Helping the hungry help themselves
New Zealand may be at the bottom of the world but that doesn’t make Kiwis any less effective in campaigning against world hunger.
Long-time activists Ruth Osborne and Shirley Hardwick describe themselves as part of a ‘‘global conversation’’ to end chronic, persistent hunger.
Together they have played instrumental roles in continuing the work of The Hunger Project, a strategic not-for-profit organisation that aims to address world hunger as distinct from the acute famine emergencies that make the news.
‘‘Handing out and having people standing with their hands out is demeaning,’’ former country director Ms Hardwick says.
‘‘That’s fine when it’s a crisis but when it’s not a crisis, people will never get out of the constant spiral [of poverty] unless they do it themselves.’’
The Hunger Project is unique to other organisations in that people often approach support workers for assistance, rather than the other way around, fundraiser Ms Osborne says.
‘‘We are [just] one player in a process led by community leaders.’’
The approach and programme of action all depend on the needs of the people in the country at hand.
In Africa, for example, the focus is on building community epicentres as hubs for essential services such as health and education.
Often local government has allocated funds to rural areas for doctors or teachers, yet there is no surgery or school for them to practise in.
Building a communal centre provides the community with a valuable base from which to begin accumulating resources and strengthening local leadership – especially among women.
In other countries, the focus may be on different needs.
‘‘In India, women are elected to local government but can’t read or write,’’ Ms Osborne says.
Assistance would then be provided in the form of literacy and financial training, or how to run a campaign.
The Hunger Project also uses other means such as micro-financing and is particularly focused on empowering women as agents of change in their communities.
Even owning a pig or a chicken can improve a family’s life.
‘‘It’s such small
things that are needed that make such a difference,’’ Ms Hardwick says.
The project operates in two strands, programme countries and partner countries.
Programme countries are countries in need while partner countries, such as New Zealand, are used as bases for growing advocacy and awareness.
is based in Grey Lynn’s social change hub The Kitchen and runs fundraising and awareness events during the year, such as a hike to coincide with World Food Day in October.
Ms Hardwick is now a trustee of the project and continues to give time and energy to the cause.
‘‘I like that when I give, my money goes to a whole village – not an individual child – and they get to decide how best to use it.’’
Ms Osborne says many people have ‘‘invested into this for years because we’ve seen that it really does break the cycle of poverty in people’s lives’’.
‘‘It’s not simply a temporary leg-up for people to get past a current crisis. It makes sustainability sense.’’
Ending hunger: Hillsborough resident Shirley Hardwick, left and Ruth Osborne want to raise the public conversation around chronic hunger.