Tag Archives: global hunger

Hurricane Ida: Crisis in El Salvador


Courtesy SHARE Foundation (http://share-elsalvador.org)

Last week, we tweeted that Hurricane Ida hit the heart of El Salvador. Subsequent updates from the field have showed us how bad things really are. The storm destabilized weather patterns. Torrential rains & terrifying floods ripped through the capital city of San Salvador and 60% of the countryside. Nearly 200 people lost their lives, and over 10,000 lost their homes. Neighboring cities became islands, inaccessible except by helicopter. Crops were decimated, and those lucky enough to keep their homes lost access to vital services, health care, and food.


The SHARE Foundation, the Salvadoran Red Cross, and international aid workers work tirelessly for short term relief, but the real challenge comes after their efforts, with rebuilding and reconstruction. With worldly possessions washed away, how will Salvadorans live? With food stocks completely wiped out, how will Salvadorans eat? Looking forward to the second and future phases of recovery, the SHARE Foundation plans to restore agricultural production, emphasizing family farms & women’s co-operatives.


Courtesy SHARE Foundation (http://share-elsalvador.org)

For over a decade, MAZON has partnered with the SHARE Foundation to support agricultural programs & initiatives. Now, at this time of Salvadoran crisis, we ask you to partner with us for an emergency grant. Your support enables us to feed families in the short-term, and stay involved in the region in the long-term, as we have after Hurricane Katrina, to insure a healthy, sustainable recovery.


Please donate now. Under special instructions, tell us your donation is for El Salvador.


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Filed under International Relief, MAZON Grantees

Introducing MAZON’s New Site A.C.T.: End Hunger & iPhone App!

A.C.T.: End HungerTo end hunger, we must A.C.T. – Achieve Change Together.

Today, MAZON proudly launches our year-end campaign A.C.T.: End Hunger (http://actendhunger.org). A.C.T. reflects our core beliefs: that we can achieve a world without hunger, we can change lives, and we can work together to increase our impact. Join over 50,000 annual donors and help us raise $3 million in 3 months for the fight against hunger.

We’ve been listening to your suggestions & requests, and brought them to A.C.T.: End Hunger —

  • An easy-to-assemble MAZON tzedakah box for religious schools, kids & families. Print, fold, decorate, and send us pics of your mitzvah masterpiece! We’ll share your creations on our Flickr feed and blog!
  • Inform friends and family about ending hunger, and why it’s important to you. Email the site to a friend, tweet a link, or share it on Facebook, MySpace and many other social networking sites.
  • Our most exciting project is MAZON’s pioneering iPhone App. Stay involved wherever you go, with instant access to MAZON news, advocacy alerts, local volunteer opportunities & hunger facts. There’s also a giving calculator & easy donation link, so you can give back whenever you break bread. Available now at the App Store!
  • Stay tuned for even more exciting developments!

Need to get a head start on Thanksgiving and holiday greetings? Use MAZON’s new and improved online donation system to send tribute cards or e-cards simply and quickly to your friends and family. Tribute requests received by this Friday, November 20th at noon PST will be sent before Thanksgiving.

With our new donation system, make a one-time gift as a guest, or use your existing MAZON.org log-in to access your new myMAZON account. More features are being developed for myMAZON to make giving even easier! Soon, you’ll have instant access to your entire gift history, and create fundraising pages for family & friends to honor you at important life events.

We can Achieve Change Together! We can end hunger in our lifetime!


Filed under MAZON News

Avoiding Darfive

It is often in the absurd that poignant insights are provided.  In his new movie, Brüno, Sacha Baron Cohen’s character responds to a question regarding his social involvement:  “Darfur is old news…what about Darfive.”  He is commenting on our need to move on to what is fashionable and that human tragedies go in and out like the latest clothing designs. Painful as it might be, the suffering of the Darfuri people has not ended like an episode of a television drama. It has been a six-year long human catastrophe, and sadly there is no end in sight.

I just returned home to the Bay Area after spending 10 days in Eastern Chad, observing Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, in Darfuri refugee camps.  There are no Jews there, but there are millions of humans struggling to survive.  Having lived my life as a middle class American, I will never be able to communicate what life as a Darfuri refugee entails. I can only tell you what I have just seen.

I’ve seen hundreds of children under the age of six born in the camps, whose only experience of life so far is one of poverty, food rations and houses made of sheets and mud. I’ve seen women being wheeled miles back to the camps on wooden platforms over pitted roads, just hours after giving birth in an aid clinic. I’ve seen families building dirt shells around UN tents to protect themselves from ravaging heat, wind, and rain.

Since my first trip to the area in 2004, the camps now look like a village but a village without freedom, security, education or jobs. Because the people have had no choice but to live this way for so many years, things have normalized in a sense—if I can even connect such devastation and loss to anything normal.

Since 2003, four hundred thousand Darfuri people have lost their lives. Three million have lost their homes and all that a home represents.  For me, as a rabbi, there could be no better place to welcome in a new year.  Here, I am reminded of the brightness of human compassion and connection.  These are people often forgotten, living in the remotest part of the earth. They are surviving because of their resilience, their courage, and their refusal to give up hope.  Somehow they go on with minimal food, water and shelter. Their battle is not a political one; they are simply victims of ethnic cleansing, of genocide.  They wonder: Does the civilized world care? Have we been left to die?

I believe that our lives are inextricably linked. As long as we are allowing people to suffer this way, not just in Darfur, but in so many places in this world, our lives cannot really flourish.  Indeed, we can take great pride in so many human accomplishments.  Yet in terms of how human beings treat each other, perhaps all we can feel is embarrassment.

What can we  do in our own communities to help? We can first remember the wisdom of Martin Luther King Jr. who wrote from his Birmingham jail cell: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” If we allow such cruelty to take place anywhere in the world, might we also allow it here, in our home?   We are known as Americans for being being a community with a social conscience; does that conscience only extend to our immediate local concerns?  If we can’t find ways to help, who will?

There is much that can be done. We can provide financial support and aid. We can send letters and simple reminders to let them know we care. We can educate ourselves and stay informed. We can keep the plight of the Darfuri people on the minds of our families and friends. We can urge our country’s leaders to do more.  The tragedy of Rwanda did not need to unfold as it did; we failed to put pressure on the White House to act.

Darfur has been called the first genocide of the 21st century.  What a horrific attribution with an implication that there will be others.  Are we doomed to have others?  I believe not, if we can find the courage to see that human dignity and human rights are worth our sustained support.  It is time now to end the suffering of Darfur, lest we have Darfive, six and seven.

Ultimately, it is about the world we leave our children. When our grandchildren ask us, what did you do to help the Darfuri people, will we be embarrassed or will be able to say that we did everything within our power to help.

Like many holidays, the Jewish New Year is meant to shake us to our core and to remind us of our personal responsibility to be engaged global citizens.  Nowhere on earth could this message have been more deeply felt than sitting with the Darfuri refugees.

Our ability to respond and to care is immense—limited only by our own fears and doubts.  The people of Darfur are waiting for us to be bold, imaginative and do whatever we can to help restore their lives.

Lee Bycel is Executive Director of the Redford Center, based in Berkeley, CA. The Redford Center inspires positive social and environmental change through the arts, education and civil discourse.  He raised $100,000 for humanitarian aid prior to his recent trip.

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Darfuri Refugees’ Letter to President Obama

Last week, we brought you reflections from Rabbi Lee Bycel as he embarked on a visit to a Darfuri refugee camp in Chad. He returns with this letter from the Darfuri refugees to President Obama.
Senator Barack Obama at Save Darfur Rally in 2006. Photo courtesy Flickr user jillaryrose (http://www.flickr.com/photos/jillaryrose/).

Senator Barack Obama at Save Darfur Rally in 2006. Photo courtesy Flickr user jillaryrose (http://www.flickr.com/photos/jillaryrose/).

Guereda, Eastern Chad
Rosh Hashanah 2009

A letter to President Obama from the Darfuri refugees,

As a rabbi I sit here welcoming in the new year with Darfuri refugees, people of great courage, strength and determination. I am here to celebrate the opportunity of a new year, with people who need not just our prayers but also our actions.

I have spent the day at the Mille camp, home to 17,000 Darfuri refugees. I first came here in 2004, soon after their arrival. A few remember my visit.  They all remember your visit to Mille, also in 2004. Several people showed me their picture with you and told me how happy they are that you are now president.

Mr. President, the years since your visit have taken a great toll on the people. Some of the 13 year old girls you met are now mothers. Many of the boys are now soldiers. Many refugees have died and many new ones have arrived. The UN tents which are now severely torn and ravaged reflect the lives of the refugees.

"Darfur Refugee Family" Courtesy Internews Network (http://www.flickr.com/photos/internews/)

"Darfur Refugee Family" Courtesy Internews Network (http://www.flickr.com/photos/internews/)

Fifty babies a month are born in the Mille camp. Six hundred a year; about three thousand since your visit. Children like Sulaman, Hassan, Sumayah and Kadidya. They have wonderful smiles and beautiful eyes. Like our children, they want security, food, water and shelter. Thanks to the US, other countries and the humanitarian community, they have the minimal amount of each in order to survive.

For them, for their parents, their daily prayer is to return to Darfur. They are innocent, good people, as you have said “victims of genocide.”

Enough is not being done. They are waiting…waiting very patiently for their nightmare to end. I have synthesized their message for you.

Remember us. Remember your time here at Mille. Remember our situation. Remember our faces. We want to go home to Darfur and live in peace. We want to rebuild our lives. Please, please Mr. President do everything in your power to help us. Too many years have gone by. We need you. We do not know what to do but have great confidence in you. Our prayers are with you and your family.

Thank you,

The Darfuri refugees in Mille, as communicated to Rabbi Lee Bycel on September 18, 2009.

Rabbi Lee Bycel is a MAZON board member and Executive Director of the Berkeley-based Redford Center. The Redford Center inspires positive social and environmental change through the arts, education and civil discourse.  For suggestions on actions you can take regarding Darfur please visit the Save Darfur Coalition.

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Filed under Food For Thought, Guest Blog, Hunger Fighters, International Relief

The Carrot & The Shotgun

Courtesy Flickr user Steve Rhode (http://www.flickr.com/photos/steverhode/)

Courtesy Flickr user Steve Rhode (http://www.flickr.com/photos/steverhode/)

Recently, MAZON welcomed Bob Forney, former President & CEO of the Chicago Stock Exchange & America’s Second Harvest (now Feeding America) into our offices to share the successes of his current efforts with The Global Foodbanking Network. Founded in 2006 as a collaboration between Feeding America, Food Banks Canada, Red Argentina de Bancos de Alimentos & Associación Mexicana de Bancos de Alimentos, The Global Foodbanking Network (GFN) establishes & supports food bank networks serving over a billion people worldwide who suffer from hunger and malnourishment. Mr. Forney has personally been involved with GFN programs in Jordan (which, besides hungry Jordanians, has seen an influx of a million Iraqi refugees in recent years), Turkey, Argentina, Canada, South Africa & Israel (these last two funded by MAZON seed money).

Why food bank networks, as opposed to more localized service centers? Mr. Forney offers a real-world example from his experience working with food suppliers. If Kellogg’s has a defective batch of Rice Krispies that tastes fine but doesn’t snap, crackle & pop to perfection, they can’t ship it to grocers, but it costs them money to dispose of it themselves. If Kellogg’s were to donate it to a single organization, that group would need access to a secure warehouse, industrial equipment & staff capable of receiving, storing, sorting & distributing 300 metric tons of rice before it goes bad. Few groups can manage that, and unfortunately the Rice Krispies goes to the dump – but with a food bank network, an infrastructure exists that can meet everyone’s needs across different regions.

The problem with some well-meaning organizations, according to Forney, is their inability to break barriers & collaborate. Nobody’s mission statement requires them to work alone, and ending hunger is one of the few things all people agree on – from everyday citizens, farmers & grocers to large-scale suppliers & politicians – but long-term change can only occur with a committee of the whole.

This is where you, the donor & concerned citizen, come in. You have the carrot & the shotgun to entice and, if necessary, force organizations to work together. Without your donations of time & resources, no organization can function, but with your help, ideas & pressure, organizations can break barriers, work together & end hunger once and for all. Hunger’s greatest ally is distance – the distance between the poor & accessible food, and the distance between organizations looking to save the universe by themselves. That distance separates a billion people, and it’s our responsibility to close the gap and bring everyone back together.

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Filed under Hunger Advocacy, International Relief, Interviews, MAZON Grantees

Heroes For Haiti: Hollywood United & You

Courtesy Friends of the Children of Lascahobas, Haiti

Courtesy Friends of the Children of Lascahobas, Haiti

Haiti remains one of the poorest countries in the world: 80% of Haitians live under the poverty line, with 70% unemployed. Hurricanes flood the streets, while deforestation devastates the soil & eliminates key sources of fuel. Last year’s food riots have ceased (after bringing down the government), but shortages & malnutrition still plague Haiti.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that there are many ways to become a hero for Haiti.


This Saturday, August 8, Hollywood Unites For Haiti, InkTip & the HollyShorts Film Festival unite for a fundraiser reception at The Kress in Hollywood. Hosted by Hollywood Unites For Haiti founder & president Jimmy Jean-Louis (“Heroes”), the event features a gallery auction of portraits by pop artist Nicolosi, a raffle of Haitian art & special screening of the finalists for HollyShorts Film Festival’s Webisode category. All proceeds benefit Hollywood Unites For Haiti, and donations are also accepted at the door. For more information, or to RSVP, please email rsvp@hollyshorts.com.

If you can’t make Hollywood Unites For Haiti’s reception, the group also accepts donations of sports equipment, toiletries & computers for Haitian children’s programs. Several MAZON grantees also do important work in the region. The Lambi Fund of Haiti has a number of sustainable agriculture projects, including reforestation, goat & pig breeding, and training impoverished farmers on techniques and technologies appropriate to the region. Many of our synagogue partners & donors in Florida have collected funds specifically for The Lambi Fund. For over 30 years, Friends of the Children of Lascahobas, Haiti has brought medical services & screening to the border town of Lascahobas, where half the children under 5 are malnourished and only 25% of the population has access to clean drinking water. They have also set up a cooperative in Lascahobas so that Haitian mothers can work together to manage precious resources and create sustainable economics for their families.

Donations to MAZON ensure the continuation of work to end hunger in Haiti. With our combined efforts, we can all be heroes for Haiti.

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Filed under International Relief, Links, MAZON Grantees

Advocacy is Easy

[The following appeared earlier this week as a guest blog on #twitterforfood, a monthly event where Twitter users skip a meal to draw attention to stopping global hunger. For more information, read our thoughts here and visit TwitterForFood.com. For those fasting in observance of Tisha B’Av, we suggest acting on #twitterforfood today instead of August 1, as multiple fasts in one week may be harmful to your health.]

You Tweet for Food every month. You click The Hunger Site every day. You play Free Rice on your lunch break. You befriend national organizations like Feeding America & MAZON on Facebook and follow local groups as often as they post.

Whether you’ve done any of these things, all of them, or just followed the links for the first time, thank you for taking a stand against hunger. With over a billion people suffering from hunger worldwide, there’s never too little you can do to make an impact. Unfortunately, there’s much more that still needs to be done.

At MAZON, we ask that our grantees and partner organizations join us in anti-hunger advocacy and education. This way, we can ensure that everyone will be fed today, tomorrow AND the day after that. This year, amidst incredible need and opportunities for change, we asked our donors to heed the call, involve their communities, and inform their legislatures to support Federal Summer Food Services. That sounds like a tall order, but you can greatly increase your impact, right now, without even leaving your computer.

Why do you Twitter For Food? Take as long as you need to think of an answer. Now pop open a phone, chat window, or email and say hello to a friend. When they ask what you’ve been up to, give them that answer. Ask if they would be interested in joining in next month. Congratulations! You’re now an anti-hunger advocate.

Advocacy is easy. It looks tricky, but all it means is speaking up for what you believe in. Whether you chat with family over dinner, or address the community at a synagogue/church/City Council meeting; whether you cite sweeping studies, or offer a personal story; whether you type 140 characters or 140 pages, it’s advocacy. If your passion is real, and your words are true – it’s advocacy.

That being said, unless your relatives are Senators, you’ll need to write local or national representatives to get the ball rolling on major changes. To find your local legislator, search via Google or a website like Project Vote Smart.

  • First, find a specific bill that calls to you. Saying you support ending global hunger is fantastic, but most legislators would feel just as overwhelmed by that charge as you or I.
  • Keep an eye on Twitter feeds, or check our advocacy alert page & blog for action updates. You’ll want to know the bill’s name, number (H.R.__ for the House of Representatives or S.__ for the Senate) & sponsor(s).
  • Don’t assume the legislator & their staff know the ins & outs of every bill – provide a brief description as you understand it.
  • Imagine you’re sending the same letter to a family member – be clear, concise & respectful (particularly if your legislator disagrees with you regarding the issue).

For an example, let’s use S.934, The Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act of 2009, sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin. I might say the following…

Dear Senator_______________________:

I am writing to seek your support of S.934, The Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act of 2009, sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin. The Act amends The Child Nutrition Act of 1966 to improve the nutrition and health of schoolchildren by updating the national school nutrition standards for foods and beverages sold outside of school meals. Since the 1970’s, nutritional science has changed drastically, and obesity rates have tripled amongst schoolchildren aged 6-19. Meals provided through the School Lunch & School Breakfast Programs must meet science-based nutrition standards, but foods sold outside these programs currently do not. Updating these nutrition standards for all foods ensures that all schoolchildren who purchase food through school can eat healthy and lower their risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease & other health conditions.



You can advocate via mail, e-mail, or even the phone. Increase your impact! Let’s stop hunger together!


Filed under Food For Thought, Hunger Advocacy