Help­ing the hun­gry help them­selves

Central Leader - - NEWS - By AMY BAKER

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.

The Hunger

Pro­ject

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.

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