I left Malawi in December of 2013, only a few weeks after arriving. My time there passed by in a blur and I left with a vague recollection of latent images I would later process and share. I left wondering if it was enough to be a witness to the things I had seen, and the stories I had heard, or if, having witnessed these things, I was immediately made responsible to them. My question of responsibility is one I hope to be continually asking throughout my life, and even if I never come to a definitive answer I hope that I will always have the courage to respond with willingness and humility.
For the last thirty days I have been eating much less, both in volume and variety, with the intention of raising awareness of the story of hunger that most Malawians face every day. I’m doing this because I want to experience it myself, to whatever limited extent I can, and because I want others to take pause and consider their own relationship with hunger. I don’t have an answer to solve world hunger. But I do know that I am capable of helping at least some of those who face hunger in a severe way every day.
The following is a letter that I wrote and sent out last week. If there are others who might be interested in supporting the New Life Center in Malawi, please follow the link.
Some of you are aware that I set an intention 27 days ago to spend 30 days in Hunger Solidarity with Malawians in the hope of raising awareness for an organization I worked with in Malawi called The New Life Center. I’ve been eating only a dollar’s worth of food each day and am nearing the end of my 30 days. I’ve lost about ten pounds, but I seem to be leveling out. My diet has consisted largely of lentils and rice, with small portions of a few other things to add some variety. It hasn’t been as difficult as I thought it would be but, as I’ve mentioned several times in my blog www.foodforaday.wordpress.com, I am doing this with the awareness that I will have food the next day, and that I’m doing this by choice, and that my intention has an expiry date. These are luxuries that most Malawians do not have. For them, hunger is a daily reality and it represents a constant unknown.
The New Life Center is working to address hunger issues in Malawi by providing direct access to food for those who need it most, and training to farmers who are otherwise limited in their ability to produce enough maize each year to feed their families. The center’s fundraising goal is $22,000, of which they have raised $8308. My personal goal is to raise $3000 for the New Life Center, of which I have raised $808, although $258 of that was out of my own pocket as a representation of the average amount that Canadians spend each month on groceries. I’ve waived this luxury for 30 days, but as I near the end of it I know that I am developing new intentions, which are now related to the variety and the amount of food I will choose to eat in the future.
I’m writing to ask if you’ll support this project with me. I’ve spent time with the individuals responsible for this organization in Malawi and I believe deeply in them. Their stories are available through the organization responsible for the facilitation of their fundraising efforts, an organization based out of San Francisco called Groundwork Opportunities. It was through Groundwork Opportunities that I traveled to Malawi in November and December of 2013. I’ve been very impressed with the organization and am happy to share that they do not hold any percentage of your donation for their own operating expenses. Instead, at the time of donating they provide you with the option of donating an additional small amount to Groundwork Opportunities. Every dollar you donate to The New Life Center in Malawi is received by the New Life Center.
So, here are some suggestions:
1.The average Canadian spends $8 per day on groceries. This doesn’t include meals out. Try to spend an entire day eating only $1 of food. Or even a single meal. Donate the remainder of your allotted $8 to the New Life Center. It seems like a small amount, but if enough people were willing to do this, it would make a considerable difference.
2. Host a dinner with your friends and your family. Allow $1 for each person in attendance and see what kind of meal you can come up with. Ten people would give you $10. Then, put together the money that you might have spent if you had gone out for dinner to a restaurant and donate it collectively to The New Life Center. Ten people could very easily come up with $200, which would be a huge help.
3. In solidarity with my 30 days, donate $30. One dollar for every day.
4. In recognition of the imbalance of wealth between our countries, donate the amount that you would spend on groceries during a normal month. The average for Canadians is $240. Maybe you spend more, or maybe less.
The issues around hunger are complex and overwhelming, and I don’t want to ignore these complexities or discount them. But nor do I want to be paralyzed by them. Even if my response is as simple as offering a small amount of money to an organization I believe in, I am doing more than nothing.
For more information on The New Life Center, or to make a donation, visit www.groundworkopportunities.org.
To hear more about my personal experience of my time in Malawi and my current experiment in hunger solidarity read my blog at www.foodforaday.wordpress.com or watch this brief video: https://vimeo.com/102839666
Thank you for your time and your support.
“I never look at the masses as my responsibility. I look at the individual. I can love only one person at a time. I can feed only one person at a time. Just one, one, one.”
- Mother Theresa