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By Stephen H. Padre
In the chatter of presidential campaigns, we sometimes hear about how Washington is the problem - how ineffective and inefficient our federal government can be.
But a piece of good news is that, even very far away from Washington, our federal government is actually carrying out effective work. In one country, Zambia, deep in the heart of Southern Africa, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is hard at work combatting poverty. USAID is the main way our government responds to overseas emergencies like major hurricanes and the often silent “disaster” of poverty and hunger.
My coworker in the communications department at Bread and I recently returned from visiting some of the projects that USAID is carrying out in Zambia. We went to gather stories about real people and the real difference that our government is making in the lives of people experiencing hunger and poverty. You’ll see the results of our labor early next year in the toolkit of resources for the 2016 Offering of Letters.
But in the meantime, I want to communicate to Bread members this message: Day in and day out, USAID is working through effective partners with decades of history and experience, many of which are relief and development agencies of U.S. churches. Some are secular organizations. Some are U.S,-based, and some are based in the countries where the work is happening, like Zambia. And they’re making progress against hunger and poverty.
You may still feel removed and disconnected from this work because it often happens very far away and must go through many channels before it reaches the people it helps. But Bread can help connect you to this work and actually puts you at the beginning of the process. You as an anti-hunger activist are the small flame that ignites a big fire. When you communicate with your members of Congress, you are advocating before the very body that decides the policy and funds that USAID operates under.
The rubber then meets the road in places like Zambia, in remote villages, where USAID and its partners are teaching women how to provide more nutritious food for their young children, or where USAID and organizations are giving children with HIV longer lives through medical care and nutrition counseling. Multiply these scenes that are happening across Africa, Asia, Latin America, and many other places, and you have a lot of successful work happening by our government.
You can’t always get to Washington yourself to tell our politicians to stop the gridlock and partisanship. And you can’t always go to a developing country to end the daily grind of poverty directly. But with and through Bread, you are in these places. Communicate with your members of Congress, and your voice is in Washington. Speak out for programs that are bringing an end to hunger and poverty, and your government is in places like Zambia.
When not in Zambia, Stephen H. Padre is in Washington, D.C., being the managing editor for Bread, but part of his heart is in Africa all the time.
Photo: A mother in a village in eastern Zambia tries out a new recipe for porridge for her young child. Mothers in the village received a cooking demostration from a nutrition volunteer who was teaching them how to provide more nutritious foods for children under 2. The work of the volunteer is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development through Catholic Relief Services. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World
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