Youth Ambassador Madina high-fives Promesse, 5, in Rwanda. (Photo: Lucy Aulich)
It is easy to become overwhelmed by the magnitude of despair behind the word ‘hunger’.
For many of us, as luck would have it, this word is little more than a concept. Sometimes it’s just a growling stomach when we’ve skipped breakfast. In Rwanda though, hunger is a very real enemy and it’s claiming lives.
On a thousandth hill, a cheeky six year old boy teaches me this. His name is Obed and when he sits with me smiling and laughing, I can’t help but do the same. Behind us is his home. A crumbling mud brick house on a mountain, with a tin roof that lets the rain in at night.
Obed’s single mother, Diane, says that she thanks God when she can feed Obed and his three year old brother Ishmael five times a week because they will not die of hunger. Her sons are the most important thing in her world and she is sad when she has nothing to feed them.
It makes me sad too. There is an abundance of love between this family of three but nothing to fill their stomachs.
Every day these families fight to survive. Diane cultivates crops to source an income leaving the two boys at home alone, where they are sometimes beaten by other kids in the community. She wants to protect them but without an income, they will all go hungry.
I realise that poverty is exactly what they say it is – a vicious cycle. Without a break in the cycle, no matter how hard a mother as resilient as Diane works, no matter how much she loves her children, change is out of reach.
The families I met in Rwanda are more than ‘victims’of circumstance. They are not hopeless nor are they passive, indeed what they lack in material wealth they make up for in strength, love and faith. But when the basic fundamentals of life are luxuries that you can’t afford and you are grateful for a single daily meal of sweet potatoes and beans, you are forced into a state of vulnerability.
This is the sad truth, but do you know the happy truth? We can help give a child like Promesse hope for the future when they have only ever known uncertainty. We can help give a child like Chantal the opportunity to realise their potential when they have only ever doubted their importance.
It can be frightening to think that we can matter so much to others; instead it is easier to be a cynic because to doubt our inherent power is to give ourselves an excuse not to make an effort.
It takes courage to stand up as leaders and changemakers, as revolutionists and groundbreakers. I ask you to have that courage because without your action, the injustice of hunger continues.
What happens with your action though, you ask? Entire communities are empowered to lift themselves out of poverty for generations to come. No biggie.
It is this empowerment, this transformation and the role that we can play in making it happen, that excites me most when I visit a community kitchen garden with the Youth Ambassadors.
One and a half hectares of nutrient-rich food surrounds us and our audience of children from the community, who each effortlessly whistle on a strand of grass (laughing so hard they were in stitches when we can’t do the same), and they are healthy and happy.
This is an achievement not to be taken lightly in a country where 43 percent of children are malnourished. The garden is run by a youth association and it makes me smile knowing that I haven’t been raving about the power of young people for no reason.
In a community where hunger had previously been ever-present, it took just a leg-up from World Vision to break the cycle of poverty. The community took ownership of the transformation that followed.
It is simple change but that doesn’t mean that it is small change. Every life is valuable and every life that is impacted by your generosity and courage should be celebrated.
It is heartening to know that this message is being received and the thousands of young Queenslanders I have met, are determined to help those threatened by hunger. This weekend 300,000 courageous, young Australians become a part of simple change for precious children like Obed, Promesse and Chantal.
I have so much to be thankful for. Today I am thankful to be a part of a courageous and hopeful generation that is collectively capable of being a monumental force of change. This weekend we prove it.
Join Madina in making change this weekend at 40hourfamine.com.au