Sunday, September 7, 2014

Let's not forget Oxfam's youngest supporters!

At the beginning of this summer (2014), Oxfam America staff in Boston, working with Action Corps members, put out a call to current and former organizers to share past highlights, stories of lessons learned, and experiences of the unexpected - pleasant or otherwise. The following blog post looks at how one unexpected source of success helped to shape the advocacy being done by Iowa Oxfam Action Corps organizers in 2012...

As the Oxfam Action Corps, we often mobilize around targeted issues, campaign actions, and lobbying stunts. Our ultimate goal is to raise awareness about injustices faced by people all over the globe.

Poverty is wrong, we say.
We can RIGHT that wrong, we say.

Our call for a more just world is heard at farmers markets, music venues, hunger banquets, and sometimes by congressional staffers. And for all the good that that contributes towards, our primary audience is, well, adults.

Should it be so surprising, then, that two significant and memorable successes for the Iowa Oxfam Action Corps came from the help of children?

In July of 2012, the Iowa Action Corps had an opportunity to develop educational activities for a youth “survival” summer camp at the Science Center of Iowa. Here, we prepared activities to teach children about the food and water scarcity experienced by millions around the world. Many children, like adults, had never considered how far some people have to walk to get to their water source or considered how difficult life could be for farmers and the communities who depend on them in drought stricken areas of Africa. For the final activity of the day, we asked the children to prepare a message for farmers experiencing hardships in Senegal, Africa. Their message: believe in the future.

That’s rather amazing when you think about it! These children (a.k.a. “the future”) in some small way were already taking ownership of their distant responsibilities for shaping our shared world. They understood that poverty and hunger won’t be solved overnight – their message was that it’s a multi-generational effort.

Believe in the future, they said.
Believe in us, they said.

Later that year, in September, the Iowa Action Corps had the chance to table at the World Food and Music Festival in the Historic East Village of Des Moines. This annual multi-day (family-friendly) event features nearly 75,000 attendees and, of course, some amazing food! One of our volunteers, a teacher, had suggested that we have an activity at our booth that gives children a chance to participate. We brainstormed and came up with an activity for children to draw and color pictures of food on paper plates, that if they could, they would give to hungry children around the world. The results were amazing! Their work decorated our booth and easily served as a draw for passerby’s throughout the entire event. Our booth stood out because of their work and that, in turn, helped us collect more than 1,000 petition signatures for a campaign action – a huge leap for Oxfam support in Iowa.

For many of these children, their colorful plates of food were drawn with the understanding of our shared human experience of hunger: hunger lacks comfort and empty plates represent the expectation that food is on its way. The plates drawn contained a variety of pictures of fresh fruits, vegetables, proteins, and sometimes, pizza. Seeing all of the plates together delivered a clear message: nutrition, sustenance, abundance. That’s the world they want.

Going hungry is wrong, they said.
Every child should always have enough to eat, they said.

Adults are great supporters of Oxfam’s work but let’s not forget about the potential of the youngest of Oxfam’s supporters: children. In time, they will grow to be our next generation of farmers, teachers, activists, doctors, and politicians – just to name a few. Regardless of their future role, each will have an important part to play in continuing the fight for a more just world. May our efforts leave the world a little less broken for them so they don’t have to fight as hard to right the wrongs of a previous generation.

#desmoines #oxfamactioncorps #iowaoxfamactioncorps #historiceastvillagedm #children #survival #Senegal #rightthewrong #sciowa #worldfoodandmusicfestival #poverty #advocacy

To see more pictures from the Science Center Survival Camp, click here.

To see more pictures from the World Food and Music Festival, click here.

No comments: