it. Add words about what childhood means to you if you wish.

Add it to the bloghop below and feature the bloghop code too if you wish.

Make sure you tell people about the matched funding opportunity at DFID and include the link

https://www.worldvision.org.uk/giving-forms/single-gifts/*/giftId/62/

We’re trying to double the impact, so tag two people to join in. You don’t have to wait to be tagged to join in though.

Tweet, Facebook share, Pinterest, G+ and use the hashtag #LostChildhood if you can.

All entries will be pinned to the WorldVision Pinterest Board and the best entries will feature on their blog too.

I’m Tagging….

Northern Mum

Mammasaurus

MummyTips

Me, the Man and the Baby

Live Otherwise

Mothers Always Right

An Update on ShareNiger

All our Sponsored Children

If you were following me a few weeks ago when I posted about sponsoring children in Niger with WorldVision then you might like an update on what we have achieved so far. After a slow start, almost 60 bloggers came together to sponsor an incredible 11 children in the Tera region of Niger. 11 girls and boys of 8 and under who have acquired ‘aunties’ (and uncle!) in the UK through the connections made by blogging, tweeting and socialising on Facebook and other online social media.

#ShareNiger

In the face of incredible numbers of hungry, desperate people facing yet another food crisis, eleven sponsorships might not seem all that much. But if you think about it in terms of almost £3000 pledged this year and the same amount for every year we keep those 11 children sponsored it becomes a great deal more money which is now working to improve lives in a country that is the worst place to be a mother in the world and one of the hardest places to be a child growing up. Understanding how sponsorship works makes it an even more valuable thing – we’ll be supporting not just the child but also the family, community and village of that child. That’s suddenly a lot more people who will hopefully experience a new and improved quality of life thanks to the determined tweeting, talking, blogging and of all the people involved under the #ShareNiger hashtag. From those two have pledge £1 to those who pledged £100 or more – thank you. You’ve done an amazing thing.

This week I’ve had the pleasure of blogging for the WorldVision website which was a real honour. Below is the roll of thanks to everyone who contributed to the effort to sponsor the children of Niger and answered my request for permission to include them.

If you’d like to know more about joining us (I’m always happy to keep grouping people up to start new sponsorships) or if you’d like to donate toward Child 11 who is sponsored mostly with one off donations, you can finds out more about our efforts at the original post here.

We’ve also created a Facebook page where we will fund raise to keep funds going for our sponsored children and share contact and information about how their sponsorships take shape.

All our Sponsored Children

Keep you eye out. In the next 36 hours I’ll be helping to launch a fun way you can get involve to help raise awareness for the West Africa appeal. It will take a few minutes of your time and will really make a difference.

Thanks to:-

Sian at MummyTips who travelled to Niger and sent back the original #ShareNiger coverage.

KateTakes5

Beck at TheMummyAdventure

Kelly at PrestonPrecious

Chris at Thinly Spread

Helen at The Petit Mom

Clare at Seaside in the City

SusanKMann

Aly at Plus2point4

Rosie Scribble

MyMumDom

Inside the WendyHouse

Scottish Mum

Jax at LiveOtherwise

All Baby Advice

Molly at MothersAlwaysRight

Helen at KiddyCharts

Kylie at NotEvenABagofSugar

Emmaand3

Nickie at IamTypecast

Cass at Frugal Family

Maggie at LifeAtTheZoo

Fran at TeensnTwincesses

Ruth at GeekMummy

BodForTea

Emma at MummyMummyMum

Mumsgoneto

Amy at OneMoreMeansFour

CherishedByMe

Claire at Bad-Fiction

HollieSmith

Morgan at Growing in the Fens

LittleLilyPadCo

(I am horribly aware this list is not perfect. If I’ve omitted you or got the wrong link, leave me a comment and I’ll fix it!)

Most of all, thank you all. You have shown #bloggerpower and you have been #amazing

WedEd: sewing, electromagnets (possibly) and The Listeners.

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Yesterday was a good day. After a slow start my spirits soared as we came within a tiny distance of sponsoring six children in Niger, I was feeling disappointed in what I had achieved but actually, it suddenly struck me that in 3 days bloggers and readers of blogs have pledged £1700. We are going to change the lives of the families in the villages of six children. Six families, six children, six mothers will know we care.

I want to do more. But that is an amazing start.

It’s a humbling thought to also be running a competition alongside this and knowing that if I could just generate that same interest in giving £1 or £20 or £75 as I can in a competition to win something I could do more. But six sponsorships IS a start. We can go on from there. I can keep setting up groups of people to do sponsorships for as long as those people might want to start. And I will.

Then we went out and group efforts took on a different meaning as I met up with friends and drank tea and listened to the sounds of our lovely, happy, lucky children playing and learning around us.

It doesn’t take too much for me to feel lucky these days. I settle for everyone breathing to be honest. Happy, educated, entertained, enjoying, joyful, fed, watered, delighted. These are things to make me feel lucky indeed.

The kids drew plants.

They also sewed critters and projects and chatted like the well rounded and lovely individuals they are as they did so.

We discovered that if you hug R when she wears this top she baaaas and so we made her make ears for it, squeezed her lots and made her a mint sauce necklace.

More hugging.

I read them the most fantastic poem called The Listeners by Walter de la Mare. Never heard it before but it was brilliantly spooky and eerie and completely inspired them. They bounced as they told me their thoughts on it, they had really heard the story clues and the devices in the poem and they had loads of ideas about it too. I think it will have been a poem they remember and love. It reminded me of spectres in HDM and the (I can’t remember the name!) white spooky things in Game of Thrones and Black Riders and the old men in Prince Caspian. Fantastic poem.

They also built magnets with batteries (I didn’t get a picture) and Bene got lots of cuddles and was gorgeous and people bounced on the trampoline and ate lunch in the garden.

Lastly we watched their video animation made over previous sessions. Such lovely friends. I hope they remember these as all their lives. Will try to add some of it shortly.

We came home and Fran had her report with predictions of all A’s B’s and Distinctions (guess home ed didn’t ruin her chances then!) and top marks for effort everywhere. So proud of her.

Celebrated with dinner and the football and put Bene in a bucket. That is what you do with babies… Right?

Be part of something amazing for ShareNiger

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Update: We stand at 9 child sponsorships and a total of just under £2500 pledged or donated. WorldVision are fully behind us and tweeting us out, in case you were concerned as to whether we have their blessing. I have included a screenshot of this at the bottom :)

A few weeks ago I posted about the #ShareNiger trip that was coming up to highlight the food crisis occurring in Niger. Sian, who I have met and spoken to and got to know a little, went out to experience first hand the plight of women, children and men who are struggling against the reality of a drought that has left their rivers looking like this.

It’s a little hard to imagine, yes? We’ve got a hose pipe ban. My children moan a little about a hot day in the garden when they’ll have to use buckets of water to fill the paddling pool. I ‘m not looking forward to next week when Max goes back to work and I have to do all the stuff around the house and make lunch while looking after a hungry baby too.

I know… I KNOW… how it feels to struggle to get a baby to eat when he’s a little too frail and a little bit sickly. I know how it feels to watch a baby give up and not bother to try and be beyond saving by anyone, least of all me and watch him die and then have to get on with life and managing caring for the rest of this.

And I still have no bloody idea how it must feel to be in this woman’s shoes :(

Watch. Please. It’s only 3 minutes of your life. She’s feeding a family of 5 on the small boxes of cereal WorldVision give her to feed ONE BABY. That’s all they have. She’s in such a desperate position and she lost everything because she had an accident which meant she couldn’t water her crops in the garden scheme she is part of. She tried so hard to support herself, her husband has gone looking for work in the mines and she hasn’t heard from him for months and she’s trying to stop all those children from starving to death. And she is only one of so many women in a similar position.

However hard I try I simply cannot get my head around the fact that there are women going through what I have gone through who also have to literally fight their world to stop it happening to their other children too. They are utterly powerless to stop it. Their children are starving and dying and on top of that their husbands can’t hold them and try to make it better and it is hot, dusty, dry and desperate and each day is a grinding fight, not just against tears but against their entire environment.

And when I’ve been into my unit this morning and seen all the beautiful toys we sell and how lucky kids are in this country, this just breaks my heart.
WorldVision run a sponsored child programme for £22.80 a month which literally changes the lives of children in villages across the world. Wouldn’t it be amazing to know that you made a difference to the family and the playmates of a family like the one above?

Food. Healthcare. Education.

Hope.

I know my readers have been very generous in the past and donated to our SCBU unit and I know it is a lot to ask to call for you to do something more. I also know that £22.80 a month, in times which are undoubtedly a different sort of tough here, can feel like a lot to commit to, so Sian and I have come up with a plan to make a difference, to change a life somewhere, as part of a group. If you can’t commit to £22.80 a month, you can donate below – just whatever you can afford – and we can sponsor a child together.

£2… £5… £10…£50. We can make a difference. We can’t change the world but we can bring hope to a family, a village, a mother… and that is an amazing thing to try to do.

If you would like to contribute a small amount, say £6 on a monthly basis, please leave a comment below and I can arrange for recurring payments to be organised from your PayPal account and form people into groups who can sponsor a child together and follow their progress.

Please support our efforts by donating, blogging a link to this post, tweeting with the hashtag #ShareNiger, liking on Facebook, G+ or anywhere else you feel you can. Every pound will help us reach our target.
Do something amazing. Change someone’s world.
The donate button will allow you to make a one off contribution which will go towards sponsoring a child.
The subscribe button below will allow you to choose a 1/4 option towards a child. I will collate these together and sponsor as many children as possible. I will let you know what child you are sponsoring and keep you up to date with contact. NB: if you know me and can use online banking, a standing order to me will be better as subscribe costs a fee. You need to be happy to sign up for at least a year, preferably longer.

Group WV Sub

Credentials: Donations will come to my personal Paypal account and I will forward the money on to WorldVision either to sponsor a child if we get enough or as a direct payment to them. This money is now receiving matched funding from the government, so it will count double towards making a difference in Niger. I believe I am a trusted member of the online community and so in a good position to do this, but my account does get looked over by an accountant once a year since I have a business attached to it. In addition, Sian and I live near each other and I will arrange for her to check my account with me when we have completed the collection for full transparency.

Photos used with permission by Sian To.