In the Spotlight

Notes to Women is thrilled to feature In The Spotlight, Julie Marshall, Canadian Spokesperson for the United Nations World Food Programme.

NTW:  Tell us a little bit about yourself.  

Julie:  My job involves briefing the media, raising the profile of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the issue of global hunger within Canada, creating and promoting educational material for universities and schools,producing fundraising, awareness and advertising campaigns, working with our Canadian Ambassador Against Hunger, George Stroumboulopoulos and creating communications material for our private sector partners within Canada.

NTW:  How long have you been with World Food Programme?

Julie:  I have been working in a communications role with WFP for over 9 years.

NTW:  What made you become a part of the organization? 

Julie:  I knew of WFP’s outstanding reputation as the world’s largest humanitarian agency, and I really like the fact that their administrative costs are one of the lowest in the non-profit sector – 90% of donations go directly to WFP operations. 

NTW:  WFP covers a wide range of areas in its fight to combat hunger, is there an area of particular interest for you?

Julie:  I have to say I enjoy visiting WFP school meals programmes.  WFP supplies nutritious school meals to over 18 million children every year.  A meal at school acts as a magnet to get children into the classroom, especially in regions where girls are not encouraged to attend school. Providing a daily nutritious meal and in some cases a take home ration to children helps to keep them in school giving them hope for a brighter future.  I have also seen how buying food locally, benefits local farmers and the whole community and really enhances the sustainability of our programmes.

Julie Marshall

Photo:  Julie at a WFP school meals operation in Honduras.

NTW:  WFP’s vision is a world where every man, woman and child always has access to food in order to have an active and healthy life.  What is your vision?

Julie:  A child’s future should start with zero hunger.  WFP is working to create a world where no one is hungry, freeing children from the effects of undernutrition and helping them achieve their true potential. Every day, thousands of kids die because of hunger. But they don’t have to, because the world produces enough food for everyone. 

NTW:  It is said that empowering women is the first step towards Zero Hunger.  In Ecuador, this seems to be a challenge.  Rural women are illiterate, they earn less than urban women, they work 23 hours more than men, they have suffered some form of gender violence.  The statistics when it comes to abuse among girls in Ecuador are very disturbing.  78 percent suffer from abuse at home, 42% from severe abuse and girls ages between 10 and 15 years have been victims of gender violence, especially sexual abuse. How would WFP help these women and girls who are battling not only hunger but illiteracy, low wages, disproportionate working hours and gender abuse?

Julie:   I visited WFP school meals operations in Ecuador in 2014 and quickly learnt how these meals helped get kids into school, but also helped to support many women in the community. 

I visited a school in the remote community of Pimampiro, where some children walk for hours to school.  When they arrive they are hungry and tired.  The nutritious breakfast of juice and a granola bar and a lunch of rice, vegetables and lentils help them learn and play.  Some of the vegetables are grown, with the help of WFP, in their school vegetable garden and the rest are purchased by WFP from the local small farmers associations, which are run and organized mostly by women.  These associations work closely with WFP and the local government to deliver fresh vegetables to the school every week.  WFP has helped establish farmer’s associations and community gardens  across the region in order to increase the financial and food security of small-holder farmers.

Nancy, a 25 year old, single mom is the president of the local small farmers association in Otavalo, who supply fresh vegetables to the local schools.  Nancy explained to me how WFP and the local government helped to formalize their association, diversified their crops, encouraged women to participate and how working together they now receive a fair market price for their produce.  These women now have a steady income and a standing in the community.

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Photo:  Nancy in vegetable garden

NTW:  Somalia has chronically high malnutrition rates, in fact, one in eight children under five is acutely malnourished.  Please tell us about the nutrition programmes WFP has set up to treat and prevent this problem which is prevalent among young women, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers.

Julie:  WFP supports food assistance operations to the most vulnerable people, and at the same time is working to help build resilience in the country. We have development operations designed to help hungry people help themselves; emergency operations that provide food to prevent hunger and malnutrition and relief and recovery operations that assist in stabilizing food security and the rebuilding after emergencies. 

The Mother and Child Health and Nutrition (MCHN) Programme in Somalia helps to prevent malnutrition in children under the age of 2 years. We focus on the first 1,000 days of life (from conception to age 2) because this is the window of opportunity for preventing irreversible damages to a child’s growth and mental development due to poor nutrition. Pregnant and nursing women are therefore also targeted to ensure a good start in life for their children. The women, irrespective of their nutritional status, receive daily supplements of fortified blended food to complement a generally poor diet. In Somalia, the programme is implemented through functional Maternal & Child Health clinics to ensure that women and children receive nutritional support as well as health interventions necessary for healthy growth: immunization, de-worming, treatment of diarrhea and other common illnesses, ante-natal and post-natal medical check-ups, etc. Pregnant or nursing women stay in the programme until delivery and/or when the child reaches 6 months, while children can remain in the programme until they reach 24 months of age.

NTW:  As we all know, education is one way to empower girls in countries where girls don’t have access to it for any number of reasons.  In Somalia, the enrollment rates for primary school-aged children are among the lowest where out of 42% of those who are in school, only 36% are girls..  Share with us what WFP is doing to boost the enrolment rates.

Julie:  WFP school meals encourage children, especially girls, to attend classes, enrollment goes up, attendance is consistently high and with a full tummy both girls and boys can concentrate on their work.  In Somaliland, Puntland and the Central regions, we encourage the attendance of older girls by providing them with a take-home family ration of vegetable oil when the girls attend school regularly.  Keeping them in school longer gives them a better and healthier start to life.

NTW:  In Somalia, unemployment among young people aged 14 to 29 years is one of the highest at 67%.  Tell us about WFP’s Food for Training programmes.

Julie:  Poverty-stricken communities hit by floods or droughts are too busy looking for food to rebuild infrastructure vital for redevelopment.  WFP finds out why a community is hungry and works with the community to rebuild their infrastructure – so they no longer need outside help.  WFP provides food or in some cases cash, in exchange for work making it possible for the poor and hungry to take the first steps out of the hunger trap. 

In Somalia, WFP implemented Food-for-Assets activities for over 12,000 people in Luuq, Dolow and Belethawa.  Through this programme WFP provides food rations to support self-help initiatives, such as building water harvesting structures and canal irrigation. The programme helps meet the immediate food needs of hungry people, as well as preventing communities from resorting to harmful coping strategies, such as selling assets and livestock during an emergency.

NTW:  What changes do you hope to see by the end of this year?

Julie:  A number of our major operations are in conflict areas.  In these areas I hope to see open access to besieged and hard to reach areas in conflict situations, allowing WFP and the whole humanitarian community continued access to all people in need of humanitarian assistance.  Also, Sustainable and predictable funding is needed to ensure that WFP assistance continues, not just in major crisis like Syria, but in seemingly forgotten emergencies were people are still in need but not in the media.

NTW:  What has been your biggest challenge working at WFP?  What has been your biggest achievement?

Julie:  One of the most satisfying parts of my job has been to see the Canadian public becoming more and more engaged in the issue of global hunger and the work of WFP over the years.  It can be challenging to raise funds for a humanitarian crisis that’s been going on for a number of years, like the Syrian conflict, but Canadians and the Canadian Government (who are consistently among our top 3 donors) continue to come through and support our work.

NTW:  Julie, it has been a pleasure talking to you.  Thank you for sharing the work that you are doing through the World Food Programme, the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide.  I hope this interview will encourage people to get more involved in the fight against hunger.
Julie:  It was a pleasure talking with you.  Anyone can help WFP, just go to wfp.org to find out more about our work or download the#ShareTheMeal app on your smartphone, and .50 cents will provide Syrian children, their mothers and mums-to-be with vital nutrition with a simple tap on their phones.
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Clean Water: It Has So Many Benefits

Did you know that today 750 million people around the world have no access to clean water?

Just last night I gave my six year old son water to drink.  It was cold, clean water.  What a blessing and privilege it is to be able to drink clean water.  I cannot imagine what it would be like not to have access to clean water.  Yet, almost half the people in South Asia live with that sobering reality.   Mothers are forced to give their children dirty water to drink.  Can you believe that every minute a child dies from a water related disease?  And to make matters worse the people living in rural areas have to deal with open defecation and the lack of sanitation.  65% of them have no access to a toilet.  Yet, here in North America, the majority of us have access to more than one toilet in our homes.

We have clean water at our disposal to wash clothes, cook, bathe, etc.  I have seen images of women going to rivers to wash their clothes.  In rural India, women and girls are largely responsible for collecting the water and household sanitation so they spend most of their time fetching water, walking for hours.  This prevents many girls from going to school and exposes them to increased violence as they travel rural areas in search of water.  They are malnourished due to regular contact with contaminated water.

I grew up in Guyana so I know what it’s like not to have running water in the home and having to fetch water.  However, unlike the women and girls in India, my family and I didn’t have to walk for hours everyday.  We had a pipe in our yard and that’s where we drew our water from.  And not having running water in the home didn’t happen too often and didn’t prevent me from going to school.  Compared to the people of South Asia, I lived a privileged life even though I wasn’t convinced of that during those times when we had no electricity or running water for hours.

In South Asia, living without clean water carries health and safety risks.  In story, Water From the Rocks, the villagers used water from a pond for their crops and their cattle and to wash their clothes.  They even used it to bathe but unfortunately this caused itching and swelling.  Seeing this motivated Pastor Dayal to ask his leaders if they would be able to drill a Jesus Well in Nirdhar’s village. Thanks to the generous donations toward Jesus Wells through Gospel for Asia, they could.

208e0741-0ef9-483e-b4b2-0959321e4007The villagers were incredulous, and one of them, could hardly believe that a well could be built in the hilly area where they lived.  He feared that there might be hindrances too but nothing is impossible for the mighty God whom they served.  God knew what they needed even before they prayed in faith, asking Him to provide the water they so desperately needed.

Despite their skepticism, the local team the pastor hired to drill the well, went ahead with the project until they finally hit water.  God had come through for the villagers.  They had their well.  That meant clean water for cooking, drinking, washing and bathing.  Today fresh water flows abundantly in the Jesus Well, relieving the itching and swelling the villagers had experienced from the water in the pond.

We never thought a well would be drilled in our village. But the true need of this village was met by Gospel for Asia. We are truly thankful for it – Nirdhar

Jesus delivered Nirdhar from evil spirits and an entire village from thirst and so much more.  We have a Lord and Savior who loves us and wants to provide for our basic needs. What affects us affects Him.  He takes a personal interest in our lives.  What a comforting thought.  Through Jesus Wells, Gospel for Asia can share the unfailing love of the One who gave His precious life for them.

On World Water Day and everyday, let us give thanks to God for the clean water we are blessed to have at our disposal and to purpose in our hearts to never take this essential source of life and sustenance for granted.  Think about the men, women and children who still don’t have clean water and how you can help them by donating to Jesus Wells.  You can find out more about Gospel for Asia’s Clean Water ministry here.

Clean water has so many benefits.  It means that a mother doesn’t have to worry about her child getting sick.  It means that a woman doesn’t have to travel for hours with her daughter to fetch contaminated water and it means that a girl doesn’t have to miss school.  Clean water means changed lives.
World Water Day 2015

Sources:  The Water Project; Gospel for Asia Canada

Inspiring Story from Kenya

I read this inspiring story and just had to share it.

A Life of Influence

Elizabeth Kimongo was born into a traditional Maasai family in Kenya. In her culture girls are expected to marry soon after their twelfth birthday. Women have little to say about their lives, but Elizabeth refused to leave school to marry. She had a dream.

While home for vacation before starting high school, Elizabeth learned that her father had arranged for her to marry an older man. With her mother’s blessing, she escaped and returned to her Adventist school.

During high school Elizabeth took her stand for Christ and later was baptized. When she told her mother that she wanted to study at the Adventist university, her mother encouraged her to go.

Elizabeth is majoring in agriculture, a field that will help her teach her people how to preserve their land and provide a better life. She works on campus and receives some scholarship funds to help her pay her school fees. Sometimes she must take a semester off to work full time to earn the money to continue her studies.

Elizabeth’s example has helped her younger sisters stay in school and avoid early marriage. Her father, once angry that his daughter would refuse to marry the man of his choice, now accepts her decision. But he pressures her younger sisters to marry this man. Elizabeth encourages her sister to walk close to God and continue their studies to make a better life.

Elizabeth urges other Maasai girls to study hard and trust in God. “Don’t allow life’s circumstances to steal your life away,” she says. “Satan wants to destroy you. You must trust God and not let Satan have his way.”

Elizabeth is old enough now that her community will not force her to marry. They accept her as an adult woman who can make her own decisions. “I want to teach my people by example how to produce better crops for a better life,” she says. “The village has given me a piece of land that I use to plant crops so that my fellow villagers can see for themselves the success they can have by following my example.”

Elizabeth is grateful for Adventist schools that have prepared her to live a life of influence among her Maasai people. Our mission offerings and Thirteenth Sabbath Offerings help these schools reach young people in all walks of life, including Maasai girls in the heart of eastern Africa. Thank you.

Elizabeth Kimongo will soon complete her studies and return to her village to work for her people and share God’s love among them.

Produced by the General Conference Office of Adventist Mission.  email:  info@adventistmission.org   website: www.adventistmission.org

It takes great courage to follow Jesus Christ and to stand up for your faith.  At times it costs people their relationships with family, friends, their jobs or even their lives.  For this young Kenyan woman, following Jesus was worth whatever the cost it took to do so.  She knew that God had bigger plans for her life than entering into marriage she didn’t want.  Education was more important and God’s help and her mother’s support, she was able to achieve what she set out to do.  As a result she could now be a blessing to her community and a role model for young girls and women.  God, through Elizabeth, was showing the Maasai people that He can do marvelous things among them and give them a bright future.

Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”  Like Elizabeth we too can make a difference in our community and reveal God’s love in the process.  You too can be a beacon of hope.  Don’t let fear, insecurity, opposition, doubt or Satan prevent you from pursuing your dream.  Continue to put your faith and trust in God and watch Him do wondrous things through you.