Editor's note: Read to Feed® is Heifer's reading incentive service-learning program that offers global education opportunities and will foster in children a love for reading, a passion to help others and a motivation to help create a better world. This year, we have designated April as Read to Feed month, and this is the first post in a series planned to showcase the program. You'll hear from teachers, corporate partners and other staff that have used and loved Read to Feed. If you're an educator, or know one looking for a program that can open up a brand new world for their students, tell them about Heifer and Read to Feed and continue checking back here for more.
“When you hear about all these things, how do you keep from being overwhelmed?” a teacher asked me. She and other teachers were attending a professional development seminar during which we had discussed several current topics related to hunger and poverty and how to teach about those issues.
It is hard to keep bad news in context, especially when we hear about hungry families, poverty-stricken communities and child mortality. Even Bill Gates acknowledged this in the 2014 Annual Letter from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. But the bad news isn’t the whole picture.
The data show that the world is making strides to improve access to education, clean water and healthcare. There are fewer people living under the international poverty line and fewer chronically hungry people in the world now. It’s exciting to think that Heifer has been part of these hopeful accomplishments for 70 years now, giving families the resources, training and support to improve lives for generations.
We can’t stop now, though, despite our progress. As much as ever, we need individuals and groups who are dedicated to the idea that it is unacceptable for approximately 6 million children to die each year, the vast majority of them from preventable causes like chronic hunger.
My answer to the teachers that day: I would lose hope if I didn’t know that there were people and organizations working to address those overwhelming issues. I could get discouraged and frustrated, except that I was sitting in that room with teachers who wanted to learn more about ways to teach their students about hunger and poverty. Their concern and passion filled me with hope because I believe that children are a crucial part of making a better world.
Children who understand global issues and develop empathy for others grow up to be compassionate adults. They grow to be informed and concerned leaders that we’ll need to continue our progress toward eradicating extreme poverty and hunger. The concept that we can affect the lives of people worldwide by our actions is a powerful lesson to learn. Everyone can make a difference, even children. Especially children.
That’s why Heifer’s Read to Feed program is so important. Read to Feed encourages the desire to help others, using reading as the vehicle for change. The students discover very quickly that, with the support from their sponsors, more reading equals more funds raised. Those funds result in more animal gifts that they are helping to provide to families in need. The motivation to read comes from a desire to do good things for others.
Watch the video below that features a student who learned about Heifer at her school. Share it with parents and teachers. You might find that it makes you feel hopeful too.
Jen Girten is Heifer's Manager of Education Program Development