Tag Archives: Kenya

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.

Advertisements

Kenya on My Mind

4 Dec

picstitchTwo days ago I returned from my second trip to Kenya since I’ve been President of Feed The Children. It was another wonderful adventure.

While there were countless business meetings and other official activities to attend, what I enjoyed most was the time spent with the children at the Dagoretti Children’s Center in Nairobi, an orphange we run for about 100 kids.

Different from our other programs around the world, the Kenyan kids are our own! Once these kids enter our care, they are ours for life (unless they are adopted or reunited with family somehow). Many of them were either dropped off at our doorstep or left in hospital rooms by parents who no longer felt they could take care of them as babies. Some lost their parents in terrorist attacks. Some of our toddlers were found in trash heaps. Many of them have special needs. All of them just want to be seen. As I greeted each one, what mattered was not the color of my skin or my country of my origin. Rather, what they wanted from me (and all their caregivers) is to know that they were loved.

As a received big hugs and warm smiles from babies, teens and even from our group home of young adult men, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “I have the best job in the world.” Though the circumstances that brought each of the children to the center were harsh and most of all unjust (every child deserves the right to grow up in a loving family!), to see each of the kids thrive was the spiritual jolt my soul needed.

It’s easy in a line of work like this, especially in an organization where transformation is the name of our game plan, to get bogged down and discouraged. It’s easy to forget why we work so hard. It’s easy to not say prayers of thanksgiving. The challenges can sometimes outweigh the feelings of blessings. However, as much as I went to be with and serve the kids last week in Kenya, I need to declare that they served me!

As I muse about all of this today with Kenya still on my mind, I am grateful for the encouragement I received in Kenya last week.

My wife and I often talked about what our eyes saw and our ears heard last week. We couldn’t help but think about the scripture where Jesus says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

In Kenya last week, we saw so many of the faces of God. And for this, even as I’ve settled back into the harshness of winter in the US, I say thank you, Kenya.