Tag Archives: Nicaragua

When You Are the One Receiving the Thanks

27 May

photo-2Last week I traveled through Nicaragua and El Salvador visiting our programs, chatting with our staff and making preparations for our new Feed The Children brand, which will be nationally launched on June 16th.

Last Thursday in El Salvador, I helped to dedicate a new water project providing water to over 250 families, a school, and churches.

Every time I travel overseas, there’s a speech I hear often from those families we serve. And it always begins with “Thank you.”

“Thank you for giving us hope that our children can stay in school . . . ”

“Thank you for providing our children with nutritious meals we couldn’t provide for them. . . . ”

And, “Thank you for remembering us, Mr. Kevin and coming to visit us today. . . . ”

Whenever I hear these words I feel overwhelmed because I know that it is not on my effort alone (by any stretch of the imagination) that has led to these thank you statements.

But yet I am the one saying, “You’re welcome.” I’m the one who everyone wants in their pictures. I am the one who makes the long voyages to remote villages because it is my job. People want to thank me. And I’m glad to meet them.

It would be easy I think, for this praise and focused attention to go to my head.

(And I know now why so many CEOs in positions like mine get in trouble, thinking that the great successes in the field are some how all about him or her).

But I don’t want it to. I want there to be a better posture in which to receive “Thank you!” I want to humbly honor this responsiblity given to me.

This is what I know after almost 2 years of being in this role: I don’t want to be “the” face of Feed The Children.

photo-1I want to be “a” face because this is a team effort of monumental proportions.

I want to be “a” face because I believe in our team and the importance of their faces too.

I want to be “a” face because I know I am only one of the many who ensure our mission of no child going to bed hungry is the forefront of what we do everyday!

It takes the work of many and countless hours to come along side communities to help them build capacity to take care of themselves. When I show up, it’s the conclusion of a long process of development work.

And so when I’m now out visiting field programs, I encourage our photographers to take pictures more people than just me. I graciously can accept a thank you, but I want to do so with other leaders beside me. I want to cut ribbons with other leaders right there.

At my core, I am merely representative of all the amazing FTC staff globally that put their own comfort on the back burner and sometimes their lives on the line to serve a higher calling to help those who want desperately to change their life conditions.

And if I forget, I have my wife to remind me– my life partner who never lets my head get too big . . . ever.   

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.