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Year One in South Sudan: Keeping Hopes for Progress

As we celebrated the birthday of America, another country just marked its first birthday a few days after. The Republic of South Sudan passed a referendum July 9, 2011 to secede from Sudan as an independent government. Two major civil wars caused rippling and devastating effects to the people, resulting in many fleeing the nation. Refugees scattered across various in attempts to stabilize their lives from the atrocities from home. Families must now start over. Imagine having to move to a land not knowing how to contact lost family members or how to start a new life. Many refugees who fled Sudan now travel back to South Sudan. First settlers into the Americas came into struggles like the people of South Sudan struggle to start new life. However, the early settlers into the Americas began life in a bountiful land of resources, whereas the refugees are coming into a land of hardship. The region of this new nation always struggled with famine, health care and overall social and economic stability.
While oil reserves remain a promising source of income for Southern Sudan, the governments of Sudan and South Sudan deliberate how to split oil reserves. War tensions remain, relegating focus from economic stability to military efforts. The central government of Southern Sudan faces daily test of providing its citizens with basic needs like food and health care. Food shortages due to drought from climate change vary year to year. To the dismay of millions, rains decreased and crops waned, exacerbating the source of food and income since 2010. The situation demands the attention of the world as a test of humanity.
Oxfam has been working with the Sudan and South Sudan region for decades. The major goals to aid the South Sudan focuses on helping refugees become independent. Specifically in South Kordofan, where continued violence and food shortages leave civilians in disarray, Oxfam distributes seeds for planting, improves supplies of clean water, protects health of livestock and helps people launch small businesses. And Oxfam affiliate based in Juba adds assistance to Jamam camps of Upper Nile state. In Darfur alone, a region experiencing high levels of severe violence and conflict, Oxfam focuses on assisting the region by:
  • providing clean water, sanitation, and hygiene program with the help of water engineers to make pumps, tanks, pipes and taps
  • ensuring camps have latrines, baths, soap, water
  • educating people regarding hygiene and keeping water safe for drinking
  • offering grants and loans to farmers and small businesses
  • empowering women with high efficiency stoves to feed families and compete with food market, while helping to protect the environment
While South Sudan is struggling on its first birthday, continued efforts will allow the country to grow. With boost in awareness of the work of Oxfam and collaborating agencies, financial support, and pressure on legislators to support the government of South Sudan, we can hope for continued independence and success in this new nation. Happy Birthday to South Sudan and to many more.

-Megan Nakra


Couldn't make the last meeting? Read about the discussion here!

Recap Chicago Action Corps Meeting Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Old Business: The Eat 4 Equity event raised $700 for Oxfam America. The event was a great way to raise awareness about the risk of hunger in the Sahel region of Africa and socialize with other Chicagoans while enjoying a delicious meal.  The Deer Tick concert was also a successful event with three Oxfam volunteers collecting signatures from concert-goers and handing out Oxfam GROW campaign buttons and information about Oxfam Action Corps and the GROW campaign. 

It’s important to have a strategy at concerts and other non-traditional tabling events. Attendees are much more likely to be willing to listen to what you have to say, and become more engaged in the conversation before an event begins. Having an opening tag line such as “Deer Tick wanted us to be here tonight to talk to you about Oxfam’s current GROW campaign,” helps engage others and connects the event  to Oxfam. 

With the growth of Farmer’s Markets in Chicago and respective suburban areas, the GROW campaign greatly benefits from tabling at Farmer’s Markets. Several members have offered to talk to various organizers of Farmer’s Markets in Chicago, Kankakee, and Naperville. A letter is drafted to send so that members of the Action Corps and members of Oxfam may begin tabling in order to increase awareness and activity with the GROW campaign.

Marketing for awareness is necessary for continued growth of the Chicago Action Corps. Several ideas include posting signs at local shops, libraries and other areas with lots of foot traffic. In addition, we will attempt to grow using contacts at colleges in the CHANGE program and local groups in suburbs. If you would like to reach out to local groups, please let us know and we can discuss more possibilities! We do have NEW business cards available!

The meeting location has been set at the Corner Bakery of 56 Randolph Street. However, the idea to rotate locations would allow more people from various areas of Chicagoland area to attend meetings. In addition, we will be attempting to use Google Hangout or another online meeting medium for people located in the suburbs to be actively involved in meetings.

Discussion about shirts and t-shirt designs! A t-shirt design contest will be held for Chicago Action Corps t-shirts. There will also be a t-shirt design and potluck party in the month of September for members to socialize, make shirts and enjoy.  An email will be sent out about sending in designs. 

Reminder of the Presentation by Roger Thurow  about his book, The Last Hunger Season. His book recreates the story of four farmers that Thurow followed over one year. Thurow is former journalist for The Wall Street Journal and current senior fellow for the global agriculture and food policy on the The Chicago Council on Global Affairs. 

The next meeting is set for July 19, 2012. Location is TBD. A survey will be sent out regarding location of the meeting.

The Last Hunger Season Presentation with author Roger Thurow

Thursday, June 28, 2012

It was a slightly overcast evening in Chicago and guests came into The Chicago Club. People enjoyed drinks and some conversation before the impending presentation by Senior Fellow for global agriculture and food policy, Roger Thurow. The former journalist of The Wall Street Journal wrote ENOUGH: Why the World’s Poorest starve in the Age of Plenty, which won him and his colleague the Action Against Hunger’s Humanitarian Award. The crowd of about one hundred includes a mix of established members of The Chicago Council, concerned citizens and students filled the chairs with introduction of Thurow.

 “Do we know who the small farmers are?” 

Thurow asks his audience members if we know who struggles with hunger every day, hungry farmers of Africa. He describes the conditions of four farmers he followed for a year in Africa. Three of the four farmers are women, representing the amount of women farmers in Africa. All the farmers are ignored by the government. And without the insurances, guarantees and backing of the government, farmers can starve. Unfortunately, when farming fails, people die in Africa. Thurow hones in on this point. However, this scare grows when accounting for the future of the world. With continuously growing population, the strain on current resources will grow. According to economic and agricultural advisors around the world, the population cannot be sustained without African agriculture by 2025. Without these small farmers, people will die. 

Each small farmer represents a unique and humbling aspect of these difficulties: the obscenity of hungry farmers, the deepest form of misery, the privilege of using “and”, and the desperation of either feeding family or giving kids an education. 

Fortunately, following these farmers after a year ends with success and hope. A special organization, One Acre Fund, puts small farmers first, where governments and policy continues to crawl. Using a model to support, educate and invest in farmers, One Acre places full interest in the future of agricultural independence of Africa. It creates sustainable farming with seeds that require less water to provide more food and gives farmers insurance. Africa must succeed. Programs for microfinancing and microcredit are keys to success in Africa.

Thurow paints a grim picture of the future, especially for small farmers. With strength in positivity and faith in people, Thurow reminds us we can paint a better picture for the future. We can raise awareness. We can raise funds. We can educate each other. We can enforce better food policy. We can invest in these farmers. After all, investing in these farmers is an investment in people and our future. 

-Megan Nakra

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