Tag Archives: Feed The Children

Global Conference

16 Apr

Did you know that Feed The Children has a blog where we tell all kinds of stories about what is going on in our organization? Check out Beyond today!

Here’s a portion of my latest contribution over there to the Leader’s Corner channel.

It was exciting to be in the Feed The Children offices in Oklahoma City last month. The world came to Oklahoma as we hosted all of our international regional and country directors for our annual Global Conference.

Over the course of 8 days we shared stories of our work, we discussed our plans to add and expand programs, and we challenged one another to grow together in professional development. Most of all we dreamed together about how we could serve even more children and families—truly fulfilling our mission that no child goes to bed hungry.

We kicked off the week with an historic event: the international leadership of Feed The Children and World Neighbors, our newest partner, sat in the room together and planned collaborative work to help build self-sufficient communities around the globe. It was the first time since World Neighbors became a Feed The Children subsidiary that our respective teams joined together in such a dialogue. I felt so privileged to witness this talented and motivated group gathered in person around a common table to talk about how we could build a more cohesive organization as a global family. And the synergy that exists between the work of these two organizations was amazing to witness!

To read more click here

Working Space Inspiration

4 Apr

What does a President of a large international relief and development organization get for a gift?

After all I’ve seen and experienced in my travels around the world, I’m convinced that I don’t need a thing.

However, it is good to have a comfortable office space in which to work, but it is even more important to work in a place that inspires you and reminds you why you do what you do.

Several weeks ago, my staff who was tired of coming into my office and looking at  blank walls decided that it was time to put something on those blank walls – this large display behind my desk. I couldn’t believe how wonderful it turned out.

What joy these faces are to my wife, Elizabeth and I as many of them are kids we’ve met during our travels around the world!

What responsibility we feel to make sure we are doing everything we can to help no child go hungry!

What hope these faces give us for the future!

Look at their beautiful smiles!

I loved my gift!

Attachment-1Now, every time I look at this large display, I think to myself ….. I love my job.

I think about how thankful I am to have such a supportive partner in my wife Elizabeth, who works (without pay) within in our Public Relations and Communications Department because she believes so strongly in our mission.

I think about how my life has been changed by the faces of these children– the hands that I’ve held, the hugs I’ve received, and the meals we’ve shared together.

And I pray that my heart continues to stay open wide for this incredible journey and for all that is to come.

So, until my next trip, I’m surrounded by this working space inspiration.

Hope for the Future

4 Mar

Last week, Forbes Magazine came out with an article by Phil DeMuth called, “Death of the Big Charity” with the basic hypothesis that younger philanthropic givers are skeptical of large institutional charities.

DeMuth writes: “While their parents were happy to write elephantine checks to the “American Big Disease Association” or the “Big City Cultural Institution” or “Ye Olde Ivy College Foundation” or the “Mainline Church Denomination”, the kids (and by kids here I mean from age 18 through their 30s) have little interest in outfits like these”

Our name wasn’t mentioned but it could be inferred that Feed The Children falls in this category. We are a big box charity. In fiscal year 2013, we distributed 98 million pounds of food and supplies with a total value of $215 million to over 10 million individuals in the U.S.  Internationally we distributed 21 million pounds of food, medicine, and essentials valued at $129 million to children and families in the 23 countries we serve. Our reach is large. It would be easy for folks to be skeptical of us, especially those in the age category that DeMuth mentions and in women, the age of my wife as who wrote about her skepticism here.

But I don’t believe DeMuth’s argument is completely true. And it is because of young adults that I meet when I am traveling in the field, like the one I met recently, James Williams.

37a2c05James is a 20 something in Washington DC who several years ago had a dream of making a difference for families in the developing world. He could have allowed his age or fear of the unknown or even the fact that he was still in school to keep him from pursuing his dream but he didn’t. After a friend went on a trip to Africa and came back with a custom made hoodie, James and his soon to be business partner had an idea.

What if these hoodies could be made by master tailors in Kenya and sold in the US? They loved the hoodies and thought others would feel the same.

James took a solo trip back to Kenya and pursued the project. His dream was to positively impact the lives of families in need in a community. The project would be called Udu.

Yet, James knew his business would need a larger partner. Through mutual connections he began a conversation with our Regional Director in Kenya who told James about Feed The Children’s focus on livelihood development. James decided to partner with us. During his visit and through continued virtual conversations, James taught the women and men in our programs in Nairobi to make his product. Today, these hoodies are sold through James’ website and at our Feed The Children store in Oklahoma City. (From what I hear the hoodies are selling out like crazy!) The profits go back into the local community in Kenya. I couldn’t be prouder that James and Udu has a partnership with us.

I know James is not the only young person passionate about big global issues like poverty, hunger and economic development. I know there are other James out there who are already working with us and we just haven’t had the privilege of meeting yet. I know there are more amazing ideas and projects like Udu yet to be discovered.

Meeting people like James give me hope for the future of big charities being able to connect and be relevant to the next generation – we aren’t dead. We are thriving and growing and hoping that people like you will partner with us soon.

It’s All About Just One

15 Jan

imageBeing in this line of work, people stop to ask me two kinds of questions.

The first is something along the lines, of (not really a question) “Wow, you must sleep so well at night knowing what kind of good work you are doing?” (These are the people who want to make me into the saint I am not).

And the second is, “How do you sleep at night after all the things you’ve seen in other countries? Don’t you just get so overwhelmed?” (These are the people who don’t realize having your heart exposed to such poverty and injustice is just a part of the role).

However, the real truth is that some nights I sleep just fine, and others….not so much.

I am 100% confident that I am doing with my life what I need to be doing right now, but at the same time, I do have restless nights. I feel the weight of responsibility on my shoulders. I don’t want to let down the hundreds of thousands of children — who are depending on Feed The Children. I hope that I am doing everything I can to let the staff know how much they are valued and appreciated so that we can focus our efforts on delivering for the children.

While I am encouraged by the good I know we are doing in many places that are in desperate need of hope, I am also filled with anxiety sometimes as to why we can’t do more. There are always sad faces that I see on children when I travel, kids who I know did not get enough to eat the day before, both in the US and around the world.  And there are always too few hours in the day to accomplish all that I dream about coming forth at Feed The Children.

However, there are new mentors I’m gaining along the way. They are teaching me that at the end of the day it’s always about just one child.

It’s about one family.

It’s about one opportunity presented.

It’s about one life changed.

It has been interesting as I have settled into my role with Feed The Children that there are several kids in different places I’ve traveled that have stuck with me. I’ve seen thousands of kids. I’ve hugged hundreds. But then, there is one or two in a country or a region of the world that have captured my heart in a special way. I know I am doing my job for them.

I know these are the ones that come to mind when I have a bad day. They encourage me to work smarter and lead more wisely.

In the wee hours of the night when I can’t sleep, I think of them. I remember as my mentors have taught me: it is always about one child.

And because of this one child, I keep on keeping on– long, sleepless nights or not.

Adapting Strategic Plans

12 Jan

Even if you aren’t a visionary leader or a visionary organization, one of the easiest things you can do to make people on the outside think that you are is to create a strategic plan.

The process of writing it can be as simple or complicated as you want it to be. Meeting after meeting, consensus building after consensus building, fight, cry, pray and then emerge from the process with a one year, five year and ten year strategic plan.

I am not anti processes like this. In fact, when I arrived, Feed The Children had a strategic plan that they’d worked diligently on for quite awhile. I appreciated its thoughtfulness and passion for success. This plan did a great job in many ways of steering our big ship in a more fruitful direction.

But, from where I sit and the experiences of leadership that I’ve had thus far in my career, I have come to see a lack of execution as a real hindrance to an organization. For so many times I’ve seen organizations reach the point of creation of a 10 year plan and then feel like it is an invitation to rest on the confidence of the plan– without making leaps and bounds toward what is actually in the plan. So easily strategic plans can be placed on a shelf somewhere gathering dust while the organization continues on in a pattern of status quo.

I don’t want Feed The Children to be one of these organizations. I want us to be vibrant. I want us to challenge the status quo. I want us to be known as an organization that executes our plan well.

This is why when I arrived on the scene 18 months, I listened. Then, as a leadership team we evaluated the current strengths and failures of our organization. And then we took a time out and devoted some of our key energy toward re-writing our plan. Our new strategic plan is in tune with where I know Feed The Children is destined to go. Our new strategic plan is an active document that we are seeking to live into more each day.

I believe this is what adaptive leadership is all about.

We evaluate our assets, our strengths and our downright pitfalls so that our plans are not just strategic, but relevant.

Franklin D. Roosevelt once said: “It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.”

Leadership is as much about having the right ideas as it is being able to adapt to new ones.

Leadership is as much about projecting toward to the future as it is understanding the present.

Leadership is as much about making plans as it actually following through with them.

I’m glad I’m a life-long learner of leadership and that there’s not just one plan.

New Thoughts for the New Year

31 Dec

New Year’s Day will be here so soon!

It’s that time of year when we all seek to sit down and make resolutions. We seek to get our financial life in order. We want to lose weight. We want to be better people.

I am not the kind of guy who often makes resolutions. Not that I am against them or those who do, but I rarely follow through with some lofty self-improvement goal that rolls off my tongue on December 31. So years ago, I just stopped. Now I just try to live the way I know I ought to live every day of the year. Sometimes I fail miserably. Other times I do pretty good.

G.K Chesterton said: “The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes.”

I loved this quote when I first read it for two reasons.

First, it speaks to the fact that there is nothing overtly magical about the ticking of the clock towards 12:01am on New Year’s Day. Yes, it’s great to stop and celebrate, to have a good time with friends and family. But, in the end, New Year’s is not that big of deal. It’s just another moment, another day, and another opportunity to breathe with thanksgiving for the gift of life. We are lucky to have so many of these moments through the year.

Second, I love the idea that Chesterton speaks of transformation. To truly be the “better people” that many of us crave to be, we have to allow something greater than ourselves (and I call this God in my own life) to change us– to give us a new soul, a new nose, a new backbone, new ears and new eyes.

Simply put, we have to see the world differently.

Over the course of 2013, I have had many opportunities through my work with Feed The Children to see the world with a new perspective.

I’ve met girls like Karen in Honduras who must go through the trash every day in order to earn her family a few dollars to live on. And though she misses school, she goes in later and gets the class assignments she missed from her teachers in an attempt to get the education that she hopes will lift her and her family out of poverty.
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I’ve met child care workers like those who run our orphange in Kenya who love and care for the children under their care as if they birthed these babies themselves.

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I’ve met boys like Oscar who our country staff calls “Kevin 2” although we are no blood relation– there is something about his spirit that has captured mine and vice versa.

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And through these experiences I am slowly and gradually changing.

This year I bought fewer Christmas gifts for those who really don’t need the excess and I gave more away.

This year as I sat around the Christmas table with my family, I couldn’t help but remember my larger family (and children!) around the world.

This year when late nights at work and piles on my desk sought to stress me out, I took a moment and remembered why I am working so hard– for the children– and I carried on.

I’m sure 2014 has much more to teach me and I am ready. New Years resolutions or not, 2014, here I come!

What I Saw in Honduras and Nicaragua

12 Dec

imageLast week, the Feed The Children Christmas tour continued as Elizabeth and I packed our bags for Central America.

We went to see the field programs that seek to feed children, provide better opportunities for education and livelihood development– many of which I had seen before (in Honduras last December) and in Nicaragua (which I had not). We went to share Christmas gifts with the kids in our programs on behalf of the rest of the staff in Oklahoma. We went to do what we could to encourage the good work of our field staff in these countries.

[As an aside, Elizabeth when she travels with me pays her own way to go. She is so excited about the work and mission of Feed The Children that she currently volunteers her time to support the work of our communications department and build relationships with staff as I travel. She recently wrote about what this experience has been like for her in case you are curious here].

As we rose at early hours in the day and traveled down bumpy roads and drove up the hill seeking to not get stuck in the mud in other communities, I couldn’t help but think about how great our reach is an organization.

I know I share the statistic all the time that we feed over 352,000 kids every school day. It sounds like a nice number. It is a big number (but of course I think we could feed more). But, when you begin to see with your eyes what this work looks like as I have in back to back trips over the past three weeks on multiple continents, you can’t help but say wow.

In the past at FTC, we haven’t been as upfront as we should have been about our international field work. There has been more that we should have done to communicate the message of who we are and who we are serving to our staff in Oklahoma as well as our donors. But, it is a new day and a new conversation. And I am here to tell you, I am so pleased at what I see going on in Honduras and Nicaragua.

image copyI saw children in a Honduran community, where the major income producer is collecting trash for recycling, coming to school with TOMS shoes on them (distributed by FTC) eager to learn.

I saw children in FTC’s care at Casa del Nino (a boy’s home for ages 5-18) in Honduras who were among some of the most well-behaved boys I’ve ever met with hearts wide open to love and give back to those in need in their community.

I saw children in a Nicaraguan community with mothers who so desperately want a better life for their families that they’ll come to parenting class and spend time learning out to bake bread in our community development center that they can sell to their neighbors.

I saw so much poverty. I saw so many dirty faces. I saw so many babies who needed their diapers changed.

But, I saw so much hope: hope that our field staff is bringing to these communities everyday.

It’s hope that looks like a hug, going the extra mile to enroll one of the children in one of our programs, and the look of delight when a child gets a plate full of rice, vegetables, and chicken.

I know Christmas is days away– but for me, my heart is already full. I’ve had my Christmas. Honduras and Nicaragua were places that brought the icing on the cake that Kenya made for us weeks ago.

I’m so proud to lead this team. And, in you should be proud of one another too.