I Won’t Apologize

I’m Randall Davey, and I serve with Food for the Hungry as Sr. Director of Strategic Partnerships. That means I ask donors (individuals, foundations, churches and businesses) for money, as do those who constitute the team I serve.

It’s invasive work. It’s hard work. It’s necessary work and it’s never ending work.

We join hosts of non-profits appealing to virtual strangers to give and give again, to give a little or give a lot. Over 100,000 child sponsors faithfully give a minimum of $35.00 a month year after year to Food for the Hungry. Fewer notably give gifts as large as $100,000 and collectively, they enable the staff of Food for the Hungry to mitigate extreme poverty in some of the most difficult places in the world.

We ask, and we ask boldly. In fact, we bombard donors with e-mails, snail mail and phone calls since we can’t scream loudly enough to be heard from coast to coast. We need poverty-sensitive donors to broadcast our message, share in our efforts and celebrate our victories. For that, I will not apologize.

Why I Do It

Last week, I spent time with Food for the Hungry staff in villages near Coban, Guatemala. I visited a village and learned that I was the first white person they had ever seen. I apparently was a novel site, twice the height and width of any male in the impoverished community. Women smiled, confessing without a word the absence of dental hygiene. Children laughed and dared each other to touch me, but few did. Babies stared at my white beard and the men, though few, stood weathered and proud.

They have little, and by that, I mean few possessions, minimal education, basic shelter and inadequate food. They are survivors who will never be featured on a reality show by that name.

Meet Marta

sponsored child in guatemalaMid-week, my hosts escorted me up a formidable mountain to the hut of my sponsored child. There, in a one-room hovel, Marta and her five brothers and sisters live. The floor is hardened dirt, some of it wet from a light falling rain.

In the corner to my right, Marta’s mother laid on a wooden pallet, her bed, beside her 24-hour old infant son. Inches from her “bed,” pieces of wood, now ashen, were still gifting the room with smoke. Five children, Marta included, sleep on the other pallet, 4 inches from the ground. There is no electricity. No running water. No latrine, save a hole in the ground not far from the mountain’s edge. Marta and three of her siblings had daily chores: gathering firewood and going down the mountain for water, which they carried in jugs on their heads.

I don’t know, but I suspect Marta is cognitively impaired. Her diet of corn tamales, diluted bean broth and an infrequent potato robbed her of sparkling eyes. In fact, she had absolutely no affect.

Marta, like her siblings, started school when she was 8. Now, at 10, she’s in second grade just like her 14-year-old sister. If they make it to the sixth grade, they will have completed all the schooling this village offers. Middle school is too far away to reach by walking, and it costs money Marta’s family doesn’t have.

It Takes a Village

Food for the Hungry introduced a savings group to the village women, taught them basic health protocols like washing their hands, how to care more effectively for their children, and introduced biblical education to school age children. Food for the Hungry staff work cooperatively with village leaders to co-create strategies which will ultimately mitigate poverty and improve quality of life. It takes money to hire the staff. It takes money to introduce crops and train farmers. It takes money to scholarship students for advanced education. By that, I mean staying in school through the 8th grade and funding the prerequisite transportation, books and fees.

We need money to raise money. We need money to receive matching grants. As I write, Food for the Hungry qualifies for a $50,000 matching grant to improve literacy in Bangladesh. Without the match, we lose it.

54% of school-age children in Guatemala live in poverty. Without support, they, like those who have gone before them, will finish 6th grade, get married, have children and work in fields, perpetuating the cycle of poverty. To end this heinous system takes money and a lot of it.

Frankly, I’ve met few folks who like asking other people for money. Like I said, it’s hard work, this business of raising money. Understandably, donors have other interests as well they should. But if I don’t ask, they surely won’t know of an opportunity with which they may resonate.

I don’t judge those who don’t give. It’s not my place. It is my place to tell Marta’s story and pray that someone reading this essay somewhere, sometime, someplace will give a dollar or a gazillion. For asking, I will not apologize.