Yep, last week I stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial pretending to shout, "Jenny?" Then I switched characters and mimed back, "Forrest?" I envisioned myself in a long, swaying skirt and sandals, trudging through the reflecting pond to meet a dear friend. My husband gave me that look he has, and I snapped back to reality. Even so, it was a fun moment.
Washington D.C. is a small town, or so the politicians have said, the NGOs (non governmental ogranizations) agreed, as did the staffers we met. Staffers are the young, energetic and idealistic people who run our country from the many offices on Capitol Hill.
We were a group of eleven midwestern folks arriving a bit disheveled from navigating the Chicago rush hour, flooded roads and no breakfast. Our purpose was to see as many politicians as we could, visit with private volunteer organizations and spread the word about our organization called Foods Resource Bank (FRB).
We divided up in order to visit with as many Congressmen as possible. My group met with Congressman Weller, from our Illinois district. Congressman Weller comes from a farming family and was very interested in hearing about our grassroots organization of farmers helping farmers around the world. We visited Senator O'Bama's office and met with staffers there. We shared our feelings about developing sustainability programs to third world countries. We were well received in both offices. They were genuinely excited to visit with us.
I had no idea NGOs were so prevalent in D.C. They are a moving force and it was a privilege to meet with them. I felt we were preaching to the choir as we visited. Many provided lunch for us and we shared ideas and programs regarding the world hunger issue. The biggest problem in underdeveloped countries is that - they are not productive enough to feed their own people. Less than 2% of the people in this country provide the food you eat each day. Move around the globe and you will find 60-70% of the people are farmers and still they go hungry.
In the last seven out of eight years food production has not met with the world's needs. We have dipped into the world food reserve with no guarantee of how to replenish that supply. If you know anything of Economics 101, you probably figured out that has caused food prices to increase. That is an inconvenience to us, but starvation to those who can not afford to buy food. So you can see why my husband and I, along with other farmers, feel the urgency to educate farmers around the world. If a country can not sustain itself, it become a burden to everyone.
Our days doing the Hill were busy. We met with national and international groups:
World Vision, United Methodist Committee on Relief, Bread for the World, US African Development Foundation, World Hope International, Lutheran World Relief, Catholic Relief Services, End Hunger in Africa, and more. Some we met in panel discussions, others over lunch and some in their modest offices.
If you are wondering if your charitable donations are at work, I can tell you they are. Many of these organizations are making every dollar stretch. But what we encountered most was surprise. Surprise that a group of farmers would take the time to visit Washington D.C. Suprised even more that we cared about educating farmers in underdevloped countries. Many organizers admitted that world agriculture has not been a priority for over thirty years and it has led to this crisis. And it will take groups like Foods Resource Bank to bring about change. FRB is instrumental in asking underdeveloped communities what they need most and then helping them obtain that goal. It may be a well, an irrigation system or a new way of planting a crop. But the farmers, the community, is involved from the get-go. It's not a hand out but a hand up.
Forrest and Jenny may go together like peas and carrots, but farmers helping farmers is the real bread and butter to a thriving world economy where hunger is only a memory. We were only a small voice in Washington, but a clear one with a hope and desire to make significant changes in agriculture around the world. I recall several people commenting, "not many take the time to tell us their concerns. I wish more people would do that."
So, my challenge to you, as a writer, as an American, is to SPEAK UP. Write to your congressmen, ask the tough questions. Get involved on another level. Your concerns may not be mine, but I'm sure they are just as important. Your voice, however small, can be heard if only you use it.
I spoke up in Washington D.C. I had never dreamed of doing such a thing. Yet once the opportunity arose, I seized it. I'm so glad I did.
Til next time ~
PS: If you want to know more about Foods Resource Bank, visit www.foodsresourcebank.org