Friday, February 1, 2008

Half the Sky needs immediate help! (Snow/ice disaster in China)

OK, usually you will see me writing about public policy and poverty, but there is a crisis going on right now that is very close to my heart, so I will put out an appeal. Extreme weather conditions in China have affected millions of people as travel, phone and power have been interrupted during a time of heavy snow and ice. As usual, the poorest segment of the population is suffering the most as food and supplies are causing lack of food, drinking water, fuel, etc. And as usual, orphaned children are among the most vulnerable people. The facilities of Half the Sky (the amazing organization that cares for thousands of China's orphaned children) are in danger.

Please consider going to

to donate to the "Little Mouse Emergency Fund" set up to assist with this terrible disaster. Here now are
some words from Jenny Bowen, executive director of Half the Sky:

"Welfare institutions in south and central China are having the hardest time dealing with the weather disaster. This part of the country is simply not equipped to deal with extreme cold or heavy snow and ice. The most common critical problems are power outages, lack of safe drinking and cooking water, lack of fuel, diapers and public transportation. In many places where buses have stopped running, our Half the Sky nannies have been walking hours (in one case, 4 hours) along icy roads to get to the children. As conditions worsen, our nannies and teachers are remaining at the institutions day and night. They have given up the idea of going home to their own families for the holidays. They need quilts. They need warm clothing. They need coal, water, disposable diapers and food.

Latest reports tell us that this weather is likely to continue for another 10 days.

Because local governments are overwhelmed by the situation, it seems that there is, in many places, no relief beyond what we can provide. We have not been able to find news of any international relief organizations working on the ground although the China Red Cross is apparently providingsome meals to stranded motorists.

As it is impossible to get new supplies of goods to the markets, costs of basic necessities are doubling, even tripling in some cases. We are now working with the Ministry of Civil Affairs (which has the responsibility of dealing with natural disasters nation-wide) to determine which institutions outside the HTS community need our help as well. We will continue funding the costs of basic goods until the money runs out.

We can’t ship the necessary diapers, blankets, clothing, food ourselves. There is no transport that can get through right now. We will continue working to find a way. In the meantime, we are wiring funds where banks remain open. Where banks are closed, we are guaranteeing reimbursement to any citizen who funds thepurchase of needed goods for the children.

We’ve now placed a special “Little Mouse” button on our home page which will take you right to the
fund page or you can get there by clicking
Donations are tax-deductible in US, Canada and Hong Kong."

Obama Supporters Against Hunger and Poverty

For any of you Barack Obama fans out there, I've started a new group on called "Obama Supporters Against Hunger and Poverty" Come join us if you would like to share thoughts or read about Barack's role and actions in the fight against poverty!

Thursday, January 31, 2008

What is the Global Poverty Act?

Also known as S. 2433, the Global Poverty Act is "A bill to require the President to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to further the United States foreign policy objective of promoting the reduction of global poverty, the elimination of extreme global poverty, and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goal of reducing by one-half the proportion of people worldwide, between 1990 and 2015, who live on less than $1 per day." That's the actual wording from the title of the act in the Senate.

What are the highlights?
• Declares it official U.S. policy to promote the reduction of global poverty, the elimination of extreme global poverty, and the
achievement of the Millennium Development Goal of cutting extreme global poverty in half by 2015.
• Requires the President to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to carry out that policy.
• Includes guidelines for what the strategy should include - from aid, trade, and debt relief, to working with the international community, businesses and NGOs, to ensuring environmental sustainability.
• Requires that the President’s strategy include specific and measurable goals, efforts to be undertaken, benchmarks, and
• Requires the President to report back to Congress on progress made in the implementation of the global poverty strategy.

Who's sponsoring it?
It was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Barack Obama with co-sponsors Sens. Chuck Hagel and Maria Cantwell. Reps. Adam Smith and Spenser Bachus introduced it in the House.

The Global Poverty Act is a piece of legislation which could become an important tool in fighting global poverty. Now is an excellent time to contact your senators and urge their to support of this Act.

This information was largely obtained from

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Edwards brought Poverty to the table

I just heard that the John Edwards campaign is over today. I'm sad to see him go as he was an important voice in the debates. Before he arrived on the scene, I wondered if presidential debates would ever take poverty seriously. He did a tremendous job of bringing poverty issues to the front and not letting people forget about it. I hope the other candidates keep up the dialogue now that we're having the discussion. Good luck, John and Elizabeth! I'm sure we'll see you again!

Time is right for a Letter to the Editor

From Shawnda Hines, Bread for the World Media Associate:
Friends, during the next seven days, newspapers across the country will publish their opinion of the president’s last State of the Union address. More importantly, editors will want to hear what their readers think. This is a prime opportunity to get a letter to the editor published: a prime opportunity to call attention to our nation’s privilege and moral obligation to the world’s poorest people. And if your letter gets printed, not only will your neighbors read it—so will your members of Congress.

In his speech, President Bush devoted time to America’s efforts to fight global poverty, hunger and disease (see excerpt from his speech below). His remarks are right on target. As Bread for the World President David Beckmann said in his response statement to the speech, “One of the great legacies of this Administration will be its commitment to the continent of Africa particularly in the field of health. Reducing poverty and disease around the world has been one issue on which Republicans and Democrats have worked together.”

But words don’t change lives. To make the targets set in the Millennium Development Goals, America must put our money where our mouth is. We need more, and we need better poverty-focused development assistance—the very focus of Bread for the World’s 2008 Offering of Letters.

On February 4, President Bush will send Congress his budget request for fiscal year 2009. In the weeks that follow, members of Congress will begin the process of passing the 2009 federal budget. (On that day, we will also issue a statement and analysis of this year’s budget.)

I invite you to write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper this week about the need for more and better poverty-focused development assistance. Of course, it is of utmost importance that your letter be written in your own words. No one likes a form letter—including opinion editors. But here are a few points to help you formulate your own opinion and call for action by your elected leaders:

- In his State of the Union speech, President Bush spoke about our nation’s leadership in the fight against global poverty. Yet a billion people in the world live on less than $1 per day. [Check Bread’s Web site for more facts on global hunger and poverty]
- America is generous, but we can and must do more. Only half of one percent of our federal budget is dedicated to poverty-focused development assistance—long-term investments in things like education, agriculture, nutrition, clean water and the prevention of AIDS and malaria.
- An additional $5 billion will help the United States keep our commitment to achieve the Millennium Development Goals: cutting hunger and extreme poverty in half, reducing child mortality by two-thirds and meeting other specific goals that will help millions of poor families build a better future.
- The Senate should approve S. 2433, the Global Poverty Act, which will better coordinate U.S. policies and programs for the most effective effort to fight poverty and hunger around the world.
- If you know that your Senator or Representative sits on a Budget or Appropriations Committee, or if they have a particularly critical role to play in the budget debate, be sure mention that in your letter.

Detailed tips for writing and submitting letters to the editor can be found on Bread’s Web site. (

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Romney and Giuliani on Farm Subsidies

I missed this November debate question on CNN. Romney and Giuliani flat out ignore the fact that our subsidies are overwhelmingly going to the wrong people and harmful to developing countries. They support commodity subsidies...Romney says he doesn't want a food shortage.

Whether or not you like or believe the dem candidates stances about reform, least the dems are talking about the harmful effects of subsidies! This debate hardly touched on it at all before moving on to Rudy's tax record.

Poverty and Sustainability in Zambia (MDG's 1&7)

Sometimes anti-pov and eco activists forget how much the two issues are intertwined. This latest piece from the Micah Challenge in Zambia shows how Millennium Development Goal #1 (Eradicate extreme hunger & poverty) is connected deeply with MDG #7 (Ensure environmental sustainability).
Press Statement on the ZESCO Power cuts.
Posted: 29 Jan 2008 07:06 AM CST

Micah Challenge Zambia is concerned with the pressure we seem to be exerting on the environment due to the power crisis that our nation has been going through for last several months and recently made worse by the extended power cuts. The extended power cuts are reversing the gains we have been making in the fight against poverty.

Our nation is endowed with a wealth of natural resources within 16 ecosystems with landscapes that range from extensive forests to wetlands. This rich natural resource is under threat if we cannot control the wanton destruction of forests due to charcoal burning. Sadly, Zambia faces daunting challenges of de-forestation at the rate of 250-300 thousand ha per year. The destruction of our forests will lead to reduced biodiversity.

Due to the current power blackouts being experienced in our nation, the search for alternative sources of fuel will lead to unsustainable charcoal production and increased demand for fuel-wood. As more households demand for charcoal as an alternative source of energy our forests will be face further destructions. This will make it difficult for Zambia to attain Millennium Development Goal number 7, where we have committed ourselves to ensure environmental sustainability. . In the year 2000, the government of Zambia and 188 other nations made a promise to halve poverty by 2015 through the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Many of the goals are in danger of not being met in Zambia. As a coalition of Christians committed to standing up for justice, we remind the Zambian government to keep the promises they made. Conserving natural resources will certainly contribute to the reduction of poverty in our country.

Unsustainable destruction of our forests will certainly contribute to climate change. This climate change which is human induced impacts negatively mostly on ecosystems. As a nation as we operate within the United Nations Framework on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol we need to curb practices which will ultimately accelerate the process of climate change. Failure to control change factors that accelerate climate change will lead to widespread loss of productivity, erosion, reduction in stream flow and other negative impacts. Today we are threatened by destructive floods due to climate change.

Micah Challenge Zambia calls on the Zambian Government to quickly resolve the problem being faced by ZESCO to meet the ever rising electricity demand. Micah Challenge Zambia urges government leaders to re-focus their efforts, especially to ensure the following goals are met: With the extensive power cuts or load shedding in place most households regardless of their economic status are depending on charcoal. The rising demand for charcoal is not good for this nation as it has negative effect on environmental sustainability.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Connie Wick:an interview with a grass-roots leader

This is a beautiful interview of Connie Wick, a Bread for the World member who started her work from her retirement community in Indiana.

Her comments at the beginning of the interview really resonated in my heart. She talks about the reasons for, frustrations of, and satisfactions about being an advocate for poor and hungry people. This was incredibly inspiring to me as she is very articulate and sometimes I struggle for words to say why I do this and what an impact I believe we can all have on eliminating poverty no matter when, in life, we begin our work.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Writing letters to the editor: online help

Why write a letter to the editor (LTE)? Writing an LTE is one of the best ways to communicate with your community, the media, your members of congress, and political candidates. If you write to their offices, that's great. However, if I wrote to Sen Clinton, it would have little impact as I'm not her constituent. And if I write to Sen Obama, it would be noted when his staff told him "x" number of people wrote to him about global poverty. But consider how many people I'd reach if my LTE gets published:
- The editorial staff sees it and is aware that the paper's readers care about poverty
- The readership sees it and learns more about the issue
- The member of Congress takes special note as their staff scans the media for their boss' name
Then you get extra communication by sending them a clipping with a handwritten letter. Admittedly, it's hard to get published in a national paper like the NY Times as they receive hundreds of letters per day and print only a few. Yet you're still contributing to your cause by writing. If you see a poverty LTE printed in response to a recent article, it's there because many people wrote in about the same thing. So, you might be helping another person get published and the paper will print more news or editorials about poverty because they know their readers care.

Intimidated? Don't know where to start? That's how I felt last year. But by starting small (with my small local paper) and using on-line help from Bread for the World, I was able to quickly get one printed. That was my very first blog entry, too! Here's the BFW website:

FYI, the ONE campaign has help to write LTE's but I don't recommend this approach. They streamlined it so you can send pre-written letters, which is a giant no-no in the world of media advocacy. I have heard newspaper staff say it's unethical to submit identical pieces to different papers. Each LTE should be unique and responding to something that has run in that paper in the last 7 days. However, the ONE site is a good tool to find the papers in your zip code area and look at some talking points that ONE is espousing.

Good luck!