A Documentary For Your Must-Watch List

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We're always on the lookout for great resources that can help think critically about missions and charity and addressing poverty where we live and work. We were recently informed about this documentary, which looks at the role of global aid. Check out the trailer below!

 

Several of our team are looking forward to checking out this documentary and thought others would find it intriguing as well. To learn about or organize a local screening, visit the film's website here

What documentaries have helped you process and understand poverty in our world? We're always open to recommendations! Feel free to share in the comments. 

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What Pride for Parents Is Not

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by Sarah Quezada

More than a decade ago, a neighborhood mom invited me to join her picking up Christmas gifts for her son. I had met this precious duo a few months earlier when she approached me to “tutor” her 11-year old son. (Really we just spent a lot of time visiting and talking.)

I accepted her Christmas invitation with gratitude. On the designated morning, we walked to the local ministry organization in the biting December chill. Mothers lined the sidewalk, gripping paperwork, and eager to pick up gifts a stranger had purchased for their children that year.

We, too, checked in at the registration table and soon received a garbage bag full of gifts with my friend’s son’s name written on it. We hauled the bag back through the streets and alleys until we snuggled into their one room apartment, the stove on to heat the space.

Without much fanfare, the boy tore open the bag and inspected his gifts. Within seconds, I witnessed disappointment, frustration, and embarrassment collide in his expression. He tossed the bag of presents aside. “These are girl toys,” he mumbled.

He soon left the apartment with only his worn basketball. His mom sighed. “This happens every year.” I nodded quietly. His name is more often given to girls than to boys, so the mistake was understandable, though unfortunate. “But this year,” she continued, “I wrote in big letters: HE A BOY. And still with the girl presents.”

There are families who cannot afford to buy Christmas presents, whether it’s a year of particular hardship or an ongoing challenge with poverty. And there have always been people and organizations who work hard to make sure no child goes without a Christmas gift. But whenever I see these programs, I remember my friend’s attempt at a workable solution and the resulting humiliation and disappointment.

But what can you do? For years afterwards, I wrestled with if or how to participate in Christmas gift charities. Then, in 2009, I moved into South Atlanta, where Pride for Parents takes place each year. 

The program is run by FCS, who collects toys and gifts and then sells them at a community store for below market prices. Parents with limited means are given the opportunity to shop for gifts at prices they can afford. I think back to my friend’s apartment and wonder how different that experience might have been if she had been given the opportunity to select and purchase gifts for her son.

I am grateful for the presence of Pride for Parents in my community. It is not a giveaway program that may charm or may accidentally humiliate. It is a creative, innovative Christmas drive that offers parents dignity and the power to choose gifts for their children. As a mom myself, I know how much delight I receive each year as I watch my kids oooh and ahhh over the presents I chose with them in mind. I want all my neighborhood moms to receive that same joyful gift this Christmas.

LEARN MORE ABOUT PRIDE FOR PARENTS

Image credit: Kris Mouser-Brown

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The Hunger Game

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by Bob Lupton

I was having lunch at Ted’s Montana Grill the other day when a post card size picture of an adorable two year old girl with big brown eyes and cute little pigtails caught my attention. She was holding a small milk carton and sipping on a straw.  Along the top of the picture in large red block letters were these words: 1 IN 5 KIDS IN AMERICA SUFFER FROM HUNGER.  The small print requested that I donate $5 to No Kid Hungry to help reach the goal of providing three million meals to hungry children. As an added incentive, I would receive a $5 discount on my next meal at Ted’s.  The slogan at the bottom of the card read: Dine out. Do good.

I flipped the card over to see the details on the back.  “Every $1 provides up to 10 meals to kids in need,” it said.  “Together we can end childhood hunger.”   I was intrigued enough to do a little web checking when I got home.  No Kid Hungry, I discovered, is a fund-raising initiative of Share Our Strength, Inc., a multi-million dollar non-profit based in Washington DC that does very effective fund-raising for hunger-related causes.  They have secured an impressive array of supporters, from well-known celebrities to Fortune 500 corporations.  

Their “let’s get to the root causes” marketing approach was very appealing. Their credentials appeared to be excellent – good ratings with the BBB, audited financials, reasonable transparency.  But I couldn’t find any data describing how they actually feed children.  

They started out originally as a fund-raising-grant-making initiative that primarily funded infrastructure for charitable organizations – new refrigeration units for food banks and new industrial ovens for soup kitchens, that sort of thing.  Their idea was to focus on long-term solutions rather than immediate hunger needs.  But this proved too slow a process, too hard to measure impact.  

So they embarked on a bold mission to end childhood hunger in the US by 2015.  Their strategy: get millions more kids signed up for free government meals.  Their accomplishments have been substantial: hundreds of millions of dollars raised and hundreds of thousands of children enrolled in public food and nutrition programs.  “Since summer 2011,” they claim, “we’ve helped connect children across the country to more than 28 million additional school breakfasts and 6 million additional summer meals."

I suppose that’s one way to end hunger – get the government to feed us.  But honestly, I’m not buying the claim that I in 5 children in our country is severely deprived of food.  It just doesn’t square with what I have seen in forty-plus years of inner-city work.  Sure, kids miss meals, sometimes they have to eat peanut butter sandwiches at the end of the month, they eat way too much junk food, but I have never seen a child that was even close to starving.  

Just visit a public school cafeteria. When you see how much food kids throw away, it’s hard to believe that we have a widespread epidemic of food-deprivation.  The throw away waste of school meals tops $1 billion annually, according to some estimates.  One study in Boston found that 40% of school lunches were tossed into the waste can. Students in LA schools, the nation’s second largest school system which serves 650,000 meals a day, throw out at least $100,000 worth of food every day.  That amounts to $18 million a year by very conservative estimates.  This doesn’t sound like a nation of hungry children to me.  

That picture of the darling two-year old with the big brown eyes does touch a grandpa’s heart. It draws me in.  I would give the $5 (or more) in a heartbeat if I knew she was being deprived of nourishing food and I could personally help.  You bet I would.  But $5 to help a polished, well-funded non-profit (even a well-meaning one) to enlist a generation of young people into an entitlement system that would only deepen their dependency?  I don’t think so.

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